On-call, after hours work is standard fare for some county jobs
It’s common knowledge that sheriff’s deputies and detention officers are on-call or manning their stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s part-and-parcel with a law enforcement job.
But Collin County also has a cadre of folks who regularly work on-call duty to keep county services, roads and buildings operating day and night. For these folks, that means occasional interruptions of family dinners, some missed school pageants, and certainly a few inconvenient phone calls in the middle of the night.
For many, it also involves walking into intense, highly emotional settings where they may not always be welcomed with open arms. That’s just part of the job, too. So we decided to show you just a few of these workers and what they do to keep things going around the county, around the clock.
Animal Services has six Animal Control Officers who take turns on-call, plus two supervisors. Animal Services on-call involves responding to emergencies at all hours, and have included livestock hit on roads, a cow in a swimming pool, dog bites, owners arrested for animal cruelty, snakes inside homes, injured animals, extreme animal hoarding situations, and more.
Danny Davis, who’s worked for six years with the county, weekend or evening duty can regularly bring some out-and-out strange calls that can also offer a change from investigating animal cruelty or neglect. A year back, one such call came in, asking for assistance to help a Princeton homeowner pull his cow out of the family swimming pool.
Development Services employs four people who are either Registered Sanitarians, Certified Code Enforcement Officers, or both. They are on call around-the-clock to respond to emergency, after-hours calls that have included extreme hoarding situations, food-borne illness outbreaks, communicable disease outbreaks, public health threats, and environmental health threats.
Cliff Edwards’ weekend calls are more the norm than the exception. A lot of Cliff’s weekend work involves inspecting cook-offs, food festivals and other events where vendors sell food to the public. He also handles environmental duties, such as driving out to a pond to trap mosquitoes for West Nile Virus testing. For example, one Saturday morning he responded to the closure of a food establishment due to a fire sprinkler incident. The city’s fire inspector would not allow the facility to open without a health inspection, so he headed out, inspected the restaurant, had some minor problems resolved, and the place was allowed to open for business.
Facilities’ maintenance technicians rarely have to travel far from the main county campus in McKinney for an emergency, but if the air conditioning shuts down in the county jail or the power is cut to county mainframe computers, it can pose serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. From electronic locks to cooling and heating to security cameras and plumbing, most of the department’s 49 employees work on-call throughout the year. The public rarely sees these technicians as they crawl through ceilings, fire up backup generators, unclog pipes or re-wire connections.
Ricky Thomas, on-call duty comes about once every ten weeks at the County Jail, where he’ll come in to handle electronics of the jail’s automated control system for doors, cells touch-screen controls, video cameras and the intercom system so the ebb and flow of detention officers and prisoners runs like clockwork.
Fire Marshal’s Office
Fire Marshal investigators rotate on-call duty one week at a time, and for a wide array of incidents. True, the county does not have a fire department but it assists 21 local volunteer fire departments in rural jurisdictions. Besides fires, they also respond to nuisance abatement issues such as trash, high grass, and unsightly, and salvage vehicles in yards. Then there are hazardous material spills or leaks, arson investigations, severe weather and storm damage, and manning the county’s Mobile Incident Command Post.
In the past year, the Fire Marshal’s office logged 6,441 on-call hours collectively among the three investigators. On one week in particular, Fire Marshal
Jason Browning responded to 11 after-hour calls, which ranged from a structure fire that spread to three structures, illegal burning, two vehicle fires and a fatal house fire.
Medical Examiner’s Office
Medical Examiner’s Office employs four full-time field agents (investigators) who work rotating on-call shifts 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are expected to respond to a variety of death scenes including, motor vehicle accidents, drug overdoses, industrial accidents, suicides, unexplained deaths and homicides. Each investigator is on-call three or four times a month for two to five nights in a row. They take scene photographs, collect evidence, interview family members, witnesses, law enforcement, and help transport bodies to the medical examiner’s office. They also follow up with medical and social histories and even refer some cases to outside agencies such as Adult & Child Protective Services, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Occupational Health & Safety Administration, to name a few.
Robert Laughon, who’s worked in the ME’s Office for 13 years, says he has no one example of a weekend callout that stands out, since he is inevitably responding someone’s death.
Since the county is responsible for 473 miles of rural roadway, Road & Bridge crews can spend their fair share of weekends and nights at work when storms down trees or rains wash out roadways. If it isn’t putting up barricades to keep drivers from entering flood waters or repairing overnight washouts, it might getting out chain saws to remove a fallen tree. During winter months, many of
Public Works employees get up well before dawn and venture out to see firsthand just how hazardous roads are from the occasional ice storm, and plan sanding operations when needed.
Brett Heslet’s worst on-call experience lasted for days on end when he and his crew responded to help clear debris from a tornado that ripped a wide swath through the tiny Collin County town of Westminster in May 2006. Brett says the toughest part of the job scraping up the shredded remains of what once had been home to dozens of families just a few days earlier.
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