The second day of Every 15 Minutes includes an assembly open to students, family, friends and community members. During the assembly, the “dead” student’s letters are read, and also, a number of speakers come and explain how drunk driving has affected their family. Often these speakers include the parents of an actual victim. The parent(s) who received the mock death notification also speak about the emotional impact this had on them as well. At the end, the students are able to participate in a pledge that they will not drink and drive or get into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking.
Not a Scare Tactic Program
Every 15 Minutes is designed to focus on the students, the family and the community. It shows how far reaching the impact of losing someone, particularly a youth to a drunk driving accident is. It educates students and faculty. Teenagers are extremely visual and during this stage of neurological development they have increased learning capacity and fantastic memories. In addition, their frontal lobes are immature which affects their impulsivity and decision making. Every 15 Minutes is designed to present a visual scene to them complete with the emotions of seeing the grim reaper lead off people they know, or themselves be lead away, see the headstones, the accident scene and hear the letters. One of the most impactful parts for the Creswell students involved as the “walking wounded” in the back of the two-door was the sound of the glass breaking and the metal snapping as it was ripped through and peeled up during extrication. Even with the lack of fore-sight teenagers can have and the poor decision making, hopefully these students will remember the sights, sounds and feelings of this event and it will help guide them to a phone to call a parent.
Every 15 Minutes is often presented by local law enforcement. For example, the Creswell High School program was coordinated through the Lane County Sheriffs Office (LCSO). The local fire department, in this case South Lane County Fire & Rescue, also assists along with Life Flight members. The school district is a huge supporter as well because without them this program could not be presented. Some schools have declined to have the event because parents felt it was too graphic for their children. Other community members get involved, including those who moulage the students and those who speak at the assembly. Local media often covers the event spreading its influence. Many videos can be found on You Tube allowing the program to reach out to teens beyond the boundaries of the involved high school.
Many programs are paid for by a grant. First responders donate their time and the equipment and apparatus involved are granted by the local police and fire department management. Mini-grants are available after the event is performed as well.
Being a first responder during this drill, especially when I had a sophomore son in the audience, was an emotional experience. Although my focus was on the “mock” victim on the car hood, seeing the children involved and knowing what I was doing might impact my son’s decision to drink and drive or ride with a drunk driver one day made me glad I was spending time participating in this program. Hearing the obituaries and the seeing the grim reaper gave me chills. Prior to the program, I talked to the father of the “deceased” child last time the program was offered in our area. A career fireman, he said that although he knew it was coming and that it was fake, he wasn’t prepared for the feelings that came when he answered that door and heard the news. This program has teens talking. The visuals are in their brains. The information is out there. With Creswell High’s prom only a week after the event, I hope it helps guide our children to make the right decision. This program might just save a life or two.