We’re proud of our first responders here at South Plains Electric Cooperative.
I’m talking about our lineworkers, who charge into potentially deadly storms to restore power. We also appreciate another special group of first responders who make our communities better by providing critical emergency services—volunteer firefighters.
Most small communities across the state are served by volunteer fire departments, staffed by civilians who undergo special training so they can fight fires, respond to vehicular collisions and tend to medical emergencies. To further show our support, the Cooperative Board of Directors recently implemented a Volunteer Time Off program. The program gives employees up to 20 paid working hours for community service projects. Employees going to the week-long fire training school use 20 hours of vacation time, along with the 20 hours of volunteer time, to help them help our communities without using all of their vacation time.
Some 65% of the more than 1 million firefighters in the United States are volunteers, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And 95% of volunteer firefighters work in departments that protect fewer than 25,000 people each, which describes many of the communities in Co-op Country.
Needless to say, these firefighters bolster the well-being of our members, and they do so only with the support of the community. Most VFDs are nonprofits with budgets that typically don’t benefit from tax dollars, so they rely on grants, donations and community fundraising. The VFD fish fries, barbecues and raffles you hear about are largely their only means to raise money to purchase new equipment.
October is National Cooperative Month, when we celebrate the many ways co-ops serve our communities in addition to providing safe and reliable electricity. Indeed, electric cooperatives, following the cooperative principle of Concern for Community, often work behind the scenes to help fire departments thrive. Read Putting Others First on Page 8 to learn more about the close connection between co-ops and VFDs.
We are also honoring our nine local volunteers.
We’re proud that we’ve provided electricity to our part of the state for more than 80 years and of the many ways we have improved quality of life in our communities. Volunteer fire departments go back even further in history.
The first VFD was established by Benjamin Franklin in 1736 in Philadelphia. He also helped prove that lightning—a cause of many fires in colonial America—and electricity were the same phenomenon. Franklin thought the lightning rod, which deflects lightning away from buildings to prevent fires, to be his greatest invention.
As we celebrate National Cooperative Month, we not only salute volunteer firefighters, we salute and support all first responders. The Co-op annually supports the Lubbock Fire Department’s Coats for Kids, as an example. Their dedication and selflessness make our communities safer. We’re very proud of our local first responders and gratified to be able to contribute to their success.