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Opinion

April 27, 2013

When disaster strikes, volunteers are ready

It can be said that there are two types of people in any emergency — the ones running away from danger, and the ones running toward it. 

We witnessed this recently in Boston and in West, Texas. Even as survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion ran for their lives, other people were heading deeper into danger with no thought other than to save lives. 

In Boston, police and firefighters were joined by race volunteers and bystanders in sifting through the gory aftermath of the April 15 bombing. 

In West, Texas, a team of volunteer firefighters was responding to a fire at a fertilizer plant when a devastating explosion, so strong that it left a crater in the ground, was touched off. 

Of the 14 bodies recovered from the site of the West Chemical and Fertilizer Co., 11 were first responders, according to the Dallas Morning News. 

The town of West has a population of around 3,000 people — a lot like Otego, Walton or Schoharie. 

And much like the firefighters in West, for whom the fertilizer plant explosion was a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy, our local first responders don’t necessarily face the same daily risks that police and firefighters in, say, Boston typically do. 

But when an emergency does happen, the risks are just as real, and just as life-threatening, whether it’s a small town or a huge city. And the bravery and dedication shown by the volunteers who run toward danger, rather than away from it, can’t be overstated. 

And after the danger of an emergency has passed, there is still much work to be done. For local emergency service coordinators, the floods that followed Irene and Lee are still generating reports, planning and after-action discussions aimed at improving the outcomes for the next emergency. 

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