EMS crews work to save inflatable 'victims' in Maine traffic exercise
By Scott Taylor
Copyright 2007 Sun Journal
LEWISTON, Maine — Rescue crews approached the tangled pile of automobiles Thursday afternoon, careful not to let any air out of the victims.
Had it been a real accident, with three vehicles and eight victims and at least two assumed dead, the scene would have been much more frenetic.
Instead, crews from Lewiston fire and police, United Ambulance and Anytime Towing took their time, figuring their plan of attack on the mock accident neatly arranged at the dirt lot behind the towing company's Sabattus Street office.
It was a training exercise for United Ambulance's personnel, assembled and organized by Anytime Towing manager Mark Champagne and assisted by police and fire personnel.
"We normally don't get this much time beforehand to examine the accident," said Liz Delano, educational coordinator for United Ambulance.
If this had been a real accident with real victims, ambulance crews would have used backboards and neck braces to remove the victims, placing them carefully into waiting ambulances.
Instead, EMTs easily lifted the inflatable driver, three inflatable children in the back seat and an inflatable girl from a second car with one hand.
"It's obviously not a triage exercise," said Dan Wormell, a line supervisor for United Ambulance. "We're not here to practice treating the patients. We're here to learn about extrication."
Even the pretend motorcyclist trapped under the car was removed easily. But two victims weren't so lucky.
"They both deflated in the accident, so we figure they died," Delano said.
Anytime Towing's Champagne said he tries to host a mock accident at his site once year. It gives his crew a chance to work with police and fire.
"It's gives them a chance to see how they'll all work together, and it gives my guys a chance to see how they'll fit in," Champagne said. "Any extra training they can get helps. I'd rather have them make a mistake in training with an inflatable dummy than with a real live person."
For Thursday's mock accident, he concocted a simple story. A family of five is traveling down the street, with the father and two daughters safely in seat belts and an infant son in a car seat. The mother in the front passenger seat is not wearing her seat belt.
A motorcycle turns in front of the family's Lincoln Town Car, and the father slams on the brakes.
A teenager, driving a Dodge Intrepid behind the Lincoln, is unable to stop in time. He swerves to avoid the stopped car, but winds up rolling on top, pushing the Lincoln into the motorcycle.
It provided several challenges for rescuers. They needed to assess the victims injuries and get to them without injuring them or anyone else. Most difficult was safely pulling the motorcycle driver from under the Lincoln without disturbing the Dodge Intrepid balanced on top.