And so we have another natural disaster under our national belt. As Hurricane Irma plowed through parts of this country, first responders pushed back and closed the door on her feisty, whirlwind attitude … on behalf of millions.
Similar to what we witnessed throughout Texas and parts of Louisiana when Hurricane Harvey bullied his way in, Irma was believed to have a more muscular punch — and first responders from all over unhesitatingly swung into action.
The “first responder” umbrella has a wide berth containing not only police officers, firefighters, and paramedics/EMTs, but also military personnel from all branches and power-company linemen. Considering the hot commodities that dwindle before, during, and after an inexplicable natural disaster, I have no ambivalence in adding fuel-tanker operators and water company delivery personnel to the list.
Certainly, those with legitimized legal authority — law enforcement officers — are on the front lines the entire time. Mandatory long shifts become the operational norm. Albeit fatiguing, your police forces were mobilized to meet dire needs during a uniquely life-threatening situation.
After Irma carved her way through my city and most of her threat was abated, law enforcers were released to return home to determine what was left of their personal property, if anything. A neighbor of mine, a deputy sheriff, shadowed behind me when I was starting to chunk a downed tree with a stubborn chainsaw. He just worked two days straight yet still offered his help.
Another neighbor showed up and, between the three of us, a full-size tree lost to Irma’s fury was a pile of nature in pieces. Her 10-year growth from a seedling was downed by Irma in about two hours. I watched her lean, much like a helpless sailor gazes the slow submersion of a sinking vessel whose course met irreversible doom.
Support from other states. As Florida law enforcement did during Hurricane Harvey in Texas, police personnel from Texas traveled by caravan to Florida with boats and equipment for search and rescue (SAR) operations. Other states’ police officers were here also, and they brought their apparatus to facilitate stabilization and to lighten the load on local cops. That is a huge blessing to the hearts of fatigued Florida police officers and the residents they serve.
Our beloved military. The National Guard was deployed throughout hardest-hit areas of Florida. Working alongside police personnel, soldiers bolstered SAR efforts and strengthened front-line presence against illicit-minded looters, while instilling salvation for survivors and beleaguered homeowners whose steads didn’t fare well.
My active-duty Air Force neighbor and several uniformed personnel from nearby MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa practically dropped from the skies, needed no invitation, and took to the power tools. Windows were boarded. Friendships were formed. Thanks to Irma, I have new resourceful friends.
Back field. In dire circumstances presented by Hurricane Irma, fuel transport operators become imperative. Responding from Tampa Bay’s maritime ports with loads of gasoline, tanker drivers are vital support from the back field, ensuring the flow of fuel makes it to the pumps.
Water companies in my area were drained before Hurricane Irma barreled through. Suppliers went out of their way to distribute water equitably. My neighbor is a water company manager; he reported to work before dawn today. These are just a few unsung heroes we relied on for sustenance and salvation.
Right now, linemen are our best friends. In my area, it is being reported power company utility workers responded without enough food and water … yet they continue to work to restore power. Hurricane survivors are feeding and rehydrating power company linemen. That is the human fabric to stir the goodness in all of us.
I’ve always respected the selfless array of first responders who, when trouble brews, talk little and always step forward. Despite mainstream media hyperbole and misinformation, we are a strong nation of noble folks.
Frankly, we are all first responders when it comes down to it. It’s the American way.
Stephen Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and field training Oofficer (FTO) unit. He is currently a senior OpsLens contributor, a researcher, and a writer. This OpsLens piece is used with permission.