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Simulations Prep Mass. EMT Students for Drownings, Burns

MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.

A blood-stained man sits against a brick wall, writhing in pain.

His young son has severe burns and lays motionless a short distance away.

Paramedics rush to the scene and quickly administer care to the young child and man, who frantically asks first responders about the condition of his son and tells them he can't feel his fingers.

Fortunately in this scenario, the two victims are automated mannequins simulating a fireworks accident for students in MassBay Community College's Emergency Medical Technician Program. But it is exactly the type of incident they will respond to once they're on the job.

"These are very common in the summertime, especially coming up on the 4th of July," Kimberly Altavesta, director of the EMS program at MassBay and a 15-year EMT, said of fireworks injuries. "We take our simulations from real life situations."

Fireworks injuries can often be very serious. The state Fire Marshal's Office reports that in the past decade (2009-2018), there have been 800 major fires and explosions involving illegal fireworks in Massachusetts. Those incidents resulted in 12 civilian injuries, 39 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $2.5 million.

Altavesta urged residents to use care when using fireworks.

"If you don't know how to use them, don't use them," she said.

Program instructors put students through three different simulations Wednesday, including one in which a drunken grandmother passes out, falls into a kiddie pool and drowns. The infant she is watching suffers heat-related injuries.

Lise Kinahan, an instructor and EMT since 1996, responded to a similar situation several years ago.

"It brings that live atmosphere to see how they do under pressure," said instructor George Kinahan, an EMT for more than 20 years on the North Shore. "We can bring that realism to the students. We're taking true life events."

The lifelike mannequins bring a heightened sense of realism. Instructors control the mannequins through iPads and can adjust their blood pressure and heart rate, make them breathe, blink, have seizures and other medical conditions and talk with pre-programmed sayings.

The simulations help students with timing and decision-making in stressful situations, said George Kinahan.

Aspiring EMT Caroline Ward called the simulations perfect training.

"If you know nothing, you're no help," said Ward, of Holliston. "It really gets us used to the situations as they are in real life."

Students will graduate from the 10-week program later this month.

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