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New TN extrication training designed by local EMS crews

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Pulling someone from a wrecked vehicle is a grim task and rescue squads must face it every day. An upgrade in such training is spreading across Tennessee, and it originated right here in our area, providing hands on experience to someone who might someday save your life.

These are advanced techniques that put rescue workers in real life situations. Taking apart these training vehicles is physically and mentally trying but fun for rescue workers like Sgt. Michael Lilley. When it's actually happening though, it's no joke.

"You have someone trapped in an upside-down car with their knee buckled up under the steering wheel and they're screaming, I mean it's real," Lilley said, "and you've got to be able to deal with that."

Not just deal with it but race against the clock, often with life and death hanging in the balance, always in unpredictable situations.

"'Hey, I had this wreck and I wasn't really sure how to handle it,' 'we saw something different than we usually see,' and those reports started coming in over and over and over," said lead trainer Keith Ellis. So he and a team from the Washington County/Johnson City Rescue Squad designed this program. There are 18 different scenarios requiring fast and safe problem solving.

"All of this while the vehicle is upside-down," Ellis said, describing all the things the crew had to accomplish at one scene. "So it adds a great deal of complexity to the actual scenario itself."

Versus basic training, where they practice with the car sitting upright.

Brian Robinson, coordinator of training for the Tennessee Association of Rescue Workers, also helped design the program and will be instrumental in taking it to crews across the state.

"Auto manufacturers are building vehicles that are stronger, that are more durable, but it also makes our job as emergency responders and rescuers a little more difficult," Robinson said.

The difficulty making this practice all the more necessary.

"If you had seen what I've seen and the patients who are still living today because of that, it's worth it," Lilley said, "It's worth it."

This training is now mandatory for all rescue squad workers in Johnson City and Washington County. It's optional for other rescue squads across the state.

The cost for this group was the $60,000 in salary for the training. Otherwise, the 26 vehicles for this training, other materials, and the property they trained on was all donated.

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