A car is overturned, and paramedics from the North Ridgeville Fire Department and Eaton Township Fire and Rescue are tending to the victim trapped inside. They cover the person with blankets, remove the windows from the vehicle, use the Jaws of Life to open the car and carefully extricate the patient. It’s challenging, precarious work that requires precision and skill to try to save a life.
Thankfully, in this instance, it’s a staged scenario.
Lorain County Community College, in partnership with the two departments, hosts mock disaster training twice a year in the parking lot at the University Partnership Ridge Campus. The sessions train firefighters, first responders and paramedic students so that when real-life disasters occur, they are prepared to respond.
“For the students, it provides realistic training,” says Dawn Sgro, applied health and nursing faculty member at LCCC. “For the agencies, it’s a good refresher. They enjoy working with the students, and they’re able to share their knowledge and learn new techniques.”
Joe Harder, of Eaton Township Fire and Rescue, says the departments do their best to make everything as realistic as possible.
“A lot of the scenarios are based on real-life calls we’ve had, so it’s an opportunity for them to experience those things,” says Harder. “We’ll cut doors. We’ll break glass. We’ll cut the bottoms off of cars. It’s a different scenario each time, and it can be challenging for an experienced person, let alone for someone coming out of school, so it’s a good opportunity for the students and for us.”
Making it real
Patton’s Towing, of North Olmsted, provides vehicles for the exercises and arranges them to mimic real-life accidents. Some are set on their roofs or their sides, and on the first day, the professionals demonstrate how to stabilize a vehicle in an emergency situation and extricate the patient.
“We walk them through how to get the patient out, covering up the patient with blankets and taking them out the window,” says Capt. Dan Rogers, of the North Ridgeville Fire Department. “We show them how to use the Jaws of Life by putting a student in the car with full gear and actually extricating them. With all the equipment available, it’s similar to going in to a real accident scene.”
On day two, participants have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and techniques they’ve learned. LCCC uses life-like, high-fidelity mannequins with breath sounds, heart tones and palpable pulses to mimic patients, and, in some simulations, uses real people. This teaches student things such as how to check vital signs while extrication takes place.
Students also get experience driving an ambulance.
“We provide the equipment so they can transport the patient,” says Rogers. “They drive around the parking lot as if they are driving to the hospital, with their instructors in the back giving direction.”
And while the scenarios are fake, the hands-on learning is invaluable and could mean a real life saved in the future.
Rogers says that while the training benefits students, it also benefits the participating professionals.
“We have a pretty extensive training schedule, but there are so many things we have to train on, so this is great,” he says. “We don’t always have the opportunity to cut up cars. And working with students makes you review everything you’ve learned before you go, so you can share your expertise.”
Participants from the North Ridgeville and Eaton Township departments receive continuing education credit for their participation in the course. But beyond that, Harder says the experience allows them to pay their own education forward.
“I and others have taken courses at LCCC for certification, so this is a good way for our people to give back to the college,” he says.
Rogers adds that the training benefits everyone.
“It’s an incredible partnership between the college and local fire departments to be able to put together a realistic scenario,” says Rogers. “Participants are in full gear, and with all the equipment available, it’s similar to going into a real accident scene. We make it realistic for the students and we get to share our expertise and make sure they don’t get hurt while learning. It’s a really neat experience for my guys and for myself.”