July 28 – August 3, 2017Vol. 19, No. 8

When Minutes Matter

The North Belgrade Fire Station, on Route 8 next to Tukey's Lumber, is one of three operated by Belgrade Fire and Rescue. (Photo from the Belgrade Fire and Rescue Facebook page.)

by Esther J. Perne

Dial 9-1-1 and they appear. They assess the situation, stabilize injuries, reassure everyone at the scene and set up a perimeter. Best of all, they take charge. They are the first responders, the EMTs, the volunteers.

Report an emergency and they respond, lights flashing and sirens on. They move in with safety equipment, advanced communications, professional training and a familiarity with available resources. Best of all, they put in place a plan of action and implement it. They are the police and fire and medical personnel on call, on duty, on alert.

Have an emergency too critical, too large, too uncontained? No problem. Their buddies in the next community and the one beyond and the ones beyond that are ready to help. They are the communities and departments linked by mutual aid.

Present impending danger and they react. They jump into icy waters, approach burning buildings and cars, intervene when strangers threaten others and question why a young child is alone on a road or river. They act with guts and from the heart, often alone, sometimes beyond the range of telecommunications, sometimes with no training in what they are doing. They avert disasters; they save lives. They are the ordinary, everyday citizens of Maine who happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Ask them to leave warm shelters and ready meals and they agree without complaint. They patiently slog through bad weather and over rough terrain for hours doing what they were trained to do and doing it for the love of human partners. Often they are the key to mission success. They are the search and rescue dogs and horses who provide superior scent and sight advantages during vital operations.

Hands-on, stop and help, face the emergency, react quickly. Why? Because it is our local heritage to help, because it is human nature to be helpful, because success is so often the result and. . . . because, when it comes to heroics, minutes matter.