With all compassion and respect for the Noon family, I would like to offer the following comment to explain some questions that were raised during the search for Mr. Noon and offer a few further comments in general. I speak as a citizen, and despite having ties to both Hopkinton Fire and Police Departments, my comments are personal and not representative of either department.
Public Safety personnel are typically strong “Type A” personalities. These personnel are running into harm’s way when most are running away. They respond to every call for service with a determination to make a difference and won’t hesitate to pull out all the stops for a successful outcome. In short, they hate to lose.
I have seen an abundance of changes in my nearly four decades in Public Safety, many of which have been technological in nature. And while many of these additions to the toolbox are instrumental in enhancing communication and safety, you still need manpower, or “boots on the ground”.
What caught my attention during the extensive search operation was a comment made by an uninformed citizen regarding the suspension of the search the first night. Remember, all of the latest technology is nice, but you still need the “boots on the ground” and you need to be cognizant of the safety of the team. Nutrition, hydration, fatigue, facilities, and more are major concerns for every incident commander. Environmental issues also play an important role, such as weather, darkness, landscape, insects, and the size of the search area. Every search operation is a risk versus benefit scenario. Without any fruitful leads or progress, do you keep your personnel out in the elements, or is it wiser to bring them in to rest, eat, use facilities, regroup, and readjust your search plan? If there was any evidence that they were close to locating the patient, you can rest assured that no one would have left the woods early that morning. Remember – they hate to lose!
Hopkinton has had its fair share of searches over the last few years, and they have a good system of Unified Command with the Fire and Police Departments working together. Fortunately, they are able to integrate Mutual Aid departments, regional technical rescue and dive teams if needed, and State Police resources to include K-9, SERT, and Air Wing if needed. The common theme here is “boots on the ground”.
These manpower-intense searches are rare but do occasionally occur, and adequate responses are dictated when they do. How many citizens realize how many firefighters or police officers are on duty at any given time? The fire department does have a system to recall off duty members if there are multiple calls, or a single call that may require more personnel, such as a working fire, hazardous materials spill, or an accident that may require multiple ambulances or the extrication of trapped occupants. How many firefighters actually live in town and are readily available for such situations? How many police officers are on duty at any given time? How long would it take for an officer to respond from the Ravenwood development on the Holliston line to Snowy Owl on the Upton line to back up an officer for a domestic incident or an emotionally disturbed patient, both of which require at least two officers minimum?
My point here is that before people comment on things that they don’t know about they should do some research and become informed. Neither the fire or police have any secrets, and most of these questions can be answered with just a small amount of research. These public safety professionals protect us 24/7 and respond to every call for service. They never say “no”, or “I’m not comfortable with that”. They respond to every call whether it is a COVID+ patient, an emotionally disturbed patient, or a child who got their fingers caught in a door, and everything in between.
The town is protected by a dedicated group of fire and police professionals, supported by 911 dispatchers, who report for duty to protect the residents, workers, and commuters who pass through the town on a daily basis and they provide a high level of service and care. Our DPW workers are also an important but unrecognized component of the entire package.
These personnel are a special breed, and there aren’t as many signing up for these jobs as there once were. These people show up to do their jobs every day, and can’t work from home to get it done. Let’s show our public safety team some support and treat them with respect as well, to keep these well trained people working for us. We need to provide them with the compensation and benefits they need not only to retain them, but to attract other candidates for these jobs and make them want to stay here. The job market for these resources is very competitive and we should be setting the bait for the top candidates, not settling for the ones who only check the box.
This Sunday, October 15, from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, the Hopkinton Fire Department will be hosting an Open House. This culminates the end of Fire Prevention Week which caters to the children and fire safety, but also may be an excellent opportunity to meet some of our personnel, see some the equipment, and ask questions about their job.
Remember, it’s the “boots on the ground” that get the job done, and we’ve got to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. Our schools just made us all proud with their recent accolades, which didn’t just appear overnight by mistake. It has taken years of hard work by many people to get them to the top. Let’s get our Public Safety team on that same track, show them our support, and let them be the place where everyone wants to work, and be the envy of the Commonwealth.
Don Collins is a Hopkinton resident and an Assistant Chief and Shift Commander for Massport Fire-Rescue at Logan Airport.