Mock Vehicle Accident
The sounds of sirens filled the air recently at an accident just behind John Burke High School in Grand Bank.
The head on collision depicted was a simulated scene but with the actions going on, and the way emergency personnel responded to it, it was difficult at times to remember that.
The volunteer fire departments in Fortune and Grand Bank, in honour of Fire Prevention Week, decided to take a different tactic with the teens at John Burke. The rationale for the change from fire safety to vehicle accidents was at this time in their lives, teens have a good understanding of the proper ways to deal with fire.
One statistic given at a school assembly prior to witnessing the ‘accident scene’ was with fire fatalities the teen group is not in the stats – it is children under 13 and those 60-years-old and above most often are killed in fires.
There have been 12 fire-related deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador this year.
The teenage group is more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents and fatalities.
Emergency response teams at the mock accident were the Grand Bank and Fortune Volunteer Fire Department, EMS (ambulance service) and the RCMP.
Cst. Rene Michaels explained the procedure police must use when they come to a vehicle accident.
“The first thing is to call Emergency Services and then we ascertain that at the scene of the car accident there is no fire, no wire, no gas and no blast – it is important that the safety of the emergency responders is secured first.
“If the police is satisfied that there is no danger, then paramedics and firefighters are allowed on the scene. Every accident is initially treated like a crime scene; the police must look for evidence, direct people to stay away from the accident scene and make sure people are safe. If there is a death the police must call the medical examiner and must continue to ensure the fire and ambulance services are safe.”
On the Burin Peninsula, Cst. Michaels reported there have been seven fatalities in the past year – a somewhat startling statistic for such a sparsely populated area.
Brian Rose, of the Fortune Fire Department, added seat belt use saves lives as many motor vehicle deaths are caused when people are ejected from the vehicle.
The students were taken behind the school to witness a head on collision involving a car and a van. A person in the car had been ejected, as she was not wearing a seat belt.
RCMP Csts. Michaels and Don Deveau secured the scene and then the fire departments and ambulance personnel took over. It was a smooth operation with everyone doing the job for which they had been trained.
To get the people out of the car, the fire department had to use the jaws of life to cut out the door post, while in the van one firefighter sat in the back seat holding the head of the driver in place to protect his neck before a neck brace could be placed on the victim. The action was quick and flawless and to make it more authentic, the weather did its best to make all miserable as it started to rain, which briefly turned to hale how-to-cancel-never-used-timeshare.
In real life, this is the type of outside influence with which the rescue people have to deal.
After the action at the simulated accident, the students and the rescue people went back to the gym where questions were invited from those present.
In talking to students who had witnessed the scene, one youth said “I am never, never ever going to be in an accident.”
Another group declared the demonstration had been very effective and realistic. They added it would definitely deter them from entering a car, if they thought the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a poor driver.
What they had witnessed had clearly brought the message home to them.
As an employee of EMS Derrick Dunne, who is also the Chief of the Grand Bank Fire Department, said the aftermath is almost harder for them. “While working at a scene we are taken up with the task at hand, but afterwards it sinks in just what has happened. In small towns where most are familiar with each other, it is difficult to know someone has not made it or now has a life altering injury.” Cst. Michaels agreed the hardest part of her job comes after the accident.
“The police are responsible for notifying the next of kin of an accident victim, and that is made especially hard when there has been a fatality.”
All agreed when children are involved, it is heart wrenching.
Responding to a question, Chief Dunne agreed it would be much better for the area if the 911 System was in place.
“In this way all emergency responders could be coordinated through one central position.”
He indicated fire departments in Newfoundland and Labrador are lobbying the provincial government for a province wide system, but it boils down to dollars and cents. Corner Brook, St. John’s and Labrador City are the only municipalities that have 911.
There are 26 firefighters in Fortune, 25 in Grand Bank, four RCMP members (with a further complement of 22 covering the Burin Peninsula), three primary care paramedics and five emergency responders for Fortune-Grand Bank and surrounding area.
In the case of the firefighters they are volunteers, and as Chief Dunne noted, there is “no pay and no fame” attached to what they do.
Training is a never ending task as they are not only called to fires, but must also know how to handle hazardous materials, cliff rescues and so on.
Unlike many other communities where firefighting volunteers are scarce, Grand Bank and Fortune are fortunate to have dedicated citizens willing to give freely of their time to look after the well being of their neighbours.