Volunteers in Mercer County
put lives on line for public’s safety
By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
Standing in the middle of U.S. 127 in northern Mercer County,
Kevin Bell carefully placed three bright, orange cones across
the roadway and signaled oncoming traffic to remain at bay.
It was barely 15 degrees outside with a stiff wind blowing as
Bell watched a tow truck pull a large semitrailer from the depths
of a nearby snow-covered ditch. As a member of MCERV —
Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers — he did his
job, so emergency crews could do theirs.
It’s a partnership of sorts, MCERV secretary/treasurer
and adviser Michelle Fiely said.
“We save law enforcement officers from wasting their time
handling minor traffic details,” said Fiely, a former
firefighter/paramedic and Mercer County sheriff’s deputy.
In the past, firefighters sometimes parked spare trucks across
roadways to keep traffic away, an action that tied up emergency
equipment, Fiely said.
MCERV, a non-profit group, informally started in the fall of
2001 and was signed under contract with the Mercer County Sheriff’s
Office in Feb. 2003. The idea started, however, about 12 years
ago with a similar group formed by the Disaster Service Agency
(now called the Emergency Management Agency). That group no
Sheriff Jeff Grey said the contract is a win-win situation for
“The recent Hemmelgarn (egg plant) fire in Philothea was
a good example of MCERV’s importance,” Grey said.
“Without them, our deputies would have been out there
all day routing traffic.”
Grey said the volunteers likely save taxpayers thousands of
dollars each year in overtime previously paid to deputies. The
contract between MCERV and the sheriff’s office insures
that MCERV members have legal driver’s licenses, carry
auto liability insurance and are trained properly in traffic
control, he added. There is no money involved.
Not all MCERV’s pages are to accidents and fires.
“We do lots of parades, monitoring intersections around
the parade routes,” said member Jim Brockman, a former
Mercer Countian now living in Sidney. “We have a presence
at a lot of county festivals, parking cars and giving overnight
The members, who logged nearly 500 hours during the last year,
are available to search for missing people but would not be
summoned to dangerous situations, Grey said. Preventing bystanders
and members of the media from trespassing on secured scenes
is also a task they are called on to provide.
The volunteers get paged out by the county’s dispatchers
as requested. Sometimes they are activated several times a week;
sometimes it’s two to three weeks between calls, said
Fiely of Coldwater.
Because of the organization’s tax-exempt status, MCERV
can accept donations for protective equipment and clothing,
and donors can write off the gift. The 501(C)3 status also allows
them to seek grant money, said Fiely, whose husband, Jim, is
president of the group.
MCERV individuals must fork out their own money to pay for gasoline
and other expenses related to their vehicles. Overalls and reflective
orange vests are provided.
Members, currently there are 22, undergo a background check
and get training in traffic control by sheriff’s deputy
Mark Heinl. CPR, first-aid training and communication classes
may be added in the future.
In July 2003, the group was called on repeatedly to help maintain
closed roads due to flooding. Some held all-night vigils on
washed out roadways to block the path of motorists who were
oblivious to the danger after dark.
“It’s not a glamorous job. We don’t run stoplights
or anything like that,” Brockman said. “We just
feel there’s a need for our services and we want to help.”
Anyone interested in joining MCERV can call 419-678-2141 between
10 a.m.-6 p.m.