Mock accident trains responders

A Great Plains Health helicopter lands in a grassy area next to the roadway during a training exercise in North Platte on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

NORTH PLATTE — The Nebraska Department of Transportation held a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training in North Platte on Wednesday.

The training was a culmination of efforts from North Platte first responders to discuss best practices, debrief past incidents and develop effective techniques.

TIM is a planned approach to detach, respond to and clear traffic incidents. When used effectively, it improves the safety of first responders, crash victims and motorists. The Nebraska DOT has been hosting TIM trainings for agencies in Dawson, Keith, and Lincoln counties during the past year to enhance communication and collaborative efforts so that traffic incidents are cleared as safely and quickly as possible, according Stephanie Rittershaus, a North Platte area TIM coordinator.

TIM also supports the second stage of training, Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2), which goes more in depth about first responder responsibilities. The research results also help transportation professionals plan, operate, maintain and ensure safety on America’s roadways, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website.

Media received training on best practices to follow when reporting a traffic incident, how to work with first responders, details on how responders coordinate with each other and the media’s role in incident response.

Key messages for the public were to make sure to follow marked detours around an area, and not to rely on GPS or Google maps in these situations. Sometimes the GPS identifies a route that is not suitable for traffic, such as a route through a pasture that GPS thinks is a marked road. Nebraska has the "move over" law that requires motorists to change lanes if they come upon emergency vehicles on a multi-lane road. Motorists should not block or drive on the shoulder of the road around a traffic incident as those routes may need to be used by emergency responders or law enforcement. When driving near a traffic incident, avoid "rubbernecking" or staring at the incident because this is an easy way to cause a secondary accident.

A live training exercise for area responders was staged on S. Victoria Lane to train emergency responders in collaborative response protocol. Three previously damaged vehicles were staged as if there had been an accident on U.S. Highway 30 with Interstate 80 shut down. Responders then had to assess the situation and make a plan on how to respond, where to detour traffic and what agencies to contact.

Tony Carr, operations manager at Arrow Towing in Omaha helped oversee the training. "This is the first live exercise we have included with TIM training," Carr said. He also instructs SHRP 2 classes and has taught up to 2,000 students in proper incident management.

Part of the live incident exercise was a call to the Great Plains Health helicopter to respond as though there were critical injuries at the incident. Great Plains Health recently acquired a Bell 407GX helicopter in March.

"This aircraft can fly faster, longer, carry more," said Claude Hodge, pilot for Great Plains Health, who has been flying since 2011. "That is a huge for us and an improvement over our last one."

After the live exercise a Memorandum of Understanding presentation took place at the Sandhills Convention Center. Several people representing local agencies spoke about the incident training.

"TIM is unique in that it’s a government sponsored programs that actually works," said Captain Martin Denton of the Nebraska State Patrol Troop D. "It establishes from the get go what everyone’s role is and builds off the skills of others."

"This program is huge and we know the impact of it," North Platte Fire Chief Dennis Thompson said when he alluded to the 2014 incident when a semi-truck hit a parked fire truck on I-80.

"I’d rather be in a burning building thats at a wreck on the Interstate," said North Platte Fire Department Captain Emerald Miller.

"This makes it safer for all of us to do our part so we can all get home safely," Thompson said.

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