Law enforcement officers provide many services to the community. Most involve situations where citizens are having a really bad day. Fortunately, officers also participate in prevention events that make a difference in people’s lives before tragedy strikes. Recently Creswell High School (OR) participated in Every 15 Minutes, a drunk driving awareness program aimed at high school students. Involving law enforcement, the fire department and other community partners, this program allows first responders to create a scene that just might save the life of a young adult.
The program begins with the grim reaper going into a wide selection of classrooms and one by one places his hand on the shoulder of a student and leads them away. This represents the loss of someone every 15 minutes to drunk driving. It involves a cross-section of students showing how it affects everyone regardless of race, gender, education, age and economic status. After the door shuts on the reaper, the police chaplain reads an obituary to the class. Written by the student’s parents, it includes details about the student, such as other family members, and the “former” student’s hobbies, likes and dreams. The obituary is posted in the classroom as a reminder of the child taken away by death.
The student is lead away and only returns to his or her class as the “living dead” after he or she has been made-up with white face paint and donned a black robe. Although they are present with the other students they do not interact or talk with anyone for the rest of the day simulating their departure from this world. At this point, they have also created their own epitaph written on a tombstone that joins the others in a “graveyard” located in a central area of the school. Students and staff going about their educational business pass by them reading the words of their “deceased” classmates and students.
The second part of Day 1 involves the students being in and witnessing a mock drunk driving wreck. The students are brought to the scene where two vehicles have been set-up and several students in moulage including very realistic broken bones and facial injuries are trapped after “hitting” each other. During the recent Every 15 Minutes presentation in Creswell (OR), a student was placed through the windshield of a Chevy Blazer while four other students with a variety of injuries were in a small two door. The driver of the Blazer portrayed the drunk driver. Students watched as a motor officer arrived on scene and assessed the situation. He immediately called for additional officers and the fire department for an extrication crew and paramedics. Quickly on scene, firefighters went to work to triage the students and get them out of the vehicles. Working with a variety of tools, the windshield of the Blazer was torn off the victim and she was lifted onto a backboard and carried to the waiting ambulance. As his “girlfriend” was being treated and carried away, the driver was being lead through field sobriety tests. Other fire fighters worked on the second car using a combi-tool to peel back the top to extricate the passengers. During this scene, the grim reaper has walked to the driver’s side of the vehicle and placed his hand on the shoulder of the driver. He has “died.” The front passenger is lifted onto a backboard and carried to a waiting Life Flight. The back passengers are led to another waiting ambulance and the final patient, the deceased driver, is placed on a backboard and covered with a tarp. Next, he is lifted into a waiting hearse driven by a local mortuary.
After the scene, the viewing students and facility return to class while the accident victims head to an off-site location to spend the night simulating what it would be like to be removed from their families and friends. They also write letters to their parents that begin, “Dear Mom and Dad, Every 15 minutes someone dies as a result of an alcohol related collision. Today, I died, and I never got the chance to tell you…” This evening, the family of the “deceased” student is also visited by a sheriff’s deputy who issues a death notification.