Dedicated to Safety
Sometimes saving lives comes with a job—other times you volunteer for it. For SLAC's Brian Sherin and Lance Lougee, who have already dedicated their professional careers to safety, this is certainly the case; together they have over 25 years of experience as volunteer fire fighters.
Fire Stations in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties rely heavily on volunteer organizations, including the Loma Prieta Fire and Rescue Department that Sherin and Lougee belong to. In fact, most of the entire nation still does: about 75 percent of fire fighters are volunteers.
"My professional life has been devoted to safety and emergency response," said Sherin. "Why wouldn't I do this? Everyone should juggle their talents between their profession and the community."
As a part of this juggling, Sherin and Lougee carry their response gear, or "turnouts," with them in their personal vehicles. When a 911 call comes in, the volunteers are paged and, depending on their location and their current priorities, decide whether or not they can respond.
Calls-to-duty vary, but Sherin and Lougee estimate that their Department receives a minimum of 400 calls a year. These emergencies include medical crises, structure and wildland fires and downed power lines. More than half of all annual calls in the area are due to highway accidents, primarily on Highway 17, the route between Silicon Valley and the coast.
When Sherin and Lougee arrive on the scene of a car accident, the biggest risk is oncoming traffic. A 40,000-pound fire truck is the perfect barrier for rescuers and allows fire fighters to perform their duty safely, Sherin said.
Recently, Lougee was called to the scene of a car crash, where he found a girl trapped in the wreckage. "I'm lying on my back on a freeway, talking to a girl who is upside down," he said. "For those next 20 minutes I get to be her best friend. Now that's job satisfaction."
"When you call 911, Brian and I—and our crew—get to show up and help you," Lougee said. "Although we deal with extreme situations, it's a real pleasure to help people. That's the thing that ties us all together."
Matt Cunningham, SLAC Today, January 16, 2008
Above images: Assistant Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Lougee (top right) and Chemical and General Safety Department Head Brian Sherin (lower right) put in over a month of training a year as volunteer fire fighters.