In the cloudiness of Thursday morning, the crack of breaking glass and gnawing sound of the Jaws of Life cutting through the doors of a sports utility vehicle emanated from the open space of the bus lot of the McAllen Achieve Early College High School as a team of firemen performed an emergency extraction.

Students of the McAllen ISD emergency technician (EMT) program stood eagerly watching from afar as the firemen removed each door from the vehicle followed by the roof.

The McAllen Fire Department arrived at the school’s bus lot early Thursday morning to perform a simulated extraction demonstration for the EMT students.

Roy Cardenas an instructor and McAllen Firefighter watches during firefighters vehicle extraction for the EMT students at Achieve Early College High school Thursday,March,03,2022 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

Charles Myles, the instructor of the EMT program, said the purpose of the demonstration is to give students the opportunity to witness and participate in an emergency scenario to offer first-hand experience on what to expect when out in the field.

According to Myles, the operational aspect of the demonstration is one chapter but an important one for an EMT program.

“We practice extrication incident management,” Myles said. “These EMTs at some point in their career are going to have to work with fire departments, police departments, so that’s what this is.”

As the firemen began the extraction, Myles explained that it is important for those in emergency response teams to work as exactly that: a team. Each of the main tools used by the firemen weighed around 60 pounds, highlighting the importance for the firemen to work as a unit to prevent them from getting fatigued during the cutting process.

During the demonstration, he reiterated to the students the importance of what the emergency teams call the “golden hour” in which they attempt to extract and transport the patient to a hospital within 10 minutes. 

EMT students participate with McAllen Firefighters to do an extraction demonstration at Achieve Early College High School Thursday,March,03,2022 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

Joselyn Martinez, a senior at McAllen Memorial High School said the demonstration helped her better understand the severity of the situations they may encounter in the field. She explained that one can only learn so much from a textbook and that the simulation brought to life what she until now had only read about.

“This is my first time seeing something like this, to see them in action and work as a team as well as understand my part as an EMT,” said Martinez, who added that one of her biggest takeaways from the demonstration is the importance of teamwork. “Seeing it really helps me visualize what we need to do in order to get the job done right. It now makes more sense to me on how we have to take care of things such as C-spine, we need to make sure the patient is OK and that we are doing everything we can.”

In an emergency, the weather and the environment must also be taken into consideration, since the circumstances may never be ideal. Thursday’s demonstration benefited in that regard from the rain that fell that morning. The students quickly moved somewhere dry and when they turned to look in the direction of the demonstration, the firemen continued to work on the extraction, only adding to the realism of the scenario and highlighting the importance of prioritizing patient safety.

The McAllen Fire Dept, along with students studying for an Emergency Medical Technician Certification (EMT) participating in an extraction demo with the firefighters. They observed the use of the “jaws of life” to cut through a car and assist in transporting a simulated victim from a scene Thursday,March,03,2022 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

“It’s pretty interesting, I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Delilah Zuniga, a senior at Achieve Early College High School who added, “it’s weather, we are going to have to work through it eventually and we can’t just leave the patient there, so this is helping us get into that mindset.” 

By the time the rain had stopped the firemen had completed the first part of the extraction process. The vehicle was surrounded by broken glass, there were no more doors, the front half of the roof had been cut and folded back and the dashboard had been lifted, allowing as much access to the patient, a medical dummy, as possible.

It was now time for the EMT students to step into action.

The instructor, Myles, grouped the students into two teams. Each team was instructed to apply what they have learned in class to attempt to save the patient’s life. The firemen who had also been trained as EMTs offered assistance to the groups when needed. 

Joshua Flores, a firefighter for the McAllen Fire Department, explained that the demonstration helps students be prepared and know what to expect in the field.

“The car and the tools are as realistic as it gets … we always carry them (the tools) just in case of any incident,” Flores said. “We are always prepared.”

A McAllen Firefighter removes the glass windshield from a vehicle during do an extraction demo for the students studying for an Emergency Medical Technician Certification (EMT) Thursday,March,03,2022 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])