By Cody Thompson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Emergency medical services students and firefighters received hands-on experience on rescue procedures for traffic-related accidents on Thursday.

The event, which was sponsored by the Grapeland Volunteer Fire Department, was designed as a way for EMS students to couple their academic knowledge with hands-on experience before taking the Texas Department of Health and Human Services EMS Certification Exam.

“You can sit in a classroom and talk about how to do this job, but when you actually go out (in the field) and put your hands on (the equipment) it’s an entirely different experience,” Houston County EMC/Fire Marshal and Grapeland Volunteer Fire Department chief Roder Dickey told the Messenger on Friday. “A real event is not the time to learn.”

The training consisted of three cars, donated by Bruner’s Economy Car Center, located in Crockett, that were set up to simulate various traffic-related accidents.

“The EMS class that was wrapping up wanted to get some practical, hands-on training,” Dickey said. “One of the most common things we do is traffic accidents.”

Local volunteers played the part of the victims and were placed in or around the vehicle.

The trainees then had to showcase proper techniques, under the supervision of veteran EMS technicians and fire fighters, to extract the victims.

“Since we didn’t have the rush of adrenaline of a real event, we used it as an opportunity to give the students some hands-on training and experience with the rescue equipment,” Dickey said. “We would much rather the students make mistakes in practice, where the pressure is off, than in the field.”

Students were given complete control of the simulated crash sites, while veterans offered assistance and corrected mistakes.

“We relied on the EMS students to tell us what needed to be done, and the older guys gave advice and counseling when needed,” Dickey said.

Crews from both the Latexo and Crockett volunteer fire departments were in attendance at the training.

“We often work in conjunction with our neighboring fire departments, so we invited the Latexo and Crockett fire departments to join us,” Dickey said. “If we train together, then we will work well together when the time comes.”

After the conclusion of the training, students and firefighters were given the opportunity to reuse any tools they felt they needed more experience with.

The most popular of the tools was the hydraulic extraction tool, which is used to aid in the extraction of crash victims by cutting through the from of vehicles.

“Firefighters kind of like to tear things up at times,” Dickey said. “Needless to say, all of the vehicles (used in the simulations) were convertibles by the end of the day.”

The GVFD recently conducted a public training which outlined safety practices for civilian drivers when driving by an emergency situation.

“The law says (drivers) must vacate a lane if an emergency response vehicle is stopped on the side of the read, and, if (the driver) cannot vacate, to slow down 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit,” Dickey said. “It’s not just for the safety of the drivers, but also for the EMS professionals.”

Cody Thompson may be reached via email at cthompson@messenger-news.com.