Fireman’s grim reality check for teenagers
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.