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Cops, caregivers, road crews: the unsung heroes of Christmas

December 21, 2012

Should a storm hit the Eastern Sierra, Caltrans, city and county road crews will be plowing local streets and roads this Christmas. There are also hundreds of law enforcement officials and health care providers on the job, not to mention troops serving overseas this holiday season. Photo by Sterling Schat

As Inyo County residents and visitors gather today and tomorrow to enjoy the warmth of family and crackling fires, hundreds of men and women are on the job this Christmas, ensuring that the streets are safe, the electricity is on and the roads are clear.
Each year, local law enforcement personnel patrol the streets, Public Works employees plow the roads and doctors and nurses staff local hospitals so everyone else can enjoy a merry Christmas. Hundreds more residents keep their cell phones and handheld radio nearby in an on-call capacity in case of an emergency.
According to Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze, his department will have three dispatchers working 12-hour shifts Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day; 11 correctional officers and deputies working eight- and 12-hour shifts over the holidays at Inyo County Jail; three cooks working at the jail; 16 deputies covering 10-hour patrol shifts; and three lieutenants, the undersheriff and the sheriff working Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and serving in an on-call capacity Christmas and New Year’s day.
There are also several nurses who are on-call in case of any medical emergencies at the jail or juvenile detention facility.
“That’s a grand total of 34 sheriff’s personnel working over the holidays, 30 of whom are physically on duty providing 24-hour countywide coverage,” Lutze said.
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter said that a total of 14 Bishop PD employees will be working over Christmas and Christmas Eve, including eight shifts for patrol officers and six shifts for dispatchers.
“Many folks don’t realize that law enforcement calendars don’t have Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (like Christmas),” Carter said. “Law enforcement calendars only have work days and off days. Some law enforcement professionals will have the good fortune to be scheduled on days off for the holiday. But Bishop PD is a small department and that being the case, most will have to work some or all of the Holiday.”
But Carter noted that his staff doesn’t complain about the holiday shifts. “It’s part of the job and we know it comes with the territory. The men and women of the Bishop PD are dedicated professionals and our families know that it’s what we do.”
At the Inyo County Juvenile Detention Center, 11 group counselors will be working three shifts Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and 10 will be working New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“I would personally like to thank all of the men and women who unselfishly work during the holiday season,” said Inyo County Chief Probation Officer Jeff Thomson. “While most county employees are off on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, a number of employees must work in order to provide vital services to our county.”
In addition to staff that will be working at the Juvenile Detention Center, Thomson said his probation officers – while not formally on-call – are always ready to respond if sheriff’s deputies or Bishop Police officers need them.
“I know that it is difficult to be away from family and friends during the holidays, especially Christmas morning, so I would like to thank all of the men and women who work on holidays and I would like to thank their families for understanding that their loved ones are sacrificing their time in order to make sure that the residents of Inyo County are provided essential services such as law enforcement, fire protection, health services and road maintenance,” Thomson said.
The local office of the California Highway Patrol will also be operating at maximum levels, with 80 percent of its staff on the clock over the holidays.
As for local health officials, doctors, nurses and staff at Northern and Southern Inyo hospitals can’t abandon those facilities for the holidays, and will be staffing both facilities over Christmas and New Year’s.
In addition to the employees on the clock at the hospitals, dozens more are on-call throughout the holiday season, ready to aid patients if they are needed.
Also, Inyo County Health and Human Services staffers will continue to provide their services throughout the Christmas holiday.
According to Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner, the department’s 24-hour Progress House facility will have three residential caregivers working on Christmas Day.
The department also runs several programs/services required to have 24-seven on-call response availability. “To fulfill these needs, there will be six HHS staff assigned on-call responsibilities over the holiday,” Turner said.
“I’m privileged to see the dedication and professionalism that Inyo County employees bring to their jobs 365 days of the year,” said County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio. “However, having to work and be away from family during Christmas is not always easy, especially for newer staff with young families, and the commitment these men and women have to serving our community – like anyone who has to work on Christmas Day – takes on special meaning over the holidays and is worthy of our appreciation.”
Bishop and Inyo County Public Works will have a number of employees on-call to handle any building or road emergencies throughout the holiday, and City Public Works Maintenance Worker Jake Kiddoo will be on the job Christmas day.
According to Bishop Public Works Director Dave Grah, Kiddoo “will make sure the water system is providing water for normal use and is ready for an emergency. Jake will check each of the water wells to make sure they are working properly, will check the water storage tank to make sure it is full enough to respond to an emergency, and will verify the water treatment system is working properly. Jake will also check the sewage treatment plant to make sure it is working properly and that reclaimed water is either being released for irrigation or being stored for later irrigation use.”
Grah added that Public Works crews rotate days off, and Kiddoo’s schedule this year happened to include Christmas.
Like the CHP, the employees of Caltrans District 9 will be working to keep the roads safe as U.S. 395 and other state highways see increased holiday traffic.
“It takes an incredible commitment and dedication to leave your family and in some cases, little kids and miss all of their excitement when they get to see what Santa left for them,” Caltrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor said. “In some cases they miss Christmas dinner in order to make sure that our local roads and highways are safe for the traveling public.”
Trainor said the number of Caltrans employes who work Christmas Day depends on weather and the amount of travel on local highways.
Trainor said that if there is a moderate snow event in Mono County with some snow over Westgard and Gilbert Passes and some wind/light precipitation in Inyo and Kern counties, “from Bishop north, we might have five (people) per crew. So there’s 25 per shift – we would have two 12-hour shifts: six out of Independence … and three out of Inyokern and four each for the Mojave and Tehachapi. In addition, we would have a dispatcher on duty per shift –- so that would be two dispatchers.”
Caltrans also has Traffic Management Teams who respond during storms to help direct traffic.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power also has employees on-call, prepared to respond to any emergency at the Owens River Gorge Power Plant, which is manned 24-seven, LADWP Public Information Officer Chris Plakos said.
Southern California Edison will also have a number of employees on-call to handle any power outages or emergencies in local communities, and staff working at the local hydro plants.
In addition to the above-mentioned employees, hundreds more head into work over the holidays to man cash registers, care for the ill and elderly at residential care facilities and or simply cook meals for families who would rather eat out Christmas Day than cook a meal at home.

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