Stuck Between a Tree and a Hard Place 

  • Adam Kay
  • For natural gas utility workers, the perfect day is completely uneventful. However, they’re highly trained as emergency first responders for the possibility of things not going perfectly. That training was critical when National Fuel meter reader Mike Conway’s route led him to where a 60-year-old man was trapped under a fallen tree after an accident with a chainsaw. 

    Natural gas utility workers like Mike spend most of their time out in their communities, frequently engaging with the public while doing the critical work that ensures their customers have reliable access to safe, affordable natural gas. This means that they’re frequently the first responders to events that haven’t been called in to 911. 

    The job calls for vigilance and attention to detail. The sound of a chainsaw wasn’t out of place in the neighborhood where Mike was checking meters. A constantly running chainsaw with no visible work being done however, was. At first, Mike was concerned he might be walking into an active work area. When he saw the chainsaw running unattended on the ground, he realized two things. First, this wasn’t an active work zone – and second, he needed to investigate in case someone needed help. 

    Observing the area, Mike heard someone yell “Hey, hey, hey! I’m stuck under this tree!” 

    Mike ran over to help, being careful to turn the chainsaw off before doing anything else. Next to the chainsaw, and hidden by the branches of the fallen tree, was the source of the voice – a 60-year-old man trapped underneath. After asking for his permission to assist, he was able to lift the tree just enough to help the man slide out from underneath. 

    “He was lucky the branches didn’t stab him,” said Conway. “But he was OK.” 

    The man told Mike that he had been trapped for 20 minutes, with no one close enough to hear his calls for help. He shook Mike’s hand and couldn’t stop thanking him. When asked about the experience, Mike said “It was gratifying to be able to help. One, to be capable of helping, and two, to be in the right place at the right time. “When you see something, say something—or do something,” he said. “Staying safe is our number 1 thing, so I made sure I was safe while helping this gentleman to the best of my ability.” 

    Natural gas utility workers like Mike Conway are the cornerstone of our industry. We’re all lucky to have people like Mike in our communities.