“I hope the kids take it to heart” – Jackson Co. responders put on a mock crash scene for county’s high school students

Northeast Alabama
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HOLLYWOOD, Ala. -- Jackson County high school students were witness to the harsh consequences that with careless decisions can be a reality.

Around the back of the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology in Jackson County, glass litters the ground. A handful of students chatter excitedly about what is to come, as firefighters with Hollywood Fire take sledgehammers to two cars, strategically positioned in the center of the cleared parking lot. Another group of firefighters drizzle red liquid on the splintered windows.

A group of young teen girls exclaim over each other's makeup. Not name brand, but handiwork crafted by someone else with an aim to project a gruesome injury.

A teacher walks out of the building and announces the students will be out in three minutes. The firefighters and police officers jump into waiting vehicles and leave. Instructors position the students around the jumbled cars, glass glittering around blankets marked crimson. One of the students laughs about a cramp, and is quickly hushed as students begin to shuffle their way over to the mock wreck scene.

Then the action starts.

Fog from a hidden machine whirrs to life, shrouding the gruesome scene in a cloud. The students start to play their parts. One rushes over to a girl lying on the ground. Another runs to the 'driver.' "I didn't mean to do it I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!" he exclaims. "You weren't supposed to be drinking!" she yells back.

In the distance, the shrill tone of a siren looms closer. The action continues as the scene unfolds.

"We're doing a mock drill, at the Ernest Pruett Center of Technology," Hollywood Fire Chief Patrick Allen says, "Trying to teach them not to drink and drive, and also not to text and drive."

As the simulation progresses, more responders from Hollywood Fire, Hollywood Police and an ambulance service arrive on scene. Firefighters swarm the two cars, using the jaws of life to pry open the crushed doors and free the acting students from inside. Other responders go through the steps of medical attention on others. A Hollywood Police officer performs a field sobriety test on the 'driver.' A helicopter comes to air lift any 'injured' students away.

High school students from across Jackson County watch the simulation, done twice for two groups. Each fully staffed and unnerving real mock-up has a mission Allen hopes the students take away. "The main thing, don't drink and drive," Allen says, "Also don't text and drive. That's just as bad to me drinking and driving."

As the fog clears and the scene wraps up, the responders go through the last steps as if it were a real scene; going through the motions in a situation they always hope they'll never have to respond to again.

"We make it as real as we can," Allen says, "I really hope the kids take it to heart."

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