Keeping emergency response workers safe during blizzard

(ABC 6 News) – Those who work hard to keep us safe during storms are not immune from the negative impacts of the weather.

It’s something people may not think about when severe weather hits, but every time emergency response workers help people in danger, they are putting themselves at risk too.

“We wanna be able to come home at the end of the day, we want to be able to get back to our jobs after the call,” explained 2nd Assistant Fire Chief David Friese with the Pine Island Fire Department. “That’s why we’re asking the public to be partners.”

First responders want to remind people just how dangerous it can be when they are out, unprotected, on emergency calls.

“Probably the most dangerous thing we do is we’re out on the roadways in icy and inclement conditions with fast-moving vehicles on the roadways,” said K.C. Clark, the motor vehicle operator with the Rochester Fire Department.

As the major winter storm continues to cover southeastern Minnesota in a blanket of snow, ambulance workers, fire departments and the Minnesota State Patrol will be out on the roads answering calls for help.

Many of these first responders say they have had close calls.

“People come speeding through the emergency zone and just about hit one of our firemen. They ended up in the ditch across from where our accident was already,” Chatfield Ambulance Director, Rocky Burnette explained.

They say drivers need to slow down, pay attention and move over.

“If it’s a two-lane road you’re required to reduce speed and move over to the oncoming lane if possible. If it’s a multiple-lane road, then you’re required to switch lanes and get over the farthest lane away from the crash scene,” Minnesota State Trooper, Sgt. Troy Christianson, said.

Moving over for emergency vehicles has been a Minnesota state law since 2000.

Sgt. Christianson says not doing so could result in a $190 fine. Not to mention the lives you are putting at risk when you don’t give emergency workers room and protection from speeding vehicles.

“We can’t control what other drivers do, we can’t control the conditions, so it’s really risky for us to be out there rendering aid to people that are trapped on the roadway,” added Clark.

They say if you do have to drive, remember those who are risking their lives so that they can save yours.

As always, do not drive over the next few days if you are able. If you do need to be out on the roads, check 511 for updated travel information before you head out the door.