We visit a summer camp where teens learn “hands-on” how emergency responders are trained to handle crisis situations.
“I want to be a pediatrics orthopedic surgeon. So I’m here for like the feel of the field.”
It was a hot and humid day at the Onslow County Fire Training Grounds as campers learned what it takes to be an emergency responder. The Emergency Preparedness Summer Camp gave teenagers ages 14 to 18 an opportunity to train alongside law enforcement, fire, emergency medical and public health officials for a week. Planning Officer for Onslow County Emergency Services Andrew Jaspers says the camp is in its eighth year.
“We cover every aspect of emergency services, E-911 communications, fire services, rescue services, swift water rescue services, anything that has to do with emergency services we try to cover.”
Thirty teens are attending this year’s camp. Most of them are interested in pursuing a career in the field, including seventeen year old Jordan Carnes who wants to be a paramedic.
“My mom and dad were law enforcement when I was growing up so they have a lot of contact with the people who run the camp. So I thought it would really be something to open my eyes and see if this is really something I want to do when I grow up or not.”
By 11 o’clock, a group of a dozen teenagers rest in the shade of a fire training tower and sip on bottled water. Firefighting gear strewn about.
“Alright everybody, this is Shawn, this is Lauren…”
Fireman with the City of Jacksonville Tee Tallman is leading today’s training. He explains why emergency responders have to practice vehicle extractions.
“You’ve all seen an auto accident right? Have you actually seen anyone being extricated out of a vehicle? You have? Well, as you’re fixing to see here in just a moment, it’s going to be very labor intensive. The most paramount thing even out here training, even in real life when we do this is safety.”
After a short briefing, campers try on gloves, helmets, pants, and coats and walk over to the training area where two junk cars are parked on gravel. Tallman explains the first step to a vehicle extraction is to place wooden blocks under the car so it doesn’t roll.
“we don’t want that car rocking as much. You know the patient could be compromised, especially if you have to cut them out, it’s probably pretty bad damage. So you don’t want to mess them up any more than they really are. So, as you’ll see, these tools will really put some forces on the car. You’ll see it really move, shake and pop.”
But before the campers get to use the Jaws of Life or another powerful lifesaving tool known as the spreader, they have to learn how to bust out windows and saw through the front windshield. 16 year old Jeremy Wilson was happy to volunteer.
“I’ve never really bust glass, like, being allowed to so it was kind of fun today.”
Using an extrication glass breaker, which is similar to a small pick ax, campers took turns smashing and sawing through the windows. Today’s demonstration is a fun learning event. But Sean Kissner with Onslow County Emergency Services says breaking a window to reach someone trapped inside a vehicle is a very real emergency scenario.
“Basically, what they’re doing is breaking the windows so they can get someone inside the vehicle to either cover the patient up and keep the glass off of them, and then that way they can get in there to check for the status of the patient, maybe gain an IV or something like that if we can get a parametric inside the vehicle.”
Once everyone had a go, Tallman suggested the campers take a break and cool off in the shade before the next activity.
“If you feel like you’re not feeling good, dizzy, light headed, just getting too hot, please let us know. There’s nothing wrong with that, alright?”
After drinking water, it was time to use the heavy machinery.
“You got open, and you got close, you want one hand on the handle and one hand back here…”
Tallman instructs each camper as they operate the Jaws of Life, a hydraulic device used to cut the hinges off of the door.
“In any circumstance, we’d really like to get access so we can cut that nader bolt. When it’s finally cut, it’s not as explosive. So if you come in here and look.”
The other tool, the spreader, pries apart the door until the hinge snaps and the door falls to the ground.
“It was pretty awesome, knowing that you’re in control… sort of.”
Camper Hannah White sits the tool on the ground, and walks over to the shade to rehydrate.
“I put myself through it like I was pretending one of my loved ones was in that car and just like trying to get them out. It’s pretty awesome.”
Hannah dreams of being a professional softball player. But if that doesn’t work out, she says she wants to be a firefighter.
Its stories like this that inspire Emergency Responder for Onslow County Emergency Management Lauren Szesnat. She’s helped out with the summer camp for three years.
“I think it’s educational in two ways. One, it allows them to see what our job does and what that entails. And it also allows them to understand how safe they need to be as they grow up and drive vehicles and things like this can actually happen and that’s why we’re trained to help and protect the community.”
For City of Jacksonville Fireman Tee Tallman, the week-long summer camp is about motivating teenagers to think about a career in emergency management.
“Nowadays, it requires a lot of training to get hired on. EMT, firefighting 1 &2, and a lot of cases, it takes a college degree to get on some departments. If you can go ahead and stoke that fire, if they realize going off to school, to trade school, if that’s what they want to do, then it would be a great head start.”
Rising Junior Jeremy Wilson isn’t considering job in emergency services, but he says the camp has given him a greater understanding of what firefighters go through.
“It’s hot. I mean, and the gear, I really have a lot more respect for firemen now because the gear is heavy, it’s thick, it’s protective and it feels like you’re being stuffed into a microwave.”
Taylor White is 15 years old. He’s wanted to be a firefighter since he was a kid. And today’s training only solidified it in his mind.
“I’m thinking their job is really hard. But I know when you want to become a firefighter, you love doing your job. So I want to be that. I want to be a fireman.”
In addition to the vehicle extraction exercise, participants learn and practice land navigation, train with law enforcement professionals and meet the K-9 response team. They also learn about ham radio, air-medical rescue and learn hands-only CPR.