From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 36 - November 27, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Emergency workers’ Thanksgiving

by Derek Farr

For most of us, Th nksgiving is an almost euphoric day spent with family, friends, food and football, but definitely not work. For others, the need to protect the public precludes a work-free day.

Unlike huge national chains and 24-hour gas stations that require employees to treat the second-most hallowed holiday like any other Thursday, some people MUST work on Thanksgiving.

Sublette County emergency services and the Sheriff ’s Office are those kinds of jobs.

“I look to do everything I can for (Sheriff Office employees),” Sheriff Wayne “Bardy” Bardin said. “Because we’re in a unique situation, anything I can do to help people be with their families, we are going to darn sure going to do that.”

For deputies, that means splitting up duties into four-hour shifts.

“That way they will hopefully spend the other 20 hours with their families,” Bardin said.

The deputies’ family time is accentuated by their ability to spend a portion of their shift at home where if an emergency pops up, dispatchers can call the deputies into action.

Not to say the department will abandon the county. Each officer will make a patrol during his/her shift to make sure everybody is playing nice, but much effort is made to provide patrol officers with family time.

Investigators and Bardin himself will be on call all day long.

Typically though, not much happens. Turkey Day, much like Christmas, tends to be a very slow day.

“We’ve had to help with vehicle accidents,” Bardin said. “And there are some domestic disputes we’ve gone to, but for the most part it’s fairly quiet.”

He added that the last two Thanksgivings in a row the department has responded to home alarms.

Not everybody in the Sheriff ’s Department gets a four-hour shift or a day off. Jail guards can’t turn off the lights and tell the inmates, can’t turn off the lights and tell the inmates, “See you on Friday.”

Nor can emergency dispatchers turn on voice mail saying, “Leave a message after the tone.”

No, guards and emergency dispatchers are required to work regular shifts.

Emergency Medial Service (EMS) personnel are also required to work a regular shift. This year the Thanksgiving shift will start its 48-hour duty at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Unlike patrol deputies, EMS workers have to stay at the ambulance barn and according to Sublette County EMS Director Will Gay, if the workers can’t go home, they bring their home to work.

Gay said it’s not uncommon for spouses, kids, relatives and even inlaws to show up at the ambulance barn with turkey and all the trimmings. EMS workers add to the ambience by tuning a television to Thanksgiving Day football.

“It helps people get through the holiday,” he said. “We are a business that you can’t just shut your doors.”

The crew sets up tables in the barn’s classroom and families bring dishes to form a holiday potluck. Gay said he has seen up to 20 friends and family at the barn.

And perhaps nobody enjoys Th anksgiving at the ambulance barn more than the young ones.

“It’s a good time and the kids have a blast,” Gay said. “It gives them an opportunity to run amuck for the day and not get yelled at. I never had a kid who was upset about spending Thanksgiving at the ambulance barn.”

It hasn’t always been this way.

EMS used to respond from home but the county’s demographics and population distribution has changed so much that it is not longer possible. Gay said many of his employees live more than 10 minutes away from the barn so it doesn’t isn’t feasible to respond from home anymore.

The change hasn’t kept people from working on the holidays.

Gay said very few people take Thanksgiving off and part-time employees often volunteer for the shift because they are off their regular jobs. And while it’s usually slow, there is always a chance that something will happen.

“Out of two or three Thanksgivings, I’ve only had one call,” Gay said. “And it was an accident that had nothing to do with turkeys.”

But the reprieve that the EMS and Sheriff ’s Department get for the holiday is bookmarked by periods of higher-than-usual activity – especially after Thanksgiving.

Gay and Bardin said the weekend after the holiday has a disproportionate amount of traffic accidents caused by an increased number of speeders in a hurry to get home.

Something else both agencies share is a monetary bonus for working the holiday.

All county workers get eight hours of holiday pay and workers get paid time and a-half on top of that.

While the pay is a welcome bonus, more than anything emergency workers hope for a safe, slow, quiet holiday so they can make their holiday as homey as possible.

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