Even in foul weather, some jobs must go on
When the weather turns cold and snowy or icy, staying indoors can be the best decision. But there are people whose jobs don’t allow for that.
Those workers and volunteers have to find ways to keep warm and safe while still doing their jobs. Among the workers who have to endure the elements are emergency medical technicians, roadside auto service providers, and mail carriers.
EMTs and other ambulance workers have to balance their gear needs and response time, Florence ambulance crew chief Scott Zogelman said. Preparation is the key to balancing those needs.
“You have to think ahead,” Zogelman said. “You can’t just run out the door.”
Part of that preparation is having appropriate gear ready to go at a moment’s notice. Several factors go into the appropriate gear, he said.
An EMT’s coat needs to be warm and reflective while also providing protection from sharp objects. Footwear needs to be warm and provide good traction but can’t take too long to lace.
“The hardest thing is you can’t have gloves, because they’re real cumbersome,” Zogelman said.
But simultaneously, EMTs need to keep their hands from becoming numb in the cold. He said gloves that keep people’s hands warm without hindering dexterity would be a welcome invention.
Zogelman remembered a case where he wasn’t adequately prepared for the cold. Several years ago around Christmas time, a semi truck went off a highway and struck a natural gas pipeline serving Florence residents, leaving gas-heated homes without heat. EMTs responded to the scene, but the driver didn’t require much medical assistance. Instead, EMTs directed traffic for about an hour in winds stronger than 20 mph. Zogelman said he was freezing before it was over.
“Layers of clothes and rubber boots,” Cardie Oil Tire and Service Center manager Dean Keyes said are crucial to staying warm while changing a customer’s tire in the cold and snow. “As for your hands, they’re going to get cold no matter what. I work with metal bars and tools that get cold.”
Fortunately, there aren’t many calls for roadside tire changes in the cold, as heat is a bigger problem for tires. But when help is needed in the cold, it can be unpleasant. Keyes said he prefers to change tires in fresh snow rather than snow that has begun to melt, referring to it as “that nasty slop.”
Traffic can also be an irritant, especially in inclement weather. But he said it seems drivers are getting better about slowing down and moving over when someone is stopped on the roadside.
“Common sense goes a long way in terrible weather,” Keyes said.
But even when he has to get on his knees to work in the snow and the slush, he said he wouldn’t want to be a mail carrier.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” reads an inscription on New York City’s main U.S. post office building, sometimes mistakenly called the motto of the post office.
It may not be an official motto, but it describes the perseverance of mail carriers like Leonard Frantz in Hillsboro.
With 26 years of experience, he says that neither snow nor rain is the worst weather to deliver mail.
“The worst of it is when the wind blows,” Frantz said.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t pay attention to forecasts.
“I kind of watch the weather quite a bit,” he said. “You just get yourself mentally prepared.”
Walking the 14 miles of his daily delivery route gets tiring when there is a heavy snow. He said people don’t seem to clean their sidewalks as well as they used to. On the other hand, he said there are several people along his route who sometimes offer him a chance to go indoors and warm up a bit.
“Cold doesn’t bother me,” Frantz said. “I’ve always been an outdoors person.”
He said his feet never get too cold, but his hands are a different matter because he can’t wear heavy gloves while sorting mail.
Last modified Jan. 26, 2011