As I awoke in the wee hours this morning, I was greeted with the news of the West, Texas explosion. This tragedy comes just days after the Boston Marathon bombing. Americans are trying to get their heads around yet another tragic emergency. It’s still early in the investigation but at this time, it is not known that the explosion was caused by foul play. It happened at a fertilizer plant that works with the substance Ammonium Nitrate which is known to have explosive qualities. It’s the same substance that was used in the Oklahoma City bombing.
While listening to the West emergency dispatch calls on this mornings news, I’m reminded of my experiences as a Firefighter / EMT with Rattlesnake Fire Department in Elbert County, Colorado. At the time, the department was 100% volunteer (now only has three paid staff and 40+ volunteers). It was there that I learned about the dedication that volunteer emergency workers provide to their communities. Giving up their weekends for training, sleep cycles for nocturnal emergency calls, family time and much more.
It was during this time that I learned a stunning fact. The vast majority of U.S. fire departments are manned (and womanned) by volunteers. In fact, as per FEMA’s own data, only 8% of America’s fire departments are fully career departments. The other 92% are either all volunteer or have some mix of volunteer and career workers. Across the nation, volunteer Firefighters and EMTs are giving their hearts, souls and sometimes even their lives to help their neighbors.
The town of West, Texas has an all volunteer department of thirty-three firefighters. There is no doubt that they are receiving lots of help from their neighboring cities of Austin and Waco, but in the meantime, the vast majority of the responsibility is falling on the shoulders of West’s Fire Department and their leader Fire Chief/Marshal George Nors Sr. It’s very likely their own friends and families have been effected by the explosion.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: As many commit their thoughts and prayers to those effected by the explosion, I recommend that you go a step further. Consider sending a monetary donation to their fire department. It can help them with training and equipment. Their current firehouse was funded half by their local fundraisers including the Annual West Fire Deptment BBQ Cook-off and the other half was paid for by the City of West. I’m sure any amount would be appreciated and will most likely be a tax write off. Their address is West Fire Department, 111 S. Reagan St, PO Box 97 West, TX 76691. You can make a difference for the community of West, Texas!
Karen Loucks Rinedollar is an expert in the field of Volunteeering. Besides her time as a Firefighter/EMT, she is the Founder and Denver Coordinator of the children’s charity Project Linus and is the Senior Vice Chair of the Parker Chamber of Commerce. Karen takes the message of Volunteers: The Heart of an Organization, The L.I.N.U.S. Effect: Five Steps to a Purpose-Filled Life; and Putting the Care back in HealthCare to audiences around the country. She is the author of Working for Peanuts: The Project Linus Story and has appeared on such shows as Oprah and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.