Emergency staff aim to make holidays safe

Christmas for most is a time to forget about work and spend time with family friends, and perhaps a nice glass of egg nog.

  • Dec. 19, 2013 5:00 a.m.

RESCUE EFFORT - Lacombe Fire Lt. Mark Low saws the windshield off of a vehicle to allow a trapped passenger to get out after a crash last week. The vehicle came to rest on its side after rolling into the ditch along Hwy. 2 but no one was injured.

Christmas for most is a time to forget about work and spend time with family friends, and perhaps a nice glass of egg nog.

However, there are those, such as the men and women who work in Lacombe’s emergency services, who don’t get the day off.

Police Chief Steve Murray said that for police officers, working during holidays is something they have gotten used to.

“This is the nature of our beast, this is what we do.” He added that, while most Lacombe police officers have accepted that working during holidays is part of their job, it still can be quite hard on the families of those members.

Fire Chief Ed Van Delden said that while the Lacombe Fire Department is a volunteer department and there will be no one in the hall on Christmas Day, should any fire calls come in then or at any time during the holidays, fire crews will promptly put the turkey down and dash to the hall to provide their services.

“Certainly I have been away from home for the whole day (on Christmas Day) in the past,” said Van Delden. “That happens. Rarely, but it does.”

He added that Lacombe Fire Department has a no-alcohol policy for on-call crews.

In order to give its members some sense of family time during Christmas, Lacombe Police Service encourages officers working on Christmas Day to come in for their shift, get geared up, take a patrol car home and try to enjoy the day with family. However, Murray said that members are also advised not to make plans for Christmas Day if they are working.

For police working during the week of Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it is a “Feast or famine” situation, said Murray. He said that there will either be a lot of calls of a very serious nature, or very few calls at all.

“Little things don’t happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, people don’t call the police over little stuff,” said Murray. “So if we are responding to a call Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, sadly, it is going to be a tragedy.”

Murray said it is a sad reality that calls relating to domestic violence, family violence, even suicides and drinking and driving go up during the holiday seasons. All of which can have drastic consequences.

“One of the worst things to have to do as a member at Christmas is to tell the family that someone has died,” said Murray.

Christmas is also a period for high-volumes of traffic on the highways as people travel to leave or get home for Christmas. Murray said that police officers understand that drivers just want to get where they are going to spend time with their families, but the nerves of drivers in a hurry can increase the chance of collisions. As such, police will try to temper their approach to dealing with problem drivers.

“It’s not going to be a big ticket time, it’s going to be a big education time,” said Murray.

He added that it is still important to stop those irresponsible drivers, but sometimes speaking to a police officer for 10 minutes is enough to get drivers to calm down. Murray also said that, while police may try to be more lenient during the Christmas season with tickets, they will still hand them out if necessary.

Both Murray and Van Delden said that expectations of Christmas and rushing to meet them are major contributors to accidents of all kinds over the holiday season. Van Delden said that preparation far in advance of Christmas can help people to have a safe holiday and Murray said that, if possible, off-setting your family Christmas celebration by a day or two is a good way to avoid the rush.

“People’s minds, they are preoccupied,” said Van Delden. “If they can take five minutes and just do that assessment that would go a long ways.”



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