Academic Safety Programs strive to give students as much "real world" experience as possible while they are earning their practitioner degree. Walk through surveys, laboratory sampling and analysis, job shadowing, internships, and full scale exercises all help provide students with a realistic sense of a safety professional's world.
The Department of Safety Sciences at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) has implemented mock accident scenarios to provide students with the opportunity to apply classroom skills in real world situations. Mock accidents involve victims (humans or mannequins), full size equipment, and response personnel that can include fire, police and ambulance crews who arrive and respond in real time. The scenarios promote problem-based learning, which is an effective tool for teaching safety students (Ramsay and Sorrell).
The planning committee was initially composed of five departmental faculty and has grown to include faculty and staff from other campus departments. Additionally, students have helped develop and stage several of the scenarios. Student participation provides a unique perspective to the planning process and has generated some excellent learning opportunities. The planning committee also works closely with the campus office of public relations to develop press releases for both the campus and local newspapers. Additionally, an audiovisual specialist from the Library on campus films the scenarios for departmental and university use.
Perhaps the key to the successful growth of the scenarios was the caution the team used in planning the initial scenarios. Scenarios may be static scenes ready for investigation or may employ full emergency response participation. Static scenes are simpler and require significantly less coordination and control. It is recommended that organizations begin with static scenes and gradually increase the complexity of the scenarios over time. The department's first scenario included a victim, one witness, a coroner and an OSHA compliance specialist. Subsequent scenarios grew to include multiple victims and witnesses, the fire department, local and state police, the ambulance district, campus public safety and hazardous materials response personnel, and a life flight helicopter (see exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1. An Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter prepares to transport a victim (available in full paper).
Another critical component to staging successful exercises is garnering support from campus administration. In the beginning, the committee obtained written permission from university administration to conduct the scenarios. After three semesters, it became an expected activity and the formal process became unnecessary. The committee worked through a number of issues, including acquiring permission to "walk on the grass" and making substantial efforts to advertise the scenario in advance so passers-by would not panic and think the incident was real. The department stages the scenarios in a high profile area of campus to attract student interest as they pass between classes.