Always on duty, personnel keeps us safe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2010

Allen Schofield, a dispatcher at the Andalusia Police Department, will be among the scores of people always on duty on Christmas Day. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

Today is a day for spending with family and friends, but for a select few, it’s just another day at the office.

Allen Schofield, dispatcher

If you’re inside the city limits and dial 911 today, the voice on the other end will be Alan Schofield’s.

Schofield, an Andalusia Police Department dispatcher for the past year and a half, is most familiar to local residents for his nearly 20-year career in radio. He also served seven years as an E-911 dispatcher

“What that means is that I’m not used to having a holiday off, although I did get last Christmas off,” he said. “But still, I think things should be quiet. Everyone will be busy with their family. Now, unless someone drinks a little too much eggnog or doesn’t get the Christmas present they wanted, things should be fine.”

Lucky for him, he said, there are no small children waiting at home.

“My stepdaughter is coming home for New Years, so that’s when we’ll have our big holiday,” he said. “This is just what we do. We know that we might miss these holidays when we start working in this field. Like I said, this is what we do.”

Lorene Thompson, EMT

Thompson, a seven-year employee with the Florala Rescue Squad, is no stranger to missed holidays.

In fact, this was supposed to be her weekend off, but when she realized what missing Christmas would mean to the two men scheduled to work, she changed her plan.

“My daughter Linda is 20,” Thompson said. “She’s a student at Troy. She’s going to be a doctor. This is her third year as a volunteer with the rescue squad.

“She decided she would volunteer for one of guys who came back in June from a year’s tour in Iraq so he could be with his family and have a real first Christmas back home,” she said. “So, I volunteered to work for a new guy who would have had to drive from Samson and sleep here at the office. We live in town, so as long as we have a radio, we’re good.

“We’re family, and I don’t mean just myself and Linda. I mean all of us that work here,” she said. “It’s what we do for one another.”

Rhett Dewrell, firefighter

Dewrell, a rookie with the Andalusia Fire Department, said this will be his first holiday with the department.

Hired in July, he’s been to school for training and has been on the road for nearly a month. He will report to duty at 7 a.m., work for 24-hours and then have the next 48-hours off.

“Of course, I’d love to be with my family on Christmas Day, but it’s just one of those things,” he said. “My job – it’s my responsibility, and I’ve got no problem with it.”

Dewrell said that was the same attitude several of his fellow firefighters had, even going so far as to switch shifts with those who had families with small children at home.

“When you have a family, the day is different,” he said. “A lot of us decided to switch shifts so some guys could be with their family, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. We’re a family. It’s what we do.”