By Barbara Mellon

The scene could have been horrific. An inexperienced teenaged driver was texting while driving when her inattention caused her to hit a young girl riding a bike. The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet; the driver of the car hadn’t buckled her seat belt. The results could prove disastrous. Thankfully, this accident was only a simulation.

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Members of the EMS squad attend to driver Karti Tait during accident simulation.


With advice and guidance from Katherine Whitaker, Senior Project Coordinator, advisor Ed Sanford, who is the nurse at ACS, and mentor Shawn Kaufman, Rachel felt she wanted to stay away from the alcohol-related scenarios that are fairly common in most simulations. In choosing the bicycle-car collision, she was highlighting a number of areas that our youth need to pay attention to:  the need to use proper safety equipment both in a car and on a bike, the importance of eliminating distractions, and the growing use of cell phones while behind the wheel.


“Victim” who was hit by a car while rider her bike is evaluated by EMS

ACS students in the 5th through 12th grades were brought to the pavilion behind the Fire Hall to observe the mock accident as Rachel narrated the proceedings. Immediately upon the “call” to 911, emergency vehicles arrived on the scene and began evaluating the victims. Because of the nature of the injuries a helicopter was called; within minutes a crew from NY Life Net had their copter on the ground. The student audience watched as the cyclist, portrayed by Mariah Ruff, was stabilized and moved to the helicopter for transport to a hospital suited to trauma injuries. Meanwhile, firefighters removed the windows from the car to allow access to the injured driver. While EMTs entered the auto to evaluate and stabilize the driver, Karli Tait, firefighters continued to dismantle the car with the “Jaws of Life” to allow the patient to be safely removed from it and eventually put on a stretcher and taken to the waiting ambulance.

For the most part, the action was as fast paced as it would be in a true emergency situation, with the exception that Fire Chief Joe Berghammer chose to use the educational event for a little training of his own. New department members, Cody Ruff and Justin Mohr, both ACS seniors themselves, were allowed to do much of the work cutting the vehicle up. Rather than detracting from the effect of the drill, because of the additional time needed to fully open up the car, the use of these classmates sent a clear message to the other students: You, too, can make a difference by volunteering in your community.


Injured cyclist is transferred to the waiting helicopter for transport to hospital.

As an onlooker, I was awed by the proceedings. Even though there were no lives actually at stake, the emergency personnel exhibited a phenomenal amount of skill, coordination, sensitivity and a real sense of urgency. Every resident of Andes should be grateful daily that we have these hard-working volunteers within our community.


ACS students watch the drill from the Fire Hall pavillion.

Safety, service, cooperation. Thank you, Rachel, for planning and coordinating an afternoon full of messages. ~