It’s been a tough couple of days here in Northwest Montana. Just in the past week, in addition to sub-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions, three people were found after an avalanche swept away a house; two skiers were rescued after a life-threatening night spent lost in dangerous terrain; and one train derailed — thankfully it caused no injuries, but closed a major highway here for hours.
One of my closest friends posted a photo of a beautiful, snow-crusted calf born in the blizzard and I savored for a moment the joy of new life. Then we learned she had not survived, despite their herculean efforts to save her, and I clutched from the loss.
Throughout all of this, we connected through Facebook, texts, Twitter and so forth. Updates came in real time, prayers were sent, volunteers coordinated, and folks reached out to one another in the innumerable ways we now take for granted. But, so much more was going on behind the scenes.
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to host a webinar with Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association, to talk about 911 and emergency services in rural areas. Sponsored by Mobile Future, hundreds signed up, from all across the nation. Not surprising, since there’s nothing like extreme weather to remind us of the importance of a well-functioning emergency services system. And, across the U.S., there’s been some pretty serious weather to deal with recently.
Brian spoke at length about emergency services technologies such as texting, video, location capabilities, increased data flow among first responders and across county and state boundaries. (If you want to hear the webinar, click here.) More importantly, he reminded us of the value of the emergency services responders who show up in the blizzards, hurricanes and mudslides. He spoke of the limitations of technology and its promise.
The tools of the trade in emergency services still include shovels, winches and chainsaws; they also include laptops and tablets, cell phones and radios. Indeed, every day, thousands of engineers and technologists work to improve the technologies that support the networks and services used by our first responders. In other words, they innovate. None of that’s easy.
The true heroes in these stories though will always be the emergency services professionals who show up in the darkest of times, in the worst of conditions, and make miracles happen. And it’s neighbors and friends who bring us together to help rebuild or console. Hopefully, with spring right around the corner, Mother Nature will give us all a moment to catch our breath and shift back into two-wheel drive. Let’s hope so.