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Auxiliary members to assist emergency personnel

November 19, 2018

Emergencies frequently happen at the least convenient times — whether it’s late at night or early in the morning.

And when they occur, emergency personnel are frequently on their own — drenched in subzero temperatures and lacking in provisions to keep hydrated and nourished during long hours of fighting fires or staking out an armed domestic incident.

A new group is determined to help, however, and is well on the way to achieving its goals. The Beaver Dam Auxiliary has that purpose in mind, and is preparing to support law enforcement officers and firefighters in situations that require their prolonged attention.

Drivers for action were two incidents in March and April, including an explosion and death at a north side apartment complex and an apartment fire that claimed two lives near Beaver Dam Lake. Both incidents strained police and fire manpower, and revealed a need which, although filled by the community, was less organized than it might have been.

Response from the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross was terrific, but took time to arrive from those groups’ Milwaukee-based response teams.

The new organization unites the Beaver Dam Fire Department Auxiliary with the Citizens Police Academy Alumni to benefit a common cause.

“Our purpose is to support both firefighters and officers, so we’ll be the Beaver Dam Auxiliary,” said Gloria Smith, who co-chairs the group with Stacy Conway and Chuck Stangl. “The core group included mostly fire department spouses -- and now includes police department spouses and Citizens Police Academy Alumni. It’s a cooperative effort.”

Discussion about combining the groups into one active organization started in August. The new group’s mission statement is “To support the first responders as they perform their duties to protect the citizens of Beaver Dam and the surrounding communities.”

That includes fire, police, Dodge County Emergency Response Team, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies — whoever would be coming to an incident. It is likely to expand to serve other communities.

“Let’s say that the Beaver Dam Fire Department provides mutual aid to Juneau,” Stangl said. “There’s every likelihood that we’d be called out to assist them as well.”

The move has the full support of city police and fire department chiefs. Fire Chief Alan Mannel and Police Chief John Kreuziger are promoting the group to emergency responders, and have determined the need for assistance based on three categorized tiers: Tier 1 will last up to two hours and the auxiliary will provide hydration only. Tier 2 incidents last two to four hours and the auxiliary will supply hydration and nourishment. Tier 3 incidents last more than four hours and the auxiliary will supply hydration, nourishment and needed supplies multiple times.

Of course, incidents can easily escalate to a higher tier.

“All respond if we can,” Conway said. “Something can start as something small, but after an hour or two, it can become something far more dangerous.”

Incident command will determine whether assistance is needed. If help is needed, the person in charge will notify the chairpersons by text. Chairpersons will notify auxiliary members via text. They then assemble in the fire department assembly room, and prepare for situations based on predetermined criterion. Depending on the number of displaced persons, The Watermark or St. Katharine Drexel Parish Center may be utilized as shelters.

The group will raise funds to cover the costs. In addition to nutritionally balanced food, beverages and other supplies, auxiliary members will gather items for firefighters including extra hoods, extra pairs of gloves and extra pairs of socks.

Many supplies are donated by local businesses and restaurants, including sandwiches, pizza and other provisions.

The organizers were blazing a trail. Some auxiliaries exist solely to raise funds. Many have ceased to function.

“Some of the bigger cities have groups like this, but this is new for us,” Smith said.

“Chief Mannel and Chief Kreuziger have been a real help, and Gloria met a lady who does this in Menomonee Falls who shared some ideas,” Stangl said. “We are the tri-chairmen, if that’s a term. We each have a group that we notify and the number that responds determines what we can do.”

Auxiliary volunteers stay on the perimeter and don’t face direct danger.

“We have a designated room at the fire department building and we’re going to slowly but surely getting the supplies we need,” Smith said. “Hopefully that will happen with donations and fundraising that we will do. Then our job, depending on the incident, will be making sandwiches, going to stores to get supplies, making coffee, Gatorade or whatever we need, and then transporting those supplies to the scene.”

T-shirts and hoodies, along with identification badges, will help identify auxiliary members as people who should be there. Random volunteers are not accepted for the sake of security.

Active assistance is part of the group’s new mission, but the old mission still remains.

“We want to be there to help with fundraising,” Conway said. “We’ll be active in the upcoming drive to fill area food pantries, and will help raise funds to restore an antique fire truck.”

Both the police and fire departments are including the list of items sought by the auxiliary on their Facebook pages.

“If people want to get involved, we’re looking at their willingness to donate the supplies and equipment that we need,” Stangl said. “The pool of people that we’re drawing from is large enough to meet our needs.”

“We just want to introduce the idea to the community and get the word out about what we’re doing,” Conway said.

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