Frequently Asked Questions
This sounds like a great program. I want to do it at my school. What do I do?
Great; I'm glad you enjoyed it. Talk with your teachers and school administrators, let them know about the program, and suggest that they consider conducting it at your school. Check out http://www(dot)everyfifteenminutes(dot)com for information, instructions, and to purchase a step-by-step school planning manual.
(Replace (dot) with . )
You seem awfully close to the officers and everybody. How do you know them so well?
My dad is a former police officer, and as a result, I have great respect for police officers, soldiers, and other service figures. I help them in any way possible. I have been a student volunteer for police training drills four times now, and that's how I met Officer Bodi, Officer Lakin, and Officer McIntosh. They are all very involved in the community and getting to know kids and teens.
What are Active Shooter Training and CERT?
Active Shooter is the training that I mentioned. Following the incidents at Columbine and Virginia Tech, standard police training now includes what is called Active Shooter Training. One officer poses as a gunman, and teams of officers run through different response scenarios (with AirSoft paint guns). Local students are usually enlisted to portray dead bodies, injured victims, and panicked hysterical screaming people. It's a gruesome topic, but valuable training for them, and eye-opening for us. It can be pretty fun, too!
CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. https://www(dot)citizencorps(dot)gov/cert. In the event of a major natural disaster (fire, flood, earthquake, etc) or terrorist attack, emergency organizations may be overwhelmed and unable to respond. CERT members are trained in small fire suppression (firefighting), first aid, and search and rescue, and can work alongside those agencies as extra pairs of helping hands. Once a year, we get together with local firefighters, paramedics, etc., and conduct a simulated disaster drill to practice our training.
How did you get picked for this program?
Different schools handle it different ways. Conducting an Every Fifteen Minutes (E15M) program takes months of planning and coordination. School administrators/program coordinators observe and select students (and parents) that they think would be interested in helping. Some choose to involve students throughout the entire multi-month planning process, and others choose to wait until closer to the days of the program to select and inform participants. It is very important that other students don't know anything about the program until it actually takes place (element of surprise/shock), so if someone can't keep a secret, they are likely not chosen.
How do they choose your roles?
It is entirely voluntary. No one is forced to do anything that they object to. Students are given a form to fill out.
-Are you willing to be isolated at a retreat center for a night? (Yes/No)
-Are you willing to participate in a simulated car crash? (Y/N)
-Would you be willing to be placed in a body bag? (Y/N)
-Would you be willing to be the critically injured patient, who dies at the hospital? (Y/N)
-Would you be willing to be the drunk driver, perform a field sobriety test, be arrested, and spend a night in jail? (Y/N)
After all the students were chosen, there were several information meetings for us and our parents. Based on our responses, they assigned our roles. If anyone objected to anything, the program coordinators worked with them to find a compromise. Everything was carefully explained, and we and our parents were involved in all of the planning. (The choice of Michael as the drunk driver had nothing to do with his personality or behavior. It was a random choice based on all of our answers to the questions, and our interest in participation.)
If your parents knew that it was all a simulation, why were their reactions so genuine? Are they just good actors?
A lot of people ask that question. The parents know that it isn't real, but the gut reactions and the thought of, "What if?" come into play and get the emotions going. Hearing doctors describe injuries in vivid detail, and seeing their child covered in stage blood and very realistic yucky makeup, is disturbing. Imagination is very powerful.
You can't do medical procedures on someone who doesn't need them. That's dangerous. How were the hospital scenes possible?
Simulations. (Remember my "IV line", the capped tube with no needle?) Doing chest compressions and CPR on someone who doesn't need them can send them into shock and cause their heart to respond with arrhythmias, so the chest compressions were done VERY carefully and gently! We were not shocked with defibrillators; they were simply placed against our chests (after being quadruple-checked to ensure that they were disconnected/turned off!). Our "IV lines" were capped tubes, and the "medications" that were administered were either harmless saline or empty syringes. Pretty much the only things that were real were the oxygen masks and compression bags, splints, and bandages. Working within reasonable boundaries, the medical staff was as realistic as was safely possible.
This seems like it would be way too traumatic for students!
It is shocking and disturbing, but the teachers are watching students carefully. We (participants) were able to decompress and debrief in a safe environment at the retreat. Some schools choose to have the "drunk driver" student join the others at the retreat after the school day is over, and others, like ours, choose to have them remain in the holding cell. Either way, they are not abandoned; someone is there should they need help.
Chaplains and counselors are available and on call during the entire two-day program for any students who want to talk with someone. If the administration knows of students who are emotionally/psychologically fragile and may not be able to handle the drama and trauma, their parents are discreetly contacted and advised not to send their child to school on the day(s) of the program.
There was a news report about a school in California (I think) that was heavily criticized for how they conducted the program. Police officers came to the school and informed students that some of their classmates had died in a car crash, and students were led to believe that it was real. That afternoon, they were shown a video of a car crash and the emergency response, and it was revealed that the crash was staged and the involved students were alive and unharmed. Understandably, people were upset. What that school did was NOT an Every Fifteen Minutes program. They used the E15M name and logo, but that is absolutely NOT how the program works. E15M is shocking, traumatic, and gruesome – but it is also obviously staged. (The Grim Reaper escorting students, the cameras and microphones and audio speakers at the crash scene, etc.)
This seems like way too much work and drama. Why not just show a video?
They've tried that. There have been crushed cars on display, videos of accident scenes, and panels of victims and families who speak to students. Those things are powerful, but statistics show that they actually have very little real impact. Teenagers typically have what is referred to as an "invincibility complex." They are convinced that they are untouchable, and that what they hear and see in videos and presentations about drunk driving will never happen to them. There is that sense of, "Oh, those poor people. That's horrible and really sad – but it won't happen to me/my friends." The speakers and people shown in the videos are not them or their friends/family members/siblings.
In the E15M program, students see their classmates and friends (and themselves) being removed from a crash scene, treated by medical workers, pronounced dead, and removed in body bags. They realize that it can impact them and those who they are close to, and not just strangers.
It's up to them to make a choice.