You never know how much you depend on them – until they’re not there anymore.

South Dakota is experiencing some difficulty retaining experienced and recruiting new volunteer firefighters, at a time when calls are on the increase.   How serious is this?  South Dakota leans heavily on its volunteer firefighting teams. A recent story in the Rapid City Journal reports that “…only five of the 337 fire departments in the state are not fully or partially staffed by volunteers.”

You can read the whole story here:

The men and women who answer the call for volunteer fire protection cannot be over-praised.   They can, however, be overworked.

What can you do about helping them?

One way is by calling South Dakota One Call before you dig.  Blindly cutting into a buried gas or electrical line is a preventable error.   A simple, free call to 811 to have buried utilities marked or flagged prior to a dig helps prevent accidents that could quickly become serious or life-threatening.

Your volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line every time they answer a call.  While some emergencies can’t be helped, a 911 call for a ruptured and flaring pipeline that could have been prevented with a free call to 811 is inexcusable.

How much of a difference can you make?  Here’s another item from the story above:  “Of the 337 fire departments in South Dakota, 325 are completely volunteer and seven are a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters.”

A volunteer firefighter often works a paying job and drops tools when the alarm is sounded.  So if you cut a gas line because you didn’t call 811, you’re also impacting their employers –it’s truly a domino effect.

So – give a thought to all of those who wear the Nomex® bunker gear and carry Scott SCBA air packs on their backs; the ones who rush into burning buildings when others are running out, the ones who head toward danger when others are leaving the scene.

Call 811 first.

Because it’s not just your life you’re gambling with if you don’t.

Until next time, safe digging!

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