This is Home: Gary O’Brien makes keeping others safe his job

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - Marietta resident Gary O’Brien has had an eventful year.

Around New Year’s, O’Brien was flying home from California when a man on his flight quit breathing. Though he is no longer EMT certified, he put his 25 years of experience in the field to work, saving the man’s life.

“If you’re the best that’s there, just like driving up on a vehicle accident, help until more qualified people arrive and step back from the situation once people do arrive and your helps no longer needed,” said O’Brien. “At 35,000 feet its pretty hard for somebody else to get there.”

It’s an event that would have highlighted the entire year for most people, but O’Brien makes his living in heroics. As the owner of O’Brien’s Safety Services and O’Brien’s Confined Space Rescue Services, he has been all over the country saving lives.

Many WTAP viewers will recall the story of a dog trapped in Pennsylvania, rescued by a Marietta man and his team, free of charge for a woman who had just lost her job. It was Gary O’Brien who came to the rescue.

Just a few weeks later, the woman started a fund at the Marietta Community Foundation in O’Brien’s honor.

And while this has been an impressive year for O’Brien, it’s nothing he isn’t used to. At just 18 years-old, he became a professional firefighter.

Then he was a safety engineer for Chevron, before opening up his own business. While he does have occasional excitement, the usual jobs are very important as well. His company does safety audits, equipment evaluations, safety training for new employees at various plants and more. With a positive attitude and a good sense of humor, O’Brien says one of his best tools for the job is a handshake and a cup of coffee.

“The key to being a safety guy is being out there, trying to teach people how to work safely so they will continue to work safely when I’m not standing there,” said O’Brien.

But it would take a hardy soul not to be impressed with the services of a confined space rescue team.

“If someone is doing a confined space entry that has any hazards associated with it, they’re required to have a standby rescue team right there. They can’t really rely on the local fire department because they may be called to a structure fire. They may go to a vehicle accident or a medical emergency,” said O’Brien. “We all know that if somebody isn’t breathing for six minutes, it’s likely a fatality. So, you have to be able to enact that rescue in just a few minutes. That’s why the confined space rescue team has to be onsite the whole team,” said O’Brien.

As a businessman, O’Brien says he wouldn’t be where he is today without his capable employees. He gives them all the credit with the dog rescue, even though it was his decision not to charge the woman they helped.

“As far as the business game goes, I am nothing without my employees. I am just so grateful for my employees,” said O’Brien.

And while he loves working in the safety industry, it isn’t where he started. Though, he did always want to be a firefighter, much to his father’s chagrin.

“My dad and I had a lot of conversations about what I was going to do for a career path. I certainly, at the time, was not a college bound person. I had two opportunities, to become a seasonal firefighter or to go work for Chevron. When I told my dad my decision, that I was going to be a seasonal wildland firefighter, he quickly told me that was not the right answer and I would be going to Chevron to work,” said O’Brien.

Luckily, Chevron’s massive facility in the San Francisco Bay Area had its own fire department, which O’Brien was able to volunteer for until a paid opportunity arose.

“I got to do what I had always wanted to do, which was be a fireman,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien has been in the safety industry for decades, but he’s not planning on retiring any time soon.

“I like what I do, because it gives me a feeling of purpose, in that I am here to do this. This is why I was born,” said O’Brien.

And he’s not planning on leaving Marietta either.

“I think I live in the best community in the United States,” said O’Brien.

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