It is always a thrilling experience to be in at the beginning of a new project. It is hard to believe that we are about to kick off our Protecting Emergency Responders on The Highway website project. There is a great potential for saving lives through the mechanism of sharing knowledge. We have some really dedicated troops on board, and look forward to sharing our expertise with the fire, police, and EMS communities throughout North America, and around the world.
I come to this project with a bit of personal, emotional baggage. I can recall when a fire police officer here in my community of Howell Township, New Jersey was killed. He was struck by a motorist while directing traffic at the scene of a brush fire.
It was truly a sad and unnecessary event. John Somay was a long-time member of the Southard Fire Company in southern Howell Township. He had climbed up through the ranks, serving as both a fire chief and fire commissioner. We all knew John to be a fine and dedicated man.
At an age when many others would have sought a seat on the sidelines, John maintained his active membership by service as a member of their fire police detachment. Let me share a bit of information with you. There may be many of you who do not know about the fire police and the nature of their duties.
In New Jersey, fire police members are actually appointed by local fire companies, or fire departments. There is a state-mandated training program that fire police members must complete. There is also a continuing education component. The members of the fire police are then sworn in by the municipal clerk, and have certain responsibilities to the local police chief.
However, they function essentially on behalf of the fire company. They set up traffic control for both emergency and non-emergency duties. This is exactly what John Somay was doing when he was killed.
John and his wife had planned to get away for a bit of a vacation. They loved to fish, and were about to head out when the fire call came in. As a matter of fact, John had stocked the family cooler with ice in preparation for the trip.
At the scene of the emergency, John set up his traffic control point as he had done literally scores of times before. He had his vest, and trusty flashlight with the bright orange cone. And apparently a great many observant motorist were directed around the scene by dint of John's efforts.
But there was one motorist who just wasn't paying attention. He failed to observe the traffic control point and plowed into John. Mr. Somay succumbed to his injuries a short time later at a local hospital. I attended the services at the nearby funeral home across the street from my home in Adelphia. A number of us also attended the funeral and participated in the funeral cortege to a local cemetery.
John Somay was a good man. He was a man who gave many years of dedicated service to the citizens of Howell Township. He was a man who paid for the mistakes of another with his life. I do what I do as Editor-in-Chief of this website in memory of John. And I am sure that you will come to discover over time that everyone of us involved in this project has a similar story.
Stay with us as we begin our journey to a safer highway environment in America.