Committed to serving: Oklahoma first responders share what it’s like working during extreme winter weather

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The heavy snowfall and below average temperatures might be unusual to Oklahoman residents, but not for first responders. To them, the conditions are similar to a normal Oklahoma winter, just a lot colder and with more snow. Although they might have to adjust a bit, they say they are equipped and ready to serve.

For Oklahoma City Firefighters, one adjustment is to make sure water doesn’t freeze.

“Say we need it on a fire, then we’ll prime our pump, get it going again, and then let the water flow through it,” said Major Louis Marschik, Assistant PIO for OKCFD. “But with these real low conditions, that freezing water can really cause havoc on some of our equipment.”

Surprisingly, Major Marschik said the spray from the hose actually keeps the firefighters warm.

“On our bunker gear itself, we could get water sprayed on us and the bunker gear will freeze on the outside. But believe it or not, it actually helps insulate us,” said Major Marschik.

For Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers, winter weather may mean longer hours on the job, such as working accidents.

“We know that we’re expected to do that,” said Trooper Eric Foster. “In our vehicles we prepare. We have extra clothing, we have warmth, we have gloves and a lot of us carry different types of food and water and things in our vehicles for that type of situation.”

EMSA officials told News 4 that response times may be slower, but ambulances are equipped to get to emergencies safely.

“We do have some sets of snow tires that we’ve put on the vehicles,” said Adam Paluka, chief public affairs officer for EMSA. “We’ve also equipped the vehicles with shovels, ice melt. We’ve given our medics cleats for their shoes. So anything we can do within our control to help make our responses easier during the winter weather event, we’ve done.”

All three emergency response agencies shared the same message with News 4: That they appreciate the community staying home as much as possible, which has limited the number of emergencies they have needed to respond to.

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