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New mobile EMS training program visits Iowa Fire Department

The Cedar Rapids firefighters and EMS staff participated in simulated emergency scenarios played out in a fake ER or ambulance built into the back of a semi-truck


Emily Andersen
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A new mobile training program for first responders came to Cedar Rapids last week to help firefighters prepare for emergency medical situations.

The Cedar Rapids firefighters and EMS staff from each station took turns Wednesday, Thursday and Friday participating in the training, which was brought to Cedar Rapids Central Station by Simulation in Motion — Iowa.

Simulation in Motion — Iowa, or SIM-IA, launched earlier this year, overseen by the University of Iowa College of Nursing and funded with an $8 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Iowa is the fifth state to launch a Simulation in Motion program with funding from the Helmsley Trust.

The training is accomplished using simulated emergency scenarios that are played out in a fake ER room or ambulance built into the back of a semi-truck.

Brian Rechkemmer, the SIM-IA program coordinator, said putting the training in the back of a truck makes it easy to reach the departments, which is especially helpful in rural areas where many firefighters are volunteers and don’t have as much time to travel for trainings.

“In the past, the local departments would have to find somebody to backfill them, find somebody to cover them, and then they would go to a college or university to do the simulation training,” Rechkemmer said. This way here, we can go out to a volunteer service and we can actually do the training for them right at the front door.”

Rechkemmer said he typically works with the fire chief in each area to determine what types of scenarios the department needs the most practice with to determine how to run the training.

Cedar Rapids crews dealt with two scenarios during the SIM-IA training. In the first scenario, a patient crashed his bike and had a tree branch sticking out of his leg, as well as head trauma and other injuries. In the second scenario, a patient was going into anaphylaxis after having an allergic reaction to peanuts.

The patients in these scenarios are high-tech mannequins programmed to react to the actions of the first responders. SIM-IA technicians sit in a separate part of the truck during the training and control how the patients, and their vital signs, react to the choices trainees make.

“This is unique because these mannequins are able to do so much. We’ve had trainings in the past where we work on smaller mannequins that aren’t able to move and breathe and bleed and all that other fun stuff. So this is unique because it gives us the real hands-on experience,” said Brady Petersen, a firefighter who participated in the training Aug. 24.

“Freak accidents happen, and we’ve got to be able to take care of them. And allergic reactions, they can happen at any time to anyone, especially if you don’t know if you’re allergic to anything. So, that’s why it’s great for us to be here and train ... so that we can be ready for anything.”

SIM-IA currently has one training truck, which is stationed in Swisher and covers everything on the eastern part of the state. The program will be getting two more trucks in the next month or so. One will be stationed in Sioux City and cover the western part of the state, and one will be stationed in Des Moines, covering central Iowa.

The $8 million grant from the Helmsley Trust will cover the costs of the program for the first three years, during which time SIM-IA will be working to find additional funding options.

“We’re looking at talking to legislators to see if we can get some funding from the state, and then we’re also looking at donors and other foundations,” Rechkemmer said.

Currently the training is entirely free for EMS providers and Rechkemmer said he hopes to be able to keep it that way.


(c)2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)