From left are first responders Daniel LaPlante, Tommy Patrick and Justin Baker at the Collierville Fire Department’s holiday luncheon.
During the holidays, life tends to slow down as businesses close and families gather together to exchange gifts, share meals and pass along family traditions. For some families, the holidays are much less “traditional.”
These families have moms, sons, or even grandparents patrolling our Town neighborhoods, preparing for an alarm at a Collierville Fire House or answering distress calls at the Collierville Police Dispatch Center.
“It comes with the job,” commented Ryan Dunn of the Collierville Police Department. “People rely on us so they can be home to celebrate with their families.” Ryan has been with the CPD for seven years, but was already accustomed to this lifestyle having a father (now retired) serve with the Memphis Police Department. Along with many others in his field, Ryan will be working on patrol Christmas Day while his children and wife are at home.
“It was an adjustment in the beginning, but we made it work,” said Ryan’s wife, Julia. “We still get to make holiday memories as a family, just in a different way.”
Family memories are also made at Collierville Fire Houses, as they spend holidays in their House away from home.
Justin Baker, firefighter/EMT of the Collierville Fire Department said, “As Firefighters, we live here and, in a way, become each other’s family.”
Firefighters working holiday shifts will often share a meal together where children and spouses attend. Jessica Allen, daughter of CFD Driver/Paramedic Tommy Patrick, grew up visiting her dad at the Fire House during special occasions.
“It wasn’t unusual for my dad to be working on holidays. It was actually normal. Many years we would go to the fire house on holidays and bring everyone there some food, because they were our family too,” said Allen.
In addition to the family get-togethers, tenured firefighters will sometimes work the early hours of a shift on Christmas Day for a member of the CFD that has young children.
Working together as a team to properly cover shifts is a necessity for first responders to ensure the safety of the community.
The Collierville Police Dispatch Center is another division that must have workers present at all times.
Answering calls on a night-shift schedule at the CPD Dispatch Center for the past two years, Kelly Chrestman, said it took a long time to adjust to the odd hours, but like other Town employees have stated, it becomes a new normal. Working holidays are simply part of the job.
In the event that an emergency arises during the next few weeks in Town, Collierville’s first responders are ready.
“This time of year, more than any other time, emergency calls take on a different meaning to Fire and Police personnel,” commented Assistant Fire Chief, Tommy Kelley. “We are always ready to respond, but to see a family lose a loved one, or lose their home or belongings in a fire or burglary around the holidays, always seems to take on a deeper meaning.”