February 10, 2010

More accidents lead to more stress on volunteers

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

One minute, they’re playing with their kids or sitting down to a nice meal with their family. The next, they’re rushing in an ambulance or fire truck to an accident where they’ll be responsible for treating wounds and saving lives. Then, just as quickly as it all began, life goes back to normal. Until the next call.
For the McKenzie County Ambulance Service and the Watford City Fire Department volunteers, these sudden changes are a part of everyday life, something they don’t think twice about.
“We get a call and we go,” says Ben Weltikol, Watford City fire chief. “We volunteer because we want to help people.”
For these volunteers, 2009 was a busy year. The fire department responded to double the amount of accidents as in 2008, making both departments very busy. But most volunteers didn’t feel like the job was any more stressful than normal.
“It has been a lot busier, and some days that gets a little overwhelming,” adds Weltikol. “But, we don’t complain. We just go about our day and do the job that needs to be done.”
“This is a stressful job. No one will deny that,” says Jim Johnsrud, McKenzie County Ambulance Squad member. “But, we do what we are trained to do on every call, and that takes 90 percent of the stress away, because you know you did everything right.”
According to Kerry Krikava, McKenzie County Ambulance administrator, training is the key to emergency responders doing their job well. Both teams train extensively with many training sessions together, so everyone knows that the others out on a call know what they are doing.
“When we go out on a call, we know that it’s not all on us,” says Dave Uhlich, an ambulance volunteer. “No one is expected to be a superhero. You always have 10 other people out there working with you.”
“When you’re confident in everyone else out there, the job is much easier,” adds Howdy Lawlar, Watford City Fire Department member. “Training together really helps with the stress because you know that everyone has the ability to do their job and they have your back.”
“The most stressful part is always going to the call,” says Johnsrud. “I think it is really stressful when you don’t know what you’re getting into, and there really is no way to prepare for the scene. But once we get to the scene, your training just kicks in and you do what you’ve been trained to do.”
Both Krikava and Weltikol believe that when a call comes in, their titles get dropped. They agree that neither of them would ever make their staff do something they wouldn’t do and that makes for a great team.
“When we’re out there, everyone is on the same level,” says Weltikol. “We are all there to do a job and it doesn’t matter if you’re directing traffic or helping a patient. Every job is important and we know that without each other, nothing could be accomplished.”
To the volunteers, the Fire Department and Ambulance Squad are their second family. But that doesn’t mean being a volunteer is easy for their actual family.
“Our families know that we volunteer because we want to help people, and it’s a part of our lives so they know the interruptions are going to happen,” comments Lawlar. “The hardest part for them is letting us go out in bad weather. Because even though they know we are going to do a good thing, they’re still worried about our safety.”
Regardless of the stresses of the job, both squads know that they can rely on each other during a call, and when they return from a tough call.
“There are a lot of things we can’t talk about with our families,” says Krikava. “That’s why it is so important that we have each other to talk to when we need someone.”
Krikava thinks that professionalism, training and friendship make the McKenzie County Ambulance and the Watford City Fire Department a success.
“We work together, laugh together and cry together,” comments Weltikol. “That’s the way it is and it happens. But we have one heck of a team and McKenzie County should be proud to have all of these volunteers looking out for them.”