Most of us take electricity and natural gas service for granted. We flip the switch and turn on the heat without thinking about it. This is a compliment to the workers in that field, even if we don’t realize it in the moment.

Our police, fire and EMTs are properly considered “first responders” to crisis situations. They run towards the danger as they instruct civilians to leave a potentially life-threatening situation.

The men and women who work in the field for the gas and electric companies do the same thing, and should be given the same respect and admiration as “first responders.”

The recent gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts reminded me of the crucial role the utility worker has in a crisis. The police and firefighters went door-to-door in this dangerous environment to alert people and gather information. Utility workers were there side by side with the police and fire professionals in the face of incredible danger. Those police officers, firefighters, and utility workers summoned incredible personal courage to protect and assist their fellow man.

We can’t live without electricity. Many of us also enjoy having natural gas service to our homes. I have lived without it in the past, and I can’t imagine ever willingly living without gas service for heat. However, we never think too much about our utilities. Except, of course, for when they are disrupted by a storm, and then we only think about how long it is going to be before they come back on.

While we are at home, wishing by candlelight for the TV to come on, there are utility workers on the mission.

Alone in a bucket, more than 20 feet above an asphalt street, is a utility worker trying to restore the electricity we require to live. The worker is handling high voltage wires as the bucket is shaking under the assault of hurricane winds. Its three o’clock in the morning and the wind and rain or the snow is pounding on the worker. Another utility worker is deep underground looking for the break in service, diligently trying to identify and solve the problem.

One wrong move, and they may never see their family again.

I grew up in a great neighborhood in Freetown, Massachusetts. Many of the fathers in my neighborhood worked for the utility companies. Those men made a good living in their profession. If my memory is correct, each of them suffered serious injuries in the line of duty. After they recovered, they went back to work to ensure we would have the American standard of living. I never heard any complaints; they were all good-natured people who enjoyed their friends and family, and they understood their unique role as skilled professionals.

Without them, we would still be cave men.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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