NCDOT training program that simulates crash scene for first responders wins award

Thanks to efforts in recent years to educate drivers, we've all become familiar with the problem of work zone deaths and injuries.

Many public safety workers are also killed at the scene of accidents often by drivers who are paying attention to the crash rather than the road.

That's why the North Carolina Department of Transportation's development of a hands-on training facility that engineers expect will save lives at accident scenes has won an award.

"Whenever you get called to a highway wreck it's always dangerous. You never really know who's coming, who's going, who can see you, who can't see you," Garner Firefighter and emergency medical technician Tim Inman said.

We caught up with Inman at the NCDOT's new Traffic Incident Management Training Track where he was taking part in a demonstration of the facility.

He has been a firefighter and EMT for just five years but has already been to dozens of traffic accidents.

"They're a nightmare, man. I mean they really are. I mean, and it's hectic," Inman said.

The DOT training facility is located in South Raleigh at the state highway patrol training track.

The patrol recently gave DOT permission to make additions to the track so that it looks and feels more like a real highway.

The idea is to simulate a realistic crash scene.

That allows tow truck drivers, firefighters, EMT's, law enforcement officers and others to practice how to best deal with such a scene without heavy traffic.

"The whole idea of having the training facility and all that is to have an opportunity to train people that will be doing very dangerous work in a safe environment," said NCDOT traffic engineer Kevin Lacy.

In years past, the Traffic Incident Management or TIMs training for first responders consisted only of reading materials and videos.

The idea to enhance that training was hatched when DOT was using the highway patrol track to train workers with the state's Incident Management Assistance Patrol or IMAP, who often help stranded motorists.

Two woman in charge of that effort realized others would probably benefit from more realistic training.

They approached Lacy who agreed that it was a great idea.

But it left him with a dilemma.

"I was kind of in the hot seat; how do we find the money to do this?" he said.

The answer was a federal grant for environmental projects that lessen traffic congestion.

Learning to clear accident scenes more quickly does that.

And that's an important part of the new hands-on training.

"The quicker we can get out of that zone, the safer everyone is," Inman said.

The federal grant covered 80 percent of the $1,650,000 cost.

DOT found the remaining money elsewhere in its budget.

And it was worth every cent, according to Lacy.

"If it saves one life, then the public has a positive return on investment. And we expect it will save more than that," he said.

Public safety workers certainly hope so.
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