WATERVILLE — If a mass shooting or other large casualty situation happened in the community, students and faculty from the Mid-Maine Technical Center are ready to respond and aid victims.
Paul Brooks, EMS program manager for the Office of Health Affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., taught the juniors and seniors how to identify wounds that are life-threatening and those that are not. He showed them how to apply tourniquets to wounds that can cause a victim to bleed to death, and how to pack and apply pressure to wounds.
Brooks reminded students in the morning class of the mass casualty incidents in Newtown, Connecticut; at Columbine High School in Colorado; in Orlando, Florida; at Fort Hood in Texas; and at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., and said when such situations occur, it is critical that people who are not professional medical workers help stop the bleeding to prevent people from dying. Those skills may be applied to other situations as well, according to Brooks.
“Up here, it might be a snow machine accident, snowblower accident, motorcycle accident that could cause you to face an arterial bleed that needs to be taken care of immediately,” he said. “It’s important for you as EMTs to learn from the beginning that tourniquets are not evil, not dangerous, but absolutely life-saving.”
The course, Bleeding Control Basics, comes from the American College of Surgeons, one of a handful of other courses being taught around the country to civilians. It includes Bystander Care, offered by First Care Provider, a nonprofit organization; and Until Help Arrives, a course from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Brooks.
“At the end of the day, every one of you is going to become instructors — not just certified in this; you’re going to become instructors,” Brooks told the students. “Teach your friends and family. Take it and spread this message.”
Brooks taught technical center school staff the same skills Thursday afternoon and Matt Sholl, state EMS director, also attended.
“These victims need rapid transport to a trauma center,” he said. “What’s going to fix them? A surgeon and an operating room.”
He said first responders must follow three rules — ensure their own safety, look for life-threatening bleeding and see if a trauma kit is available. Apply direct, continuous, firm pressure to a wound, using both hands, until medical personnel arrive, he said. If it is a smaller, bullet wound, roll gauze or cloth into a little ball, stuff it down into the wound with a finger, and use the other hand to continue stuffing the wound, he said.
Tourniquets may be purchased online or at drug stores for about $30, but Brooks cautioned that they must be purchased from a reputable company. A tourniquet advertised for $5 is probably counterfeit and will not work, he said.
Brooks, of Washington, D.C., is scheduled to go to West Virginia in July to teach 35,000 scouts how to stop bleeding.
Technical center senior Emily Melancon, 18, learned hands-on Thursday how to use a tourniquet and pack gunshot exit and entrance wounds using a simulated leg provided in the school’s training room. She said Brooks’ class was invaluable.
“I want to go to Kennebec Valley Community College and get my paramedic license,” Melancon said. “I took firefighting last year and I’m taking the EMT class now. I love this class. It’s very hands-on, and that’s what I enjoy.”
Late last year, Melancon said, her mother was choking on a piece of chicken at the dinner table. Emily performed the Heimlich maneuver on her and was successful in clearing her mother’s airway. Melancon got interested in the emergency medical field because her father, David Melancon, is a retired Waterville firefighter and worked for Delta Ambulance and her grandfather, David Melancon Sr., was a photographer for the Waterville Fire Department.
“I want to work for Waterville fire and Delta,” said Melancon, of Waterville. “I grew up there and I just like the environment.”
The EMT-firefighting class at MMTC is taught by Billy Hawkes, who was out sick Thursday.
Tom Savinelli, who filled in, is a volunteer adjunct instructor for the class. Savinelli invited Brooks to come to the school to teach the students and staff, as he and Brooks are old friends and for many years worked together in the West Haven, Connecticut, Fire Department. Savinelli also organizes annual student trips to that department, as well as to ground zero and fire departments in New York City.
Savinelli said the students had learned earlier the basics of how to treat wounds, but Brooks took that to another level and showed them specific skills they can use in the field. Keith Fischer, another school volunteer and retired firefighter and registered nurse, concurred.
“I think it’s terrific,” he said, adding that there’s always a delay between when an incident occurs and when medical personnel arrive, and it is important that the public be trained to do basic, immediate procedures to help save lives.
“You’ve got a finite amount of blood in your body and once it’s out, you can’t put it back,” Fischer said. “Only a doctor can do that.”
Technical center junior Hunter Guptill, 16, of Sidney, said he hopes to study para-medicine or advanced EMT. He got interested in the field when he was in the eighth grade and toured MMTC with other students, he said.
“I came to this class and they were doing extrication training — removing someone from a car that had been in a crash,” he said. “I just thought it was an amazing experience and just got hooked.”
Later, he came upon a real motorcycle accident and was able to resuscitate the victim so he lived long enough for his family to say goodbye to him, he said.
Guptill said he plans to teach what he learned Thursday to his family members, particularly his aunt, who formerly was a nurse’s aide but had to stop working because of a hand injury.
“She likes to hear about everything we do here,” Guptill said. “I’d love to be able to tell her about this. I know she’d show everyone she knows.”
Meanwhile, Brooks said he is confident the students will take what they learned and teach others.
“I was a high school-aged EMT, so I have faith in them and I know they can do this,” he said.
He said the MMTC class provides a great opportunity for students to become emergency services workers.
“It’s a great vocation,” he said. “This is how I got my start. I was a young EMT and firefighter and it’s been my life’s work.”
Mid-Maine Tech Center Director Peter Hallen praised Savinelli for inviting Brooks to the school and for providing students with valuable life experiences.
“What a great resource Tom has been for us,” he said. “We don’t pay him a nickel, and he works as hard as anyone who works for the Waterville school system. I’m sure that Paul Brooks is doing this as much a favor to Tom, and we’re benefiting from it.”
Hallen said Savinelli’s taking the students to New York City and bringing Brooks to the school helps to raise their aspirations.
“They see a world outside of central Maine that they might not have known existed,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247