Emergency Responders Work Hard To Protect North Dakota's Largest County

McKenzie County is one of the largest counties in North Dakota, with 11 volunteer fire departments and several emergency responders protecting the area. 

"Four of these departments have a Quick Response Unit that have trained medical personel faster than our ambulances and can start medical treatment while waiting for the ambulance to arrive," said Karolin Jappe, McKenzie County Emergency Manager.

QRUs provide emergency medical care to individuals in rural areas, where it may be challenging for an ambulance to arrive quickly. McKenzie County's QRUs' are located in Alexander, Arnegard, Grassy Butte, and Keene.

These fire departments provide fire protection and emergency response services with a mission to prevent the loss of life and property. In addition to responding to calls for fire suppression, McKenzie County Fire Departments respond to medical emergencies, incidents involving hazardous materials, rescue calls, and motor vehicle or other accidents

"Our fire departments and first responders are amazing. The people in their department really care about their community and they want to be there to help. I enjoy working very closely with these departments and am there to offer any help or resources that they may need. To be on one of these departments, takes time away from their families as they are just not responding to calls; training is a big part of being a member of a department. You never want someone to be put in a situation they are not ready for," added Jappe.

Each fire department has at least 20-30 members, with some having more.

"It is good to have those older/seasoned firefighters on deck as well. They have seen a lot in their time and can always provide good input for the chiefs as well as their department," said Jappe.

"The fire service is like a brotherhood, and if things get out of hand or there is a need for more help, the chief can pick up the phone and call in mutual aid with another department or departments. I have seen it time and time again and they all work very well together."

Emergency responders have a heart for service and for protecting their communities. "When something happens, it seems like everyone turns out to help. If it's a big enough event, I have local people that will call me saying they are bringing food/water and how much food do you need. I also have several districts where the wives will just immediately get things taken care of and will go above and beyond to make sure their husbands have everything they need. I love this County, everyone always says what a great job I do, but yet it is not just me, we have a very strong knit community that pulls together in time of need. We are very lucky in McKenzie County. I should probably include all the counties around us as they are part of our pack as well."

As the Emergency Manager, Jappe is responsible for several things. She is the go-to person for many things such as resources, people, whatever they need on an incident – she will track down when responding to natural or disasters and other emergencies and helps lead the response during and after emergencies. 

Jappe says her job changes from day-to-day, phone call to phone call. She tries to do all that she can for the volunteer departments whether it is helping them find a grant or whatever else they may need.

The department recently obtained a mobile air trailer, which has helped a lot with structure fires, explained Jappe. It has been used five times in the last 1 1/2 years.

"The trailer allows us to go out and fill their SCBAs up on scene. When you are in a structured fire, you need air because structures are so full of carcinogen."

 Jappe also wrote a grant for a Hazmat trailer, which can be used for firefighter rehab, EOC in the field, and assisting firefighters during big fires. This last year, McKenzie County Rural established another fire department in the Tobacco Gardens area – Twin Valley. They are set up to address the many grass fires in that area.

One very important thing Jappe is working on right now is building a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT members help assist firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, and search and rescue in times of emergencies. 

"I now have a new Program manager for that, Carl Stroh and he is extremely passionate about growing his team. I encourage people to take the training whether they want to be on the team or not as it is an excellent training. There is a free 12-hour online course followed up with 16 hours hands-on training. McKenzie County is also serviced by five ambulance districts who are simply amazing as well."

For more information on emergency services in McKenzie County, visit https://county.mckenziecounty.net/Department/Emergency.


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