Last Wednesday morning at Kemmerer’s high school, multiple emergency services departments came together for a joint presentation about the risks and consequences of distracted driving, led by EMS.
“Other communities have done this and we thought we’d give it a try as far as trying to make an impact. Between the cooperation of EMS and the school we came up with a distracted texting/driving scenario,” head of EMS (Scott Meyers said.
After a brief introduction from Meyers about what would be happening, an emergency call came in over the radios loud and clear. Following the call, all emergency personnel moved to their vehicles stationed outside as students moved out to the parking lot, where the mock accident had been staged.
Surprisingly, the planners for the event had gone to great lengths to ensure that the mock scene was as realistic as possible.
“We actually had more things planned…this was to have involved an actual court case, proceedings, and a funeral,” Meyers explained.
While there was no blood or any particularly gruesome injuries, there were two real people playing the role of the injured alongside two dummies (an adult and baby mannequin, respectively). But even for the actors playing their roles, there was still plenty of glass being shattered as the firefighters worked to extricate the trapped casualties. Thankfully, there was only a minor cut reported by one of the on-site personnel.
After the patients had all been painstakingly evacuated, all parties returned to the auditorium for a thorough debriefing on the risks and consequences of distracted driving. In the auditorium, each of the casualty actors spoke on their personal experiences as emergency care personnel. One of the actors also relayed her terror in the moment as emergency personnel covered her with a blanket before shattering a car window.
Once they had finished speaking, things became more medical as Trauma Coordinator Brock Stanley began talking. In his role, Stanley oversees all trauma patients that show up at the hospital emergency room. He first went over how each patient in this scenario would have to be treated, but also went into greater detail about his personal experiences with real life accidents and the resulting emotional trauma that they can cause emergency care workers.
For example, one such study (n= 526) from the National Institutes of Health in 2019 looked at the prevalence of PTSD in Emergency Physicians, finding that 15.8% had self-assessed symptoms of PTSD. While this area is an ongoing area of research, similar statistics can be found for a variety of other roles in the healthcare field, albeit with varying percentages.
After Stanley finished discussing the consequences for all parties involved, police sergeant Jake Walker took the stage to go over law enforcement’s role in all of this. During the mock exercise he and his fellow police officers had secured the scene — a critical first step in all emergency care situations.
But on stage, Walker discussed law enforcement’s investigative role in getting to the bottom of an accident. Onlookers were able to witness some of this during the mock accident scene outside, when a few police officers questioned some of the victims intermittently as they received care.
“We’ve had three major crashes with multiple injuries this summer alone…it’s been a trauma summer,” Meyers reflected.
But Walker elaborated greatly on law enforcement’s role, going over various dimensions of the process, such as obtaining warrants for cell phones, car black boxes, and other potential evidence. It was also around this time that many students began asking a plethora of questions. These ran the gamut from what would happen in a true accident (losing control due to slippery conditions, etc.) to the various legal nuances of the law.
To many students’ surprise, Walker was all too happy to pass the torch on to attending county attorney that morning, Spencer Allred. Like the others before him, Allred explained the county attorney’s role in any accident, which also includes determining if any charges are to be filed.
Like Walker, Allred also received a great deal of questions. At one point, it seemed as if the morning assembly might have been a bona fide career day for every agency involved. But eventually, the questions abated and the assembly came to an end.
When asked about where the mock accident scene’s vehicles had come from, Meyers explained that they had been donated for the event by Auto Inn, a local tow company in Kemmerer. “We owe Auto Inn a big thank you,” he added.
Looking back on the morning’s events, Meyers was optimistic at how things had gone.
“Overall, I thought it went well. All of the agencies were participating well, we got a lot done. This was a longer [trauma] scene due to the number of patients and amount of extrication that they [the firefighters] had to do to the cars,” he explained.
When asked if he had anything else to pass on to readers, Meyers once again emphasized the importance of safe driving:
“Don’t be distracted while driving, and any distraction can do this — not just texting and driving. And be safe when you’re driving, be cognizant.”
Meyers also added that he hopes to host a similar event in Cokeville next spring.