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Saluting those who serve during the holidays

Several popular retailers announced they would not open on Thanksgiving this year, and one remained closed on Black Friday, to allow employees to spend time with their families.

Charlotte Nash, Chairman Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

This is quite a change from the norm as many businesses see Black Friday as a day for higher sales.

Gwinnett County and other governments are similar because we close most offices and give many employees time off on holidays. However, have you ever thought about who remains on call and arrives on the scene of an emergency on a holiday? Who fixes the traffic light in your neighborhood? Who keeps water flowing in your home? Certain essential services never stop, not even for one day, and I appreciate the men and women who perform those jobs.

Clearly, first responders are expected to be on the job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs are always ready to respond to emergencies, and 911 communications officers take calls for assistance and dispatch first responders. These vital services are especially needed during the holidays, a time of increased fire and medical dangers.

Law enforcement also stands ready to help. Police officers maintain traffic safety during holiday travel peak times, and they protect shoppers from crime. Sheriff’s deputies continue important field operations and guard the jail, while corrections officers maintain security at the correctional complex. Even courts operate during holidays – you will always find a magistrate court judge on duty at the jail.

Roads don’t close for holidays, so some staff members in transportation don’t take a break, either. On-call road and traffic signal crews clear roadways, make emergency road repairs, and fix signals. Others provide dispatch services or work in the emergency operations center if necessary.

Gwinnett’s massive water infrastructure has 3,702 miles of water mains and 2,974 miles of sewer mains that require constant monitoring. Holidays mean greater water use than usual – and that has an impact on the residential sewer system. We owe our clean drinking water and effective wastewater treatment to technicians and field employees who monitor water quality and provide emergency coverage.

We even have staff to support the departments that provide these essential services. Dedicated technicians are available to perform a variety of tasks, from vehicle repair to after-hours facility maintenance. This important work keeps fire trucks, police cruisers, and DOT vehicles rolling. 

The list of who keeps things running 24/7 is quite extensive. I’d also like to praise others who serve our community. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are often overlooked for their sacrifices. And you may not think about it, but electric power and natural gas utility crews spend their holidays operating those vital functions as well.

So as you spend time with your family during the holidays, take a moment to remember the people who are hard at work for your safety and comfort.