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Newton first-responders say holiday work not pleasant but part of job
Covington-Newton County 9-1-1
The Covington-Newton 911 Center is shown in 2017 when it received more than 1,400 calls over a two-day period as Hurricane Irma swept through Georgia. - photo by Special Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — First-responders are like most people who do not like working on holidays like Independence Day.

But someone needs to be ready to respond to medical emergencies or fire calls because they occur no matter what day is on the calendar, said two veteran first-responders.

Trudy Henry, director of the Covington-Newton County 911 system, said it was difficult for her employees to work on a holiday but they were aware of the requirement when they took the job.

Henry, who began as an operator in 1994, said 911 employees know they not only must work on holidays but also overtime on holidays, as well. 

“I’ve done my share,” Henry said.

She said when she first began with 911 — before she had her own family — she also would work for others who had families on holidays like Christmas.

The 911 department is often short-staffed which means someone must be found to fill in from time to time, she said. 

“You know when it’s your holiday to work and you also kind of have an idea of, ‘That shift’s short. Somebody’s going to have to work that holiday,’” Henry said.

However, she said “people do it willingly” because “we all have to do our part and we’re here to help the community and be there for them.” 

“But it’s hard getting up and leaving your family,” she said. “Everybody’s cooking out and maybe in the pool … it’s hard knowing they’re fixing to have a good time and you’ve got to go to work.”

Another problem for many in her department is the often difficult task of finding child care on a holiday, Henry said.

Darriel Mosley, deputy chief of operations for the Newton County Fire Service, said his 28 years of work as a firefighter has included numerous holidays.

The typical schedule for a firefighter requires working days in a row that often include a holiday, he said.

“You will know 10 years out, if you stay on the same shift, what days you’re going to work so you know in advance,” Mosley said. “That helps out a little bit but it doesn’t make it an easier pill to swallow.” 

However, Mosley said firefighters still must work because they provide an essential service to the community.

“They’re going to have the same emergencies on holidays as they have on Feb. 16,” he said. 

“People are still going to have medical needs. Things are going to come up and, basically, we’re still going to be needed. You’ve got to work 24 hours because that call can hit at any given time.”

Henry said employees in her department know they are providing an essential service that could save lives.

“You pray when you come in that nothing bad is going to happen … but a lot of dispatchers have the attitude of, ‘I know that I’m there and I can help these people.

“They have that ‘heart’ of they want to be there,” she said. 

Henry said two employees will be coming in on their off days to help the Covington Police Department dispatchers and officers manage the traffic congestion on the Square during the fireworks show.