Emergency departments work through holidays

Russell Anglin

The holiday season means business as usual for Tucumcari emergency workers.

Tucumcari Police Department Detective Sgt. Patricia Lopez said the city experiences a spike in property crimes, including burglaries, theft and shoplifting, towards year’s end.

“There’s really not much of a difference between what we saw last year and what we’re seeing this year. It’s about the same,” Lopez said.

Lopez said the police force typically has two officers patrolling the city at any given time, though state police saturation patrols setting up checkpoints for drunken drivers may call for more city police to assist in patrol work. Lopez said city police, who include 15 regular patrol officers and one chief, have been working ten-hour shifts.

“The state of New Mexico has a ‘super blitz’ going on. It started in November and it goes through the 6th of January. All across the state, a lot of saturation patrols and checkpoints (are) going on,” Lopez said.

Lopez, a 15-year veteran, said the holiday season may mark an increase in city liquor sales but does not necessarily entail a rise in DWI arrests.

“New Year’s Eve there seems to be a lot of drinking going on. Whether or not people are designating a driver, or if they’re calling us for a ride or something, I’m not sure whether or not there’s going to be an increase in DWI arrests,” Lopez said. “You can call here at Quay central dispatch and say you need a ride and they’ll give you one. A ride home. Not to another party. A ride home.”

Mike Cherry, chief of Tucumcari’s volunteer fire department, said 17 volunteers currently help put out fires in the city, though the department may not operate at full force throughout the holiday season.

“We try to,” Cherry said. “It doesn’t always happen because especially during holidays they (volunteers) have places to go and you can’t say no because they’re volunteers. We have a little system … they have tags they turn over at the station to let us know that they’re out of service.”

The fire department has mutual aid agreements with the other Quay County volunteer fire departments in case extra help is needed putting out a fire.

“I don’t think (residents) really realize the dedicated people that we have on the fire department that spend a lot of time on training and maintaining their vehicles. They get no remuneration at all for it,” Cherry said.

Deputy fire chief and Tucumcari EMS director Kalon Lafferty said emergency transfers to Albuquerque, Amarillo and Clovis occupy much of his employees’ time. He said city ambulances transfer between 20 and 30 people out of town every month. The EMS currently employs around 10 people, Lafferty said.

“Honestly, probably Christmas day, holiday days where people are home with their families, we run probably half as many calls as we do on the days before and after,” Lafferty said. “We had one EMS call Christmas day. We average about three a day.”

Lafferty said it’s hard to tell how busy he and his colleagues will be on any given day.

“I think in the last month, four times we’ve had at least two ambulances out in town at the same time, not counting transfers. And it’s feast or famine. They do that for two hours of the day and for the rest of the 24 hours they don’t do anything. We can’t predict that,” Lafferty said. “They work 24-hour days. So this time of the year, they’re not at home. That’s the hardest thing on them right now.”