Nebraska State Patrol recruits who go through crash response training will be able to do a lot of the work alone. Which is good, because sometimes they’ll have no choice.
For troopers who come upon a real-life crash, the time before assistance arrives can vary.
“We can be alone for sometimes five minutes. Sometimes it’s an hour, hour and a half, before we can get backup or somebody to help us respond,” says Trooper Chris Lutes of Omaha.
On the dark highways of Nebraska, the closest law enforcement officer who’s able to help can be a long ways away.
Troopers need to be able to work autonomously “because that’s going to be the expectation when they get out and around,” said Lutes, a Grand Island native.
Real accidents are more chaotic than they are at training, where things are more controlled and some of the actions are preplanned.
In the real world, troopers will “have to manage the scene for a lot longer before help gets there,” said investigator Pedram Nabergh of Omaha.
“The main thing we try to teach them at the academy is prioritizing — securing the scene and then rendering as much aid as they can,” Nabergh said. “And then the help gets there when it gets there.”
The top priority is to “secure the scene so that they don’t get hurt,” Nabergh said. Secondly, troopers need to “render any aid they can until additional help comes.”
Pains are taken to make the training as realistic as possible. One of the actors, for instance, is known as the antagonist.
Shortly after the recruits descended on Tuesday’s first accident at the State Patrol Training Academy, Sharon Fries of the Cairo Quick Response Team pulled up. She played a woman who was frantically searching for her sister, Angie. Determined to find her, Fries repeatedly called out “Angie!” and scrambled through the area, looking for her.
The young recruits tried to keep her out of the way. At the end of the exercise, the woman playing Angie told her supposed sister there was nothing to worry about. “I’m OK,” she said.
Avery Work was serious about her role, which involved the use of fake blood. “I am performing moulage, which is the art of creating false injuries or wounds,” she said.
Work, 17, also uses putty to create lacerations, burn wounds and large blisters. A student at Grand Island Senior High, she often works with her grandmother, Rita Gallagher.
The recruits taking part in Tuesday’s exercises belong to the State Patrol’s 61st Basic Recruit Class.
Five recruits worked each scenario. The students took turns throughout the day, so that they handled every responsibility. One unit was graded in how it provided first aid in the initial responses.
The second unit was responsible for traffic control. Students were graded on how they handled traffic control “around and through the scene,” Lutes said.
The third unit was in charge of photography and crash scene investigation.
Each of the State Patrol employees observed one student at work.
After each exercise, the instructors debriefed the recruits right away, while the experience was still fresh in the student’s mind. They went over what the recruit did or forgot to do, and explained “what they could have done better,” Nabergh said.
The first scenario is typically the worst one, Nabergh said. “But the next ones throughout the day will get considerably better,” he said.
You have to expect the first one will be rough, because it was the first time the recruits had “walked into a fully staged scene,” Nabergh said.
Before the exercises began, Lutes told the actors about an antagonist who got a little rambunctious one day. Because he caused a little too much trouble, the recruit had to threaten to arrest him.
One of the actors, Corinna McBride of Phillips, promised she wouldn’t be difficult. How much trouble could she be?
“I’m dead,” said McBride, whose face displayed Work’s realistic makeup skills.