I am a member of the local emergency management department and a certified first responder. We support the local community in times of crisis and assist the FD and PD when needed. During a catastrophic ice storm, we were the ones clearing roads alongside the FF.
This story is about another catastrophic storm though…In October of 2011, our area was hit with a massive snowstorm. Within an hour of the first flakes falling, parts of town were without power. It was cold and the snow was not stopping. So I grabbed my bags and headed to our emergency operations center.
Within hours it became apparent a shelter would be needed as we were going to be in this for the long haul. I paged my team and we began the task of setting up the shelter. We put the word out in social media and posted notices at local businesses. Our emergency road sign was posted up as well.
The local high school was now open as an emergency shelter. We had power, food and heat. Slowly, residents trickled in. Mostly families with children and residents of the local senior housing. We kept everyone warm and well fed. The storm happened during Halloween and trick or treat was cancelled. So we held it in the gym for the kids. It wasn’t much but it was something.
All in all, we were in that shelter for six days before power was fully restored. I was still working my full time job as well as being in charge of the shelter. Stress was causing me to breakdown. What came next was the worst. We received word that a woman and her son has died during the storm. I can’t remember now if it was from exposure or CO. It doesn’t matter to me.
It still kills me that we had a shelter open to prevent this from happening and it still did. Two people are dead. Help was there. I keep asking myself if we did enough to tell people we were there. Could we have done anything more? Deep down, I know it wasn’t our fault. But I still feel guilt.
– Story written by anonymous responder from Massachusetts, 8 years in EMS.