Editor’s Column: Kudos to first responders

Former Herald Times editor Jeff Burkhead would be horrified to know we’ve been functioning without a functional scanner in the office for… um… a really long time. Our analog scanner was woefully outdated. Most everyone switched to digital years ago.

When we bought the paper the only transmission we were still receiving was the town’s public works department. I knew every time Russell Overton sent the snowplows to a different street all winter.
Thanks to the knowledge and research of former dispatcher and current Herald Times employee Patti Hoke, we bought a digital scanner in January. It sat in the box for months while I tried to find someone to help me program it. I finally sucked it up and paid to have the thing professionally programmed. I can figure out a lot of “tech” stuff, but the scanner threw me (and everyone else) for a loop.
Our freshly programmed scanner arrived last week. Listening to it has been both enlightening and exhausting.
Half of what we hear is “encrypted,” meaning it comes across the scanner sounding just like the unintelligible grown-up jargon in Charlie Brown cartoons. If you don’t know what that means, check YouTube. We interpret a lot of what’s going on based on a one-sided conversation with dispatch.
I’m also learning the law enforcement phonetic alphabet, which differs from the pilot’s phonetic alphabet I learned while growing up. My name in law enforcement is Nora-Ida-King-Ida. In pilot-speak it’s November-India-Kilo-India. (My real name is something entirely different). If I ever decide I need a pseudonym for my fiction I have lots of options now.
It seems like Highway 40 is a hotbed of speeders, suspended licenses and—oddly enough—multiple road rage episodes. And that’s just in the last week. Are all those people headed to Steamboat really grouchy, or what? On that note, our state patrol officers have been given a Herculean task… they’re covering a ridiculous amount of territory.
Third, I want to give kudos to our local first responders. Tuesday afternoon a controlled burn upriver near Westlands “blew up” in the spring wind and sent the fire department, the sheriff’s department and an ambulance crew 20 miles upriver. At the time I’m writing this, with the scanner sitting next to me (I brought it home to get updates about the upriver incident), there are still people on scene at that fire, hours and hours later. Others are now on their way to a house fire on Highway 64. These are many of the same folks who’ve been on scene at the upriver fire for the better part of a full work day. I feel tired just thinking about it.
So, hearty applause to all of our first responders for everything you do. You are appreciated.