Cottrel: First responders on roadways deserve drivers’ respect

Last week’s multiple vehicle accident on I-70 reminded us all of the serious dangers and challenges that our local emergency responders face every day.

Not only do these brave unselfish community members respond to the various routine crises that happen in the 32 square miles in the our towns, schools, and rural areas, they have the additional heavy burdens of responding to accidents on Interstate and state highways.

Enon-Mad River Fire and EMS covers nine miles of I-70 and two miles of I-675. Bethel Twp. also covers a section of I-70 from the county line to Mile Marker 47.

On the highway, emergency responders also must be constantly aware of the dangers caused by the traffic. This requires additional training and contingency plans.

On Nov. 9 in the dark at 4:48 a.m. Enon’s EMS and Fire crews responded to a two-car accident near the 48 mile marker.

As they had trained in the past, Rescue 50, a long red fire truck that carried rescue equipment, was parked behind the accident in a way that it could protect emergency personnel from the vehicles swerving past them. They also set up bright lights on cones that drew attention to the emergency situation.

As Chief John Heath explained, it was that well-placed vehicle that saved the lives of emergency crews as another accident took place and other vehicles stuck Rescue 50. Because the truck took the brunt of the damage, the emergency workers and victims from the first accident were protected from further injury.

“We built that rescue truck specifically for the highway,” said Chief Heath. “I’m proud the truck did its job.”

Chief Heath explained that equipment can be fixed or replaced, but he does not want any of his responders or the victims they are helping to get hit.

The accident is being investigated and because a person was killed in the second accident it will most likely take weeks for officials to come to a conclusion.

Meanwhile, insurance adjustors will inspect Rescue 50 this week and Chief Heath will find out if repairs will be quick or take a long time. He is hoping that since Rescue 50 was built locally by Sutphen in Urbana, repairs will be possible without delay.

For now, the department will be using Engine 50 as the protective barrier as EMTs and Firefighters respond to wrecks on the highways. The rescue equipment will be moved to Engine 50.

Chief Health has contacted all adjacent fire departments and made them aware that Enon-Mad River Twp. has one less emergency vehicle and less water carrying capability than normal. All voiced their support of the situation.

As promised, when there was another early morning accident on I-70 two days later Springfield Twp. immediately responded to assist Enon’s department.

Meanwhile Chief Heath has a request of all of us.

“We would like to stress to everyone that encounters emergency vehicles working on or near roadways, to please slow down and move over, as required by Ohio law.”

Slowing down, moving over to avoid the accident lanes, and not stopping to gawk makes a huge difference. It also keeps the emergency response running smoothly.

Our unselfish EMTs and firefighters give of themselves to bravely help others; the least we can do is help them by slowing down and moving over.

Visit madriverfireandems.com or the department’s Facebook page for more information and safety suggestions.

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