HUNTSVILLE — It was a scenario that could have played out on any highway in Scott County. Two cars, crumpled by a head-on collision. A girl lying lifeless on the ground, ejected from one of the moving vehicles, as EMTs and paramedics rushed in to help. Firefighters unrolling hoses. Rescue squad personnel deploying extraction devices.
And, at the end of it all, first responders unrolling body bags for four people who did not survive the accident.
That was the scene at Scott High School Thursday morning. It looked real enough, right down to the blood that was smeared on the doors of the mangled vehicles. But this was a parking lot, not a highway, there were hundreds of high school juniors and seniors looking on, and the accident victims were actually okay — volunteers playing roles in an effort to educate students on the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as distracted driving.
The large-scale mock accident scene was organized by South Scott Volunteer Fire Department’s Jared Hughett. Four fire departments participated, with Huntsville Fire & Rescue, East 63 Volunteer Fire Department and Mid-County Volunteer Fire Department joining South Scott. Also involved were the Scott County Ambulance Service, Scott County Rescue Squad and Tennessee Highway Patrol. Personnel from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department were also on hand, along with Scott County Emergency Management Agency director Wendy Walker. A Lifestar helicopter landed at a makeshift landing zone at the school’s soccer field for the second of two presentations.
For emergency personnel, Thursday morning’s mock accident scene was not unlike a typical scene they’re called upon to respond to far too often. And, far too often, those accident scenes involve alcohol or distracted driving — such as texting while attempting to drive.
“We’ve been on these calls. We don’t like them,” Hughett said. “We’ve had to talk to the parents. It’s no fun. So if we can save one life, it’s great. If we can save 20 lives, it’s wonderful.”
Hughett said Thursday’s exercise was the result of years of talking that finally came to fruition.
“We talked to other departments and we asked the question, do we want to do something like this for public safety?” Hughett said. “Everybody thought it was a great idea.”
Scott High principal Melissa Rector said the initial plan was to coordinate the mock accident around the school’s junior-senior prom, for maximum effectiveness. State testing interfered with that. Still, emergency responders hope that it is a lesson that sticks in the minds of students.
“Our hope is that it instilled the possibility of what could happen and somebody takes it to heart,” said EMS director Jim Reed. “Even though it’s graphic, it still has a place in education and our hope is somebody takes it to heart and has a safe night out of it.”