Fire­man’s grim re­al­ity check for teenagers

The Advertiser - - NEWS -

I WATCH the Year 11 stu­dents slowly fill the au­di­to­rium. Noisy, hor­monal and full of en­ergy.

My first ques­tion to them will be, “Did you wake up to­day, happy to be alive?”

As I re­flect on my Road Aware­ness Pro­gram pre­sen­ta­tion, my prepa­ra­tion causes me to re­mem­ber the many road crash fa­tal­i­ties I have at­tended as a firie.

One of the crashes that comes to mind in­volves mul­ti­ple po­lice cars, am­bu­lances and our fire truck re­spond­ing to a par­tic­u­larly nasty in­ci­dent near the fire sta­tion.

A pedes­trian had been hit by a speed­ing car and was ly­ing in the gut­ter.

As the first re­spon­ders on the scene, it was con­fronting im­me­di­ately.

The car had struck a house af­ter hit­ting the per­son walk­ing across the road.

The trauma and stress were over­whelm­ing yet our train­ing kicked in.

Our role in­volved ren­der­ing first aid, ex­tri­cat­ing the driver, as­sess­ing the struc­tural in­tegrity of the build­ing, siz­ing up, and a risk as­sess­ment.

The sit­u­a­tion in­ten­si­fied when the fam­ily ar­rived and saw their rel­a­tive on the road who was now de­ceased. How do we com­fort them? Who will com­fort my crew when it’s time for de­brief?

It is much later, in the shower, when my body starts to shake.

While we do have good em- ployee sup­port mea­sures in place, re­peated ex­po­sure to trauma such as this can im­pact the men­tal health of firefighters, my col­leagues.

This is why I talk with 16 and 17-year-olds.

I pro­vide them with a snap­shot of the re­al­ity of road trauma and, with the help of a crash sur­vivor hope­fully in­spire them to not take risks, to un­der­stand that con­se­quences flow from poor choices and to look af­ter their mates.

There is one clear mes­sage to get across - there are no ac­cept­able deaths on the roads in South Aus­tralia. MFS STA­TION OF­FI­CER GLENN SMITH HAS BEEN A FIRE­FIGHTER FOR 38 YEARS AND IS ONE OF THE MANY FRONT­LINE RE­SPON­DERS TO ROAD CRASHES. AS PART OF THE MFS ROAD AWARE­NESS PRO­GRAM, HE REG­U­LARLY SPEAKS TO TEENAGERS ABOUT THE REAL IM­PACT OF ROAD FA­TAL­I­TIES.

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