No break for service workers during sub-freezing temperatures

Becky Campbell • Jan 30, 2014 at 7:57 AM

When the temperature drops to sub-freezing, like it has been the past couple of days, and snow accumulation closes public offices and even some private companies, there are service workers who just don’t get a break.

Lucky for the Johnson City Power Board, there have been no power outages during this particular storm, so line crews haven’t had to be out in the cold.

“I have zero outages right now, which means with this weather we probably don’t have any crews out right now,” JCPB Public Information Officer J.T. McSpadden said Wednesday morning.

But for emergency service employees, snowy roads and cold temperatures don’t prevent them from responding when needed.

Johnson City Fire Capt. Lynn Peters said this week’s cold spell hasn’t been too bad for firefighters because there haven’t been a large volume of calls.

“We have not had anything out of the ordinary,” Peters said. Crews did respond to several wrecks caused by slick roads Tuesday, but there were no major events.

“When snow comes on, a lot of people get apprehensive about the weather,” Peters said. “Our gear is designed to protect us from the heat and it will keep us warm until they get wet” when fighting a fire.

So far, that hasn’t happened during the current cold spell, he said.

“If we’re working a fire and (gear) gets wet, you’re going to get cold. We all have a backup set of gear,” for that reason, he said.

The fire department also has to keep its equipment in working order to always be ready for a response, he said. Fire trucks are equipped with automatic traction chains that, when activated, hang down and provide traction for tires on slick surfaces.

Peters said the feature only works in snow up to about 6 inches deep. There are also tire chains available for every fire engine.

The Johnson City Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office have special four-wheel drive vehicles patrol officers use during inclement weather.

In Johnson City, the police department has a small fleet of Humvees to use in severe weather. The WCSO has four-wheel drive SUVs for the same purpose.

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