Camp 911 teaches how to handle emergencies

ESCANABA — The Camp 911 Delta County program launched Tuesday with 50 fifth and sixth grade students from across the county gathering to engage in hands-on learning about emergency services and response efforts. This two-day program not only introduced students to several emergency agencies in the area, like the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad and Delta County Search and Rescue, but it also prepared them to assist in providing emergency care through one-on-one work with industry professionals.

“No one ever plans to be in an emergency,” Joanna Wilbee-Amis, public relations coordinator for OSF St. Francis Hospital, said. “While this program is just a small bit of training, it can still allow them to be helpful by knowing what to do in those situations.”

Organizers hope to make the camp an annual event.

Camp 911 has a rich history, originating in lower Michigan a few decades ago in response to the lack of manpower in emergency services. The program eventually made it’s way to the Keeweenaw Peninsula in the 90s, where hundreds of Houghton and Keeweenaw County youth have been participating in the program over the course of 20 years. The program has seen success in piking career interests of students, with some Camp 911 participants becoming nurses, police officers, and paramedics.

“[Camp 911] is where most of these students are getting their first impression of all of these services,” Ann Clancy, Camp 911 event organizer in Houghton, said. “The really rewarding part is when you see some kids come through and they say ‘Yeah, I was a camper and now I am a state trooper.’ It is cool to see.”

Modeled after its Houghton predecessor, Camp 911 Delta County was made possible due to a grant award from OSF St. Francis Hospital. The hospital then collaborated with Guardian Flight and AirMedCare Network, an air medical transportation service, along with Bay College to orchestrate the event. Additional funding from local organizations, businesses, and restaurants allowed the event to be free for all participants.

“It is very much a joint effort, and really all of the first responders and agencies came together and said ‘Absolutely’ to help put this on,” Wilbee-Amis said. “We had that spark but everyone really stepped in to make this program fire up.”

Camp 911 has three main goals. Along with introducing students to potential careers, event organizers also hope to familiarize participants with a variety of emergency scenarios and how to handle them. Through their training, students will learn how to contact 911, provide assistance while waiting for emergency personnel, and prevent accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place. Additionally, Camp 911 intends to reduce high risk behaviors by showing kids the consequences of poor decision-making, like impaired driving or riding a bike without a helmet.

“In seeing how hard people work to help in an emergency and all the resources that go into it, that can potentially help a child make a better decision,” Wilbee-Amis said. “All of these kids are just going into junior high, so if it helps them to make a different decision and not feel pressured because they have already seen this side, there is power in that.”

The first day of Camp 911 introduced students to an abundance of information regarding safety and accident prevention, which included hands-on skill stations that allowed the kids to participate in life-saving emergency care. On the second day of camp, students put their newly-acquired skills to the test in a series of interactive accident simulations. After applying what they had learned, the students evaluated how they reacted and how they could improve their skills.

“We hope that we can spread [Camp 911] community-wide to help prevent accidents and tragedies,” Wilbee-Amis said. “We also want to help empower kids so they know what to do should they find themselves in some situation.”

Camp 911 began Tuesday with a show-and-tell of the many different emergency vehicles and accompanying equipment within the Delta County area. Trooper Jason Tasson was one of the Michigan State Police troopers present at the event, his group providing lessons on the functions of the Michigan State Bomb Squad, Dive Team, and K-9 Unit.


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