The People Who Watch Over Me...and You.
Road Closed at Daniel
Christmas Eve. The Trooper has missed around 15 of the last 16 Christmas's with his family.
Firemen saving vehicle.
Emergency Management Coordinator all geared up and ready to roll.
My Story Sponsor
Young customer Dane Rowe has a pepperoni pizza at Old Stones Smokehouse and Pizza.
Tip Top Rescue Practice
Flotation device being demonstrated. A pull of a cord opens a CO2 cartridge which immediately inflates the device.
Scroll down for more pictures
by Terry Allen
December 29, 2016
We have a darn good system here in Sublette County and it’s pretty much replicated across America.
Whether you pack up the kids and drive to Grandma’s house in bad weather, get on your snowmobile and head into virgin back county, leave the space heater plugged in wrong, fall off a ladder, an existing health problem suddenly acts up, or get in an argument that has gone south, there are a whole lot of specially trained people on 24/7 standby ready to rush to your aid or rescue.
As I went around to our various agencies and organizations to learn more about how they work, I learned the common thread that ran through all the people and their organizations was that the reason they got into their line or work was they wanted to help people.
As I thought about that, I realized a lot of smart and dedicated people back hundreds of years ago also felt the same way and started the earliest fire departments, hospitals, police departments and some other organizations that tried to educate and intervene before things became an emergency.
Dawn Ballou at Pinedale Online and Michele Costello of Old Stones Smokehouse and Pizza, and Clean Wash Laundry liked my idea of exploring and sharing what I learned as I talked to many of our local agencies, and said they were pleased to sponsor my story.
Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch:
I read in the paper that deputies responded to calls 10,000 times last year. If we still have 10,000 people in our county, that’s sort of like saying they responded to each one of us. Thinking about it further…that breaks down to just about 28 calls they send an officer to each day. There are only 24 hours in a day and most of us are at home or sleeping for about 16 hours a day, so most of those calls are generated during the normal daylight work day. Let’s just say that’s about 19 calls (2/3rd’s) crammed into a normal 8 hour day. All those calls go through dispatch. There is someone sitting in a somewhat dimly lit office next to the courthouse 24/7, 365 days a year taking our calls. The caller can be someone complaining of a neighbor’s barking dog or someone complaining about chest pains that he got while trying to put out a fire in his garage because he plugged a space heater into a cheap extension cord that couldn’t handle the load.
While the dispatcher is talking to the caller in a manner designed to get maximum information in as short a time as possible, they are typing on their keyboard to send a deputy or animal control officer about the dog, or they are contacting a deputy and the EMS ambulance barn and the fire department to get them to your heart and fire problem as fast as possible. If the dispatcher gets both the dog and the heart and fire call at the same time, you can bet they will work on saving a life first.
The Sublette County Sheriff’s Deputy:
Almost 100% of the time, a deputy (or Highway Patrol Trooper)is the first responder on the scene. They carry a pack similar to what a combat medic carries. They can stop bleeding, open an air way or give you CPR. They stabilize you until a paramedic gets to you. They also move furniture. I’m not joking. Very often an accident subject needs to be transported to the clinic. Deputies move cars so the ambulance can back up to a house and then move furniture to create a pathway for the gurney to get to you. They also get back out on the street or road and manage traffic around an incident.
The EMS Ambulance Barn:
Staffed 24/7, a high decibel coded "tone" blares from speakers mounted throughout the barn and jolts them to attention. The normal time it takes them to jump up from their cot, the meal table, from washing down their vehicle, to take a quick pee and be driving out the barn door is 2-˝ minutes. They better take that pee because it may be their last opportunity for the next 4 to 8 hours.
There are two types of vehicles at the barn. We all know what an ambulance is, but did you think the red SUV was just the boss’s truck like I did? It is called a Rapid Response Vehicle. It is much faster, stocked with all the life-saving equipment our heart patient needs and is driven by a paramedic who is trained for such an event…and re-trained regularly. The SUV can get there faster and into difficult terrain faster than an ambulance.
The Sublette County Unified Volunteer Fire Department:
The dispatcher also sends a tone to the fire department and all the radio handsets of every volunteer. These men and women just drop everything they are doing on a Christmas Eve with their families, and run to their fire vehicles. As it is often a freezing night, special precautions must be taken with their pumps, gauges and hoses so they don’t freeze and break and leave them unable to properly fight a fire or respond to the next call that comes in.
Emergency Management Coordinator:
Jim Mitchell calls his truck his office. Armed with a variety of communication devices to bridge as many gaps in our mountainous terrain as possible, Jim listens to the radio traffic as all the various agencies respond…ever watchful for the unexpected gaps in response that can occur. An example of the need for coordination is the recent gas pumping station event north of Daniel a couple weeks ago and the fires in Bondurant area last summer.
Tip Top Search and Rescue:
Kenna Tanner trains and manages over 40 volunteers from the community. Some volunteers are also members of multiple first responder offices or volunteer organizations. Most recently, Kenna and Shawn Streeter conducted an avalanche rescue clinic at their facility in Pinedale. They learned about proper clothing, food supplies, communication devices and their limitations, how to avoid terrain where an avalanche would be likely to occur, how to create an air pocket, get to the surface and swim in the snow if they were caught in one, and finally to probe the likely locations if they had to locate someone. Tip Top members train diligently for every possible contingency, but they are often surprised by something that was overlooked or difficult to predict. As there is always the unknown factor to contend with, they train their volunteers to think resourcefully…to in effect, become MacGyver’s…to succeed with what resources they have no matter what.
The Sublette Rural Health Care District Clinic:
Dr. Albritton is our primary emergency room physician. It is important to note that our clinic is really a doctor’s office. They do life-saving work, but because they are not classified as a clinic or hospital, your insurance will most likely not pay for the ambulance ride to the clinic or many of the services provided, such as a CAT scan. When the chest pain victim/subject arrives at the clinic, Dr. Albritton (or other ER physician on duty) will make an evaluation of their condition and whether to transport them to a hospital and with what urgency.
I was at the ambulance barn on Christmas Eve working on this story when a call came in from WYDOT saying the road to Jackson was closed due to high wind and drifting snow. This left only ambulance transport to Rock Springs as an option in case a medical emergency call came in. Though EMS staff had shoveled the heli-pad twice, the weather was too bad for flying. If our chest pain (and possible burn subject) had needed transport to Rock Springs, the Marbleton ambulance would have been moved to Daniel in order to cover the county as efficiently as possible. There are only two ambulances on duty in the county at any one time. Due to the huge size of our county, every second of response time counts in a life-threatening scenario.
Wyoming Highway Patrol:
I spoke with the wife of one our Troopers and learned that her husband Ty had worked about 15 of the last 16 Christmas’s between WHP and his time at Game and Fish. On Christmas Eve, I ran out to Daniel to get a photo of the road closure. The gate was down, the road closed lights were flashing and WYDOT and Trooper vehicles were parked in front of it to make sure no one thought they could drive through drifts toward Jackson. Unfortunately, a lot of folks around the county hit drifts on other roads. A whole lot of people were pulled out of drifts and back onto the road over the next two days. I spoke with a patrol supervisor who said that momentum seems like a good thing for getting through drifts, but it can pull you suddenly right into the deep snow onto the side of the road. It is best to slow down. However, he suggested staying home is the best idea. But if you have to drive in bad weather, you should spend the extra money for real good tires. It will be worth it in the long run.
Sue Eversull, the jail and other adventures:
Everyone always talks about how nice the food is that Sue and her staff cook. When I heard she also cooked for the inmates in the jail, I thought that might make a nice part of the story. I called our new Sheriff KC Lehr and he said I could come in and take some photos of the feeding time and also of the dispatch office. Sue said she was feeding the inmates a special meal so I went in on Christmas Day for my photos. Lunch time was prime rib with trimmings and dinner was baked ham. I thought that was a nice human touch especially at this time of year and said so, but Sue reminded me that she must follow both state and federal standards and regulations. Everyone is to receive a quality meal. As with any person in the community, some have special dietary and health needs, such as diabetics or for religious reasons. The meals are hot, served in insulated trays sealed for hygiene and security. Inmates lined up and a server pushed their food through a hatch to them.
As I sat in the jail waiting room for my deputy escort, I talked with Windy Noble who was also there on Christmas Night. No, Windy had not been a bad girl, she was there to provide bail bond services to a young couple from Alabama who had been stopped for speeding and might have been found to be in possession of a few too many of those special Colorado Desserts…if you know what I mean.
I asked Windy what her family was doing while she was at the jail. Turns out her Grandmother-in-law has a special tradition. She runs around the Noble ranch in the snow and hides presents for everyone. Just then her phone rang and it was her husband and our new county commissioner Tom wondering when she might be back home. Tom was calling from a snow cat. Tom and their kids were in the snow cat driving all over the place in the blizzard looking for presents under haystacks, in sheds, in drifts, in bushes and along fence lines.
If you remember Christmas night, it was a cold one and these young folk’s car had been impounded and it was down at Troy’s by the airport and he was waiting to turn it over to them. Problem is, it was around 5 miles in a blizzard to get there. Anita’s taxi wasn’t running so Windy did another favor and drove out into Christmas night with a couple of nice outlaws. There has to be some special Christmas spirit in that girl, if you don’t mind me saying so.
Rilee and Ashton were to be married last July 14th, but Ashton was struck by a bad case of Empyema (fluid in the lungs). His condition was recognized by medical staff and he was life-flighted. Rilee said without this swift action Ashton would not be with us. In just a few days, January 7th, Rilee and Ashton will finally be wed.
I hope I’ve put across what I wanted to say, folks. Our society has decided long ago that we think it’s a pretty good idea to create a system of dedicated people and organizations that are always there to look over us when we need it the most. I know I’m not alone in having benefited from many of these services in the past. I feel an obligation to make better choices as I drive in bad weather, hike in the wilderness, climb ladders, plug in heaters or just eat better. These men and women often risk their lives to save us. Some of them lose their lives trying. I think I owe them the respect of a more thoughtful and careful existence. They have wives and husbands and children and others who love them. I’d like them to get home safe.
Thank you to everyone who helped me with this story. If I started naming names I’d forget someone and I don’t like feeling bad, so I’ll just offer a huge blanket thank you!
Please share the photos and story among yourselves if you wish.
A huge thanks to some people who care deeply about our community, my sponsors:
Michele and Shane Costello, and Dawn Ballou of Pinedale Online.
Old Stones Smokehouse and Pizza: $6 lunch (WOW!), All you can eat buffet, 2 for 1 entrée’, and hot homemade soup daily.
Clean Wash Laundry: Ryan Dry Cleaning is back up and running after the fire and is providing the same excellent service. Clean Wash is open 7am to 11pm 7 days a week.
Apologies to a few other individuals, agencies and non-profits I interviewed and planned on including. I ran out of time and space. I will include you in another article. I have discovered there are many other groups out there…Who Watch Over Me…and You.
Photos and story by Terry Allen