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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

All In A Holiday’s Work

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, November 24, 2005

North Adams Ambulance Service EMT Ben Austin volunteered to work the Thanksgiving holiday.
For some Berkshire residents, the Thanksgiving holiday means family gatherings, football games, and turkey dinners.

For others, the holiday is spent on the job.

"There When You Need Us"

North Adams Ambulance Service emergency medical technicians are staffing the River Street ambulance headquarters today. EMT Ben Austin will work from 4 p.m. to midnight; speaking on Nov. 23, Austin said he offered to work on the holiday so that those with families could enjoy the day.

“I’m single, so I don’t mind,” Austin said.

Austin’s attitude is typical of the ambulance service workers, said Paige Gleason, the service office manager.

“A lot of times, people who don’t have families, who are single, volunteer to work on the holidays,” she said.

Holidays usually bring an increase in specific types of ambulance calls, said Gleason and EMT-Paramedic David Moresi. Incidents of abdominal distress and choking occur more frequently on holidays, and there is an increase in calls for heart emergencies. Alcoholic beverage use contributes to other holiday calls, Gleason and Moresi said.

Holiday work shifts are part of the job, said Moresi.

“This is a 24/7 business,” he said. “ ‘There when you need us,’ that’s the slogan. And we are there when people need us.”

"Our Job Is To Protetct"

North Adams firefighters are on duty at the American Legion Drive firehouse.


North Adams firefighter David Boucher was in the driver's seat during a Nov. 23 fire call; Boucher is among the city firefighters working on Thanksgiving.
Being on the job means being away from home and ready to roll out an emergency response if needed. Holiday fire department calls often involve kitchen fires and motor vehicle accidents, firefighters said.

Many firefighter families plan their celebrations around the firefighters’ work schedule. Day shift firefighters have also planned to share thanks among themselves.

A Thanksgiving breakfast of eggs, bacon, home-fried potatoes and toast was on the morning menu, and on-duty firefighters anticipate sharing a planned midday meal of roast pork, potatoes, carrots, pecan pie and vanilla ice cream.

“A couple of the guys do the cooking and a couple guys do the cleaning,” said firefighter Alan Richer. “I do a lot of cleaning.”

Cooking food may not be left unattended, firefighters noted. At least one firefighter must be available to quickly turn off any stove burners or the oven if a fire call is received.

The meals are being prepared and devoured in a new training/education room that firefighters created earlier this year. Originally used as a rest room, the space was renovated and now hosts a sink, a stove, a refrigerator, and training tools such as a power-point projector and screen.

Firefighter Stefan Lamarre "geared up" for a Nov. 23 fire call; Lamarre is working a fire department holiday day shift.


Firefighters do not grumble when working holiday shifts, Richer said.

“We miss our families on the holidays but our job is to protect the city,” he said. “That’s what we are here for.”

"We Do Not Close"

On Thanksgiving Day morning in Williamstown, police dispatcher Paul Oleskiewicz was wrapping up his third shift [12 a.m.-8 a.m.] police department duties. His holiday agenda included a morning visit with his parents in North Adams, a drive to the home of his in-laws, a few hours of sleep, and a holiday meal.

“I’ll visit my parents in North Adams this morning, before I head to Pittsfield,” Oleskiewicz said. “My wife and in-laws asked me when I would like to have dinner and I said ‘how about later in the day.’ That way I can get a few hours sleep.”

Oleskiewicz is scheduled to return to work at midnight Nov. 25.

Oleskiewicz said that 2005 has been a tough year for his family; his Pittsfield home was one of five Bushey Road dwellings that sustained significant damage during the heavy rain and flooding that occurred in October. He and his wife have been living with his in-laws since the flooding, Oleskiewicz said. His father was recently diagnosed with a serious health condition.

“There’s still a lot to be thankful for,” Oleskiewicz said. “For one, I am thankful that my family is safe and away from havoc.”

Williamstown day shift police dispatcher Andrea Bryant said that holiday day shifts are usually uneventful at the town police station.

“It’s typically pretty quiet on this shift,” she said. “People are together with their families. Evenings are busier.”

Bryant’s family plans to share a holiday meal with her mother-in-law during the afternoon, she said.

“When I get home, I’ll do the TV dinner thing,” she said, and added that she doesn’t mind working on the holiday.

Most emergency services personnel know that holiday work shifts are part of the job, said Oleskiewicz.

“Police, fire, ambulance services; we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We chose our professions and this is what it is. We do not close.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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