When Pennsylvania declares a state of emergency, many of us are fortunate enough to remain hunkered down, safe in our homes.

During Hurricane Sandy, some folks had the day off from work and spent time with their families and attended to their homes. Others, as seen on social media sites, really kicked back and enjoyed their favorite snacks and a cold brewski (or two).

I'll agree, it's always nice to have a day off, but for my parents, who are both considered essential emergency personnel, it's the time their employers need them the most. My father, Garry, is a road crew worker for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. My mother, Maryann, is a registered nurse at Temple University Hospital.

When severe weather strikes our area, my dad is as close to the front lines as you can get — putting up "road closed" signs, installing road blocks and clearing tree branches and debris from our roads, bridges and highways so the rest of us can travel safely.

When he left at 4 a.m. on Monday, I knew I wouldn't see him for a few days. That's how it is when you work on a road crew. The crew is always on call; they work long hours and anticipate only short breaks and brief rest. When storms like Sandy hit, crews work around the clock to keep roads safe and secure. If a traffic light goes out or if a fallen tree blocks a traffic lane, they're on the scene.

One of the things that amazes my dad is how drivers neglect to read signs or, in some cases, completely ignore them, barrelling through marked-off areas. His experiences have led me to be a more cautious driver, to always acknowledge flashing lights and to slow down and read signs completely before proceeding.

When storms hit, my mother is permitted to travel on dangerous roadways to get to work. During snow storms, even when our neighborhood streets haven't been cleared of snow, Temple will send out a vehicle to transport her to work. She will walk, through a foot or more of snow, to a major intersection just to be picked up and taken to work. (Yes, she is my hero.)

My mom has been a nurse for 35 years and has stories about staying at work overnight, working long hours and sleeping there. I can't imagine having to get some shut-eye at work, let alone brushing my teeth or showering there.

All of the people who must venture out into these storms and "brave the elements" should be commended for the work that they do.

So, to my parents, to all PennDOT workers, hospital staffers, emergency responders (National Guard, police, firefighters, EMTs), electric and gas emergency repair crews, emergency management personnel, government officials, journalists and anyone else who plays a part in keeping us safe and informed, thank you.