When a tree falls, who do you call?

ktanner@thetribunenews.comFebruary 16, 2012 

When a tree falls, then what? Who do you call? What do you do first?

If the falling tree sliced through your house, your understandable first concern is to make sure nobody’s hurt or assist anybody who is, and then protect your belongings and your home.

You’re thinking “Get that tree off my house!” So you might call a tree service. Cambrians are blessed with several good ones.

But if the tree blocks a roadway, has hit or taken down utility wires or landed on your home, officials say that among your first calls should be one to 911. Emergency services need to know where the trouble spots are.

Because Cambria’s fairly remote, during big storms our fire station often converts into an emergency-communications center — a clearing house for emergency, utility and road crews. They’re dispatched by radio to assess each situation and assign it to the proper agency or utility-repair service.

That can be vital for public-safety reasons.

The crews are trained to identify which wires are which and to block off danger zones, so nobody gets electrocuted.

Road workers open up evacuation routes. And if a tree has hit a house, county inspectors must check it out and tell you if it’s safe for you to be inside.

Sometimes, not having a downed tree “on the list” can be a matter of life or death.

In a Jan. 2010 storm, after the wind-and-rain onslaught, 911 dispatched medics to help someone with a health problem.

The rescuers’ couldn’t get through on the most direct route because downed trees and branches blocked the road.

Nobody had told officials about the blockage. If they had, emergency crews could have taken an alternate route in. As it was, the blocked roadway delayed their arrival.

It wasn’t a life-threatening situation that time … but it could have been.

This column appeared first in The Cambrian on Dec. 23, 2010.

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