By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
East Carter celebrated prom this past weekend, an event marked by dancing, celebration, and – often – after parties to keep the fun going. While the prom itself is supervised and chaperoned, what happens outside the event is beyond the control of any teacher or chaperone – especially what happens after prom is over.
Every teacher and parent hopes their child will wait until they are old enough to legally drink before sampling alcohol, if they ever do at all. Traffic statistics and long memories, though, tell us that isn’t always the case. Too many of us have yearbooks with memorial pages as testimony to that fact.
Kids often think they’re invincible. That it won’t happen to them.
There isn’t a lot that first responders can do to change that.
What they can do, though, is show kids what it could be like if they’re wrong.
That’s what first responders did last week as they presented a mock disaster at East Carter High School in the days before their prom.
Units from the Grayson fire and police departments, and Grayson emergency management, as well as the sheriff, the county ambulance service, and the coroner’s office, worked together to portray a realistic two vehicle accident. This included patients in both vehicles who were life-flighted away on waiting helicopters and a trio of child fatalities in the vehicle that had been “struck” by the inattentive or inebriated teen driver.
Carter County Emergency Ambulance executive director Rick Loperfido, called the drill, “an extremely successful training session for everyone.”
“I believe it is always a valuable tool anytime you can bring various first responders together for one training exercise, to see how each agency interacts with one another during an emergency,” Loperfido said.
But more than that, he said, he hoped it was valuable for students, and that they took the lessons to heart.
“This exercise provided the students at East Carter with the opportunity to witness firsthand what the end results are when accidents occur on the highways and lives are on the line,” he said, adding he hoped the students took it as seriously as the professionals did. They treated it as if it was real, he said, “perform(ing) their tasks extremely well and treat(ing) the event seriously, as if it was an actual scene,” so that students would understand the importance of sober driving.
Coroner George Sparks echoed Loperfido’s sentiments. He added that while his office is the one you hope you never have to call, the exercise was a good example of how county and city agencies must work together in situations like this.
“It was a great opportunity for us to come together with the community and participate with the different agencies, and demonstrate how we can all work together during a very stressful and tragic time,” Sparks said.
City councilman, and volunteer firefighter, Michael Harper expanded on Sparks’ comments.
“(This was) an excellent opportunity for our East Carter High School students to witness firsthand the multi-agency response needed for a fatal DUI accident,” Harper said.
He explained that a lot of “expensive, high-tech tools and equipment” required to safely remove patients from a crash – a process that takes a lot of training, and a lot of time.
“Training and speed are vital to safely remove and transport them to a hospital as soon as possible,” he said.
But even with training and experience, it takes time – which students saw on Wednesday.
“In an attempt to make program as real as possible there was no rehearsal prior to the day of the live demonstration with any of the agencies involved.”
Harper said as a community and council member, he hoped students understood the message about the dangers of impaired driving.
He noted that public education is, “an important form of public service that is provided by our Grayson fire department.”
He said the city and the fire department have always made it a goal to provide “quality education to help prevent bad situations,” adding he was proud of the department and thankful to East Carter for working with them on it.
Jessica Messer-Duncan, with the East Carter Youth Service Center, said they partnered with the local agencies to bring the event to the school and said she felt the student body were, “very receptive (to the) message of how much their lives, and the lives of those around them, matter. They were attentively engaged in watching the entire live call in progress.”
Duncan added it was “a very hard, but necessary, learning experience.”
“They hear advice and statistics, they see commercials and signs posted about the dangers of driving under the influence – which are so important – but in being able to see what could happen in person, like that truly hits different,” she added. “It made it much more real to them.”
“Our hope is that they walked away feeling valued, while at the same time aware of how our choices make more of an impact than what we might think.”
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