EMT training now part of high school education Students can get credit for courses

March 08, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

For high school students who took night courses to become volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, burnout was a more serious threat than the fires they tackled.

So the new Emergency Services Technology program this year at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center gave 20 students the chance to get the training as part of the high school day, and get credit for it.

"I took EMT before and failed it," said Westminster High School senior Rob Murray. "Night school is more stressful. I'd go from school to [track practice] to EMT class."

Matt Blosser, a senior at North Carroll High School, did very well in the night school emergency training he was taking, but he was getting D's and F's in school, he said.

During his classes at North Carroll last year, he would surreptitiously catch up on reading for his night courses in fire essentials, hazardous materials and first-responders.

At night, he had ambulance duty as a volunteer with the Lineboro and Manchester fire companies.

This year, he takes his training during the school day, instead of at night, and gets A's and B's, even in his academic courses.

Last year, something had to go. For Matt, schoolwork was less important than his emergency training.

"People trust you with their lives," he said. "This is more important."

Students have to be 16 by the first day of class to qualify, which means they could finish by age 17 what once would have taken about four years of night school.

At this younger age, will they be able to handle the high-stress crises of fires, accidents and heart attacks? As it turns out, most, like Matt and

Rob, already volunteer.

Instructor Bill Luebbermann said he has no reservations about ,, the students' ability to rise to their duties.

"When the time comes for them for them to do the job, even at a young age, the maturity and the teamwork is going to be there," Mr. Luebbermann said. "They have the enthusiasm and the skills."

The course grew out of a county committee studying recruitment and retention of employees, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education at Carroll County schools.

The Carroll County Volunteer Fireman's Association contributed almost half the cost of the program, which will train many of the young people who volunteer in local fire companies. The association pays $10,000 and the school system pays $13,000 for the course.

The money goes to the Maryland Institute for Fire and Rescue, which provides the instructors and materials. MIFR, which is based at the University of Maryland, teaches the night courses students took alongside adults.

Talk of offering the course at vo-tech started in 1990. After two pilot summer programs in 1990 and 1991, the full-year course made its debut in September.

"It sounds really easy, but this was about two years in the making, as they say in Hollywood," Mr. McDowell said.

Before the course began, school officials talked with their counterparts who run similar programs in Montgomery and Frederick counties.

The course is taught at the Emergency Operations Center, a few hundred yards from the vo-tech center. Students in the fire and emergency program take it through vo-tech, the way other students take carpentry, masonry and other trades.

They spend mornings in training for certificates as emergency medical technicians, firefighters (levels 1 through 6), hazardous-materials handlers and rescue technicians.

They return to their high schools for the afternoon, taking English, math and other academic subjects.

Because the course takes up the whole morning all year, Rob Murray had to make arrangements to amass enough credits in other subjects to graduate in June.

He had to take summer school and a night course, but he said that is less stressful than when he took emergency courses at night.

He and most of the students in the course plan to pursue careers in firefighting or as paramedics. Some, like Rob, plan to go to college to get a bachelor's degree in emergency health services.

Ryan Roberts of Hampstead, a junior at Westminster High School, also hopes to get a bachelor's degree.

He qualifies that statement by saying it might not be a realistic goal: He has a learning disability that makes it hard for him to read, even if he knows the material inside-out.

Then again, Ryan didn't expect to pass his EMT test, and he did.

Unlike most of the class, Ryan had never taken any emergency courses before the vo-tech center offered the day course. Private night courses would have been much harder for him, he said, because he wouldn't have had the help from a professional note-taker.

In the vo-tech class, the school provides an aide who takes notes for him. Learning-disabled students are entitled to such help for any classes in the public schools.

Kimberleigh Woolston, a Westminster High School junior, said she eventually would have gotten the training she gets in the program.

"But probably not until I graduated from high school," she said. "Probably in college."

She wants to be a paramedic, but she also would like to get a college degree from the University of Maryland, if for no other reason than to have flexibility should she need to change careers.

A paramedic has to maintain good health and physical stamina, and "anything could happen," she said.

Mr. McDowell said the course has been a success, with a few kinks to be ironed out next year.

For one, the course will be taught in the afternoon next year. The morning classes sometimes run a little long, and students often get back to their high schools late, Mr. McDowell said.

In addition to classwork, the students have "labs," anything from learning to tie ropes to putting out real fires in the burn building used for training at the Emergency Operations Center.

"Sometimes they were coming back to their schools smelling like smoke," Mr. McDowell said.

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