It’s summertime and it’s HOT! The days are filled with parades, lemonade, fireworks, and HEAT! Unfortunately, some of the days are also filled with wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters. Luckily, we have an extraordinary group of emergency professionals that respond to these various disasters referred to as “first responders.”
First responders have been a prominent topic in the news lately. There has been quite a bit of coverage relating to the 9/11 first responders that has brought their sacrifice to the forefront of our screens and minds. With wildfire and hurricane season in full swing, our country’s first responders are sure to get their fair share of action. These professionals keep us safe and protected and, in a very real way, they keep us alive.
The praise, gratitude, and admiration they receive is certainly well-deserved. But I want to bring attention to another group of responders who also provide safety and comfort and who literally keep us alive. I call these professionals “the hidden responders.”
A Network of Unseen Yet Vital Utilities
When I first started in the waterworks industry, my boss used a term that I had never heard before to describe the vast network of utilities that operate underground and behind the scene. He called this network “the hidden city.”
This network of waterworks, gas, electric, fiber optic and other utilities operates with mind boggling efficiency and consistency. For the most part, it operates without a passing thought from the average person about the incredible system in place to allow the kitchen faucet to flow, the toilet to flush, the heat to kick on, or our cell phones to charge. The term “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” is certainly applicable to this vast, largely unseen network.
This extensive infrastructure of underground utilities also needs attention and maintenance. The installation, maintenance, and repairs are done by a mostly unnoticed group of professionals. If a watermain breaks on Christmas eve, the hidden responders are there to fix it in short order and get your shower running again.
If a hydrant needs a repair or an upgrade, the hidden responders are there to make sure the water will flow when the first responders turn it on to fight a fire. If a massive storm knocks out power and communications to thousands, the hidden responders are there to restore power to hospitals, police stations, and emergency management headquarters.
Always on Call
The hidden responders are called to serve at all hours of the day or night, in all seasons, rain or shine. And then there’s the safety aspect of the job. Many times, such as after an earthquake, severe storm, or man-made disaster, these folks must enter the danger zone long before first responders in order to make the scene safe. They are often faced with the hazards of gushing water, hissing gas, and sparking power lines.
When making repairs, you may have them knock on your door or leave a note to tell you the water, gas, or electric will be shut off while they work. Trenches and holes will need to be dug. Parts and machinery will need to be obtained. It may take a little while. Don’t be frustrated or annoyed. Be grateful that they are there to make sure you have the life sustaining necessities that you don’t even have to think about.
Did you know? 525 McWane Poles' ductile iron utility poles withstood winds of 180 mph and were used for Hurricane Irma power restoration. Watch this video to see the destruction and dangers our hidden responders are faced with, both underground and overhead. (link: https://lnkd.in/drNXR7T)
Call Before You Dig
Are you planning a project around your home or business that requires you to dig underground? Remember the millions of miles of utilities that lay just under your feet. Whether you are installing a mailbox, planting a tree, or building a deck, be sure to Call 811.
Your call alerts utilities of your plans to dig and lets utilities mark approximate locations of underground utility lines. This can protect you from serious injury/death or property damage and prevents interruption of your utility service.
When you wash the clothes or bathe your kids with warm water, when you water your prize-winning tomatoes, when you settle down to watch your favorite sitcom or catch up on your computer, remember the system that allows you to do those things so conveniently. It’s there underground. Hidden.
Let’s Give Thanks
Our nation has slowly begun to recognize the hidden responders who keep our massive utility system running safely, smoothly, and efficiently. Special days have been set aside to acknowledge their efforts such as Water Professionals Appreciation Day in early May or National Lineman’s Appreciation Day in mid-April. But you don’t have to wait to show your gratitude. Take a quick moment to send a note to your local utility or even give thumbs up to these folks in the field, because even a fire fighter needs a hero!
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