Because Stuff Happens (but didn’t)

imageAbout a week ago, I had the opportunity to watch a local fire department as they conducted a drill of rescue techniques. The invitation came as a result of my daughter having donated her car to be one of the subject vehicles. The car had also once been my wife’s ride, so it had served our family well but I think this may have been its finest hour.

Drills are conducted around a scenario; a particular set of circumstances conjured up to exercise specific techniques. The scenario last Tuesday:

A woman had been texting while driving and rear-ended a 15-passenger van carrying school children. Both vehicles collided with the guard rail, which broke free and then bent up and over the car, and a small tree which collapsed on the van.”

I felt bad for my daughter when the person running the drill explained the scenario to the crew. She had been introduced as the prior owner of the car, and when the guy said that “the woman had been texting…” everybody looked at Faith. Faith assured the crowd that she does NOT text while driving, wasn’t driving this car and didn’t cause this accident. Humorous comments followed nonetheless.

The evening was full of interesting observations, learning experiences and photo-ops. The equipment that they were using was very impressive and if the circumstances were different, I might have been jealous. OK, I was jealous. They brought out a pair of hydraulic shears and cut the door hinges off! How could you not be jealous of equipment like that? But, for most of the evening my jealousy was suppressed by the serious nature of what was going on and what it represented.

One of the senior firemen who was observing from a distance explained some of what was happening to Faith and me. One thing that struck me was when he said:

We try to make these scenes as realistic as possible but we really can’t replicate the kind of damage that you see in a real accident.

The car and the van had been pushed together with a pay loader. They had been beaten with sledge hammers, the doors had been pinched and then welded shut and the roof of the car had been crushed with the bucket of the pay loader. This was the kind of damage that can’t compare to a real accident!

To keep the drill interesting, as the scenario played out, they “discovered” that the passenger’s foot was trapped under the brake pedal of the car. That fact necessitated tearing off the roof and “rolling” the dash assembly up. I put rolling in quotes because that’s a portion of your car that isn’t actually designed to roll.

In the face of an emergency situation, people don’t always stop to think about all the little things they should do. People, myself included, sometimes just want to act. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but I will share some of the things that these guys did in seemingly routine fashion that I might not have considered:

They stabilized the van and the car with wood cribbing. They didn’t want either vehicle moving while they worked on them. Such movement could further injure the people trapped inside and /or injure the rescuers.

They made-ready a fire hose. If something happened and a fire started, they wanted to be able to act fast to extinguish it.

They lopped some branches off of the tree and stabilized the steel I-beam representing the guard rail. They did this to create a safe work area and rescue path.

They worked safely. From the gear that they wore (which must have been hot) to the lights and the rigging, they did their best to make sure that nobody was injured during the rescue operations.

This was a learning experience. These men need to be able to work in that protective gear, with those gloves on, in the dark, in the cold, in the rain and when things go from bad to worse. This is how they prepare for real life, when a real person who is texting does rear-end a van carrying school children because stuff like that happens.

I have to admit, as I looked at the scene of this make-believe accident, it was hard not to imagine my daughter being trapped in that car. No, she wouldn’t have been texting, she made that fact abundantly clear during the drill. But, accidents do happen and I am very grateful to the men and women everywhere who volunteer their time to plan and practice for and respond to fires, accidents and natural disasters. Those men and women all have families. They all have other things to do with their time, but they freely give that time to be better prepared to help the rest of us. So, out of respect for those volunteers, here are three bits of advice:

1) Do NOT text and drive. Not even for a little bit.

2) Support your local volunteer emergency first responders.

3) Do NOT text and drive (in case you forgot).

28 thoughts on “Because Stuff Happens (but didn’t)

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  1. Giving her car is generous from Faith, even if the car was old. I got the shivers as I read your post. I saw such a drill once at my daughter’s High School. The kids were silent and I thought that it was terrible that we had to do this kind of ‘reenactment’ to pass on safety messages. I think it helps because anything visual stays on our minds. Especially with young people.
    I feel for anyone who gets in this kind of accident, even if they were behaving poorly behind the wheels but I have deep admiration and respect for the professionals who deal with the consequences, 24/7 regardless of weather conditions.
    Great reminder: when we drive, we drive. It’s crucial to focus on our surroundings when we are on the road. Music is okay as long as we are not plugged!

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    1. We commented a number of times about the “person” in that car, being trapped, being in pain, being sorry at the possibility of children having been hurt. The visual is a very good reminder. I may even turn the music down a bit in traffic. Thanks for visiting and adding your thoughts – always appreciated.

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  2. Great Post, Dan, and GREAT MESSAGE. I honestly don’t know how people text while driving. There are times just changing the radio station is too long that my eyes are off the road. Driving is a huge responsibility, and multi-tasking is not a very good idea in the least. There are times I don’t even like to talk due to the complicated traffic. Is it age that has slowed me down, or am I just getting more safety conscious? Thanks, Dan! xx Amy And OH! The photos are really good!

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    1. Thanks Amy. I too have ended a (hands free) call because I am in traffic. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s one too many close calls. Or, maybe it’s just watching so many people drive as if they are the only ones on the road. We were taught to drive defensively, and these days, that takes more effort. I’m glad you like the pictures. My daughter will have better ones, I’m sure. I’ll reblog her post when she puts it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will look forward to it, Dan. Thank you. I went to Driver’s Ed and to this day I remember what I was taught. I agree today it does take more effort to drive defensively because of other unsafe drivers. Have a great evening. I am just about shutting down for the night, after hardly being on here at all today … was on another photo shoot … I have begun Niagara Falls, just not starting there. LOL Love, Amy

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          1. I am going to drag this out for as long as I can. Tee hee … we have winter to get through. ….. LOL Went to a park South of the Falls (have yet to post that) and today Lewiston, NY, which is North of the Falls. How I LOVE Lewiston. It is just gorgeous!!! Did NOT want to come back home today. LOL This week, I am getting my special license so I can get into Canada! Ta-Da!! I am getting closer to those Niagara Falls!!!! *giggling* (((HUGS))) Amy

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  3. Its great to see that people there are really concerned about helping out people. Here in India, I have never ever seen anything like this. No staged accidents and rescue drills. In fact, firemen do not even have the equipment to tackle complicated situations and at times they die rescuing people which is sad, but that’s India.

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  4. Great post . We have one volunteer fire dept. , in a neighboring small city ; but mostly they are a thing of the past in southern CA . My sister worked as a volunteer fireman years ago in Oregon . It takes lots of effort and dedication . It’s great that your local unit can train like this . And, or course , good advice about texting !

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    1. Small New England towns can’t afford paid units. Some of the larger towns will have a paid Chief / Assistant Chief, but only the larger cities have paid firefighters on-duty 24/7. I live in the town that has BDL (CT’s major airport – which you’ve been to) in it and our fire department drills with them and has a mutual aid agreement with them. The town holding this drill is close to BDL and may also participate in those drills. The CT Fire Academy sits directly behind DBL and their training site is near the DBL tower.

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  5. It would have been difficult enough to witness this without the additional factor that you had personal connections with the car and drivers.

    It bears repeating – don’t text and drive. I’m glad you wrote this, thank you.

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    1. Thanks! One comforting thing they said is that modern cars do a much better job of absorbing the impact and channeling it away from (around) the driver. Still, it’s sobering to think that you could be in either of those vehicles. Maybe the worst part is knowing that you could be in the van, i.e. hit by someone else despite your good driving.

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  6. Great report on the drill. I’m cringing here thinking of the injuries that could have happened. Beautiful gesture from Faith. Thanks for the reminder – don’t text and drive. Have a pleasant balance of the week!

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  7. Great post Dan. A really good experience to have had. I must say that for a long while my admiration for firefighters has far exceeded any other public service profession. They are dedicated and true hearted individuals.

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  8. What a cool experience, and neat organization to donate your car to.
    The movie we had in 10th grade was enough to scare me for a lifetime and instill in me how important is to pay attention to driving and the fewer distractions the better.
    Too bad that message isn’t translating to texting, and talking on the phone while driving too. Not to mention, eating, and putting on make-up! :(

    I’m going to share this post if you don’t mind?

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  9. Well, I won’t text and drive. And I think your daughter donating her car was great of her. Something fiction writers like is that such things as houses, cars, etc still have our energies even after we’ve stopped using them. We leave something in them. Or perhaps they take something from us. I have an uncle with a strange attachment to property. He has an ancient Bell computer that is as dead as a dodo. But he will never dispose of it. He hardly disposes of anything.
    I also think those fighters should train under conditions as close to reality as possible. I have often heard that training simulates ideal conditions–a straight-line view–while the reality is totally messy and has no straight lines. It’s like the examples given in a Mathematics book. They are usually easy, walkovers, but the homework is a different issue altogether.

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    1. Thanks Peter. The guy who designed the drill actually added the tree and the I-Beam for those reasons, because that is something that they might have to deal with. I guess they have to be careful about the weather and making the drills too time consuming since they are all volunteers.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. (holy) “stuff”(I’m being polite!) does happen 24/24, hélas!
    * * *
    @”3) Do NOT text and drive (in case you forgot).” – yes, indeed… our French laws are extremely strict on the matter and I totally agree… I drive almost daily, my cellphone stays always in my purse and I’ve never done any exception to my “rule”…
    * * *
    thanx for droppin’ by my crossroads, my very best and have a splendid September! cheers, Mélanie

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