Williamsport man and his CB ready for emergencies

April 05, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

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ReactWilliamsport man and his CB ready for emergencies

You could say John Spessard overREACTS when it comes to his CB radio, but the Williamsport man would disagree.

Spessard's passion is monitoring CB Channel 9, an emergency radio channel used by people to report everything, including car breakdowns, house fires and plane wrecks.

If he hears an emergency call, Spessard contacts authorities and gets help on the way.

As one of the 11-member Hot-Line REACT emergency response team in Hagerstown, Spessard listens for trouble calls on the radios he has in his "radio room" next to his bedroom, and in his car.


He has a speaker in his living room so he can hear calls there, and another on the outside of the house, in case he's working in the yard. If he's in the bathtub, well ... "I jump out of the tub and holler 'Don't look!' and run out and get the call," said Spessard, 77.

Spessard started using a CB in 1972 for protection while working on the road for Grove Manufacturing Co. In 1975, his car broke down while he and his wife were on their way back from a visit with their daughter.

"I called for help on my CB, and it was amazing the amount of calls people were putting out for help for us," Spessard said. A man who helped Spessard wouldn't accept any money.

"He said I could pay him back by helping someone out that needed help," Spessard said.

He joined REACT the next year, and has been monitoring calls all night long since 1981.

He's not a light sleeper.

"I never hear dogs barking or trucks going by," he said. "But when that radio goes off, I'm there."

In 1997, Spessard monitored Channel 9 for 5,849 hours and answered 752 calls for help.

Spessard said about half the calls are from truckers reporting drunken or reckless drivers, or disabled vehicles. Some are more serious, like the call from a man in West Virginia whose house was on fire. And then there are the prank calls. One he took was from a woman who said she was trapped in the wreckage of a plane with a dead man.

In 1992 he became a member of the Williamsport Fire Co. fire police. He was recently recognized by the fire company for responding to 135 calls in 1997.

About a year ago, Spessard started giving seminars to senior citizens about the job of fire police and the purpose of traffic cones and barricades.

He is also recruiting more Hot-Line REACT members to help shoulder the Channel 9 load. Anyone interested in joining the group, which reorganized this year, can call Spessard at 301-582-0631.

"This community's been good to me. I want to give something back," he explained.

Spessard is also active in two senior citizens' groups and attends a weekly meeting of old high school pals.

"I call it the meatloaf meeting, because all we do is meet and loaf," he said.

He walks more than a mile twice a day.

"I don't like to be idle," he said.

Spessard has stayed active despite setbacks. He has two steel rods in his back as a result of three back surgeries. And he was laid up in the hospital for two weeks in 1980 after surgery for a neck aneurysm.

"I asked the nurses and they said it was OK to have my CB in my room. I put a magnetic antenna on the window, and I was in business," he said.

Spessard said he couldn't do what he does without support from his wife Evelyn, 89. Evelyn said she adores her husband, but admitted there are times she wants to give his CB a toss.

"Sometimes I could run off with it - especially at night," she said. "I don't know how to use it, but I do know how to turn it off."

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