October 28 marks National First Responders Day, designated by Congress in 2017 to honor the men and women who dedicate their lives to saving and helping others. First responders include firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and 911 operators. These people are first on the scene when a crisis arises.
One group of first responders living and working in MidSouth Electric Cooperative’s territory is the Crabbs Prairie Volunteer Fire Department. The men and women of this department dedicate their lives to helping others in their community solely out of the goodness in their hearts.
The department is composed of one chief, an assistant chief, three captains, two lieutenants and 19 firefighters covering a district of 350 square miles. Everyone working at CPVFD is a volunteer, keeping a community safe and responding to emergency situations without receiving compensation.
When they aren’t fighting fires, these men and women work various full-time jobs, such as running their own landscaping business, working for Sam Houston State University and working at MidSouth EC. When a call comes into the station, these first responders drop everything they are doing to respond and help.
“There is a sacrifice. We are on call 24/7,” Lt. Sam Donnell says. “Unfortunately, sometimes we have to leave our jobs during the day and miss our kids’ soccer games in the evenings.”
The CPVFD responds to calls big and small, from lift assists and hazmat response to forest fires and technical rescues. The work of these volunteers requires dedication.
“It’s more than just getting into a truck and running a call,” Donnell says. “There’s paperwork every time we get a call, truck cleaning and maintenance, necessary training and a list of other tasks we must complete. We do it all—and all for free because we love our community.”
Along with the physical work, these first responders must also be able to handle the mental effects this type of work brings.
“It is 100% a commitment,” Donnell says. “Most of what we do is deal with situations that aren’t pleasant, whether it be major accidents where people are really hurt or even accidents involving death. Unfortunately, we see the nasty things that most people don’t see. It’s hard, but there are really good resources set up for us to deal with those types of things.”
Why do they do it? “I wanted to do something that really gave back to the community,” Donnell says. “In this position, I know that I am directly helping individuals. A lot of people do this because of their heart. It’s a rewarding experience, but it takes a true servant’s heart to do what we do.”
The resolution of every community crisis begins with first responders. From car accidents to house fires or simply helping someone when they’ve taken a fall, our first responders are there when we need them. October 28 is a day for us to honor the first responders living and working in our communities. Send them a gift, buy them a cup of coffee or simply say thanks for all they do to assist in our times of need and help keep our communities safe.