Regional school

  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Emergency workers swear. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.


Regional training school came around rapidly and soon I was trundling off to Surrey. I shared my car with one of my colleagues and we were swopping stories as we drove down. It turned out that he had a little bit more to do during his riding out week, but he was at a main station whereas I was at a satellite. The difference was that where I was still optimistic, he looked a bit like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. The reality was that there was going to be more to this lark than either of us realised.

We were billeted in the nurses home of the local cottage hospital. It was somewhat run down, but it did have the advantage of having a canteen where we could buy cheap food. The training school itself was a couple of miles away and, after the first day, transport was arranged so that we didn’t all block up the car park.

There were twenty eight of us, all from differing counties.

The format was similar to the induction course that we had all just negotiated, the difference being now that it was much more involved in the emergency side of things. The instructors were seasoned and experienced and all of us quickly gelled as a group.

Alcohol played not a small part in this. We quickly came to the conclusion that sitting in a tiny little room of an evening and reading course books was perhaps not ideally suited to rest and relaxation. The pub pretty quickly became an extended part of the training school.

Mock situations came thick and fast throughout our time there. We all had a good grounding in the theory side from the induction course, so it was just a matter now of hammering it all home and to prepare us for what we might encounter out on the road. It was quite hectic.

At one point we all piled into mini-buses and travelled down to an airport. There was a plane used by airport staff for training purposes and now it was our turn. We took it in turns to arrange and supervise evacuations from every part of the plane. I can remember standing on the wing in the freezing cold and thinking ‘How did I get into this?’ as I stood looking down at the ground. It turned out that the hardest place to get someone out of in an aeroplane was the pilot’s seat, the cramped space and hundreds of dials and switches kept getting in the way and proved a real pain in the proverbial. But it was fun nevertheless and if it taught us one thing, it taught us never to become pilots.

Another time a road traffic accident was mocked up, cars were piled into each other with one turned over. A group of us students were picked out to be the patients and scattered in and out of the cars in a random fashion. A lone crew was at first dispatched and had to “arrive at scene and report”. They had to triage and then sort the casualties out in order of priority. This was all done in real time, so once they had done their initial reporting they had to wait for back-up.

I had been ejected from a car and was suffering from a head injury. Pinned to my jacket were my signs and symptoms, as were all the “unconscious and deceased patients”. One of my colleagues was stuffed into the back of the upturned car, supposedly dead. Unfortunately, for him, he was a low priority and as things got into swing he was largely forgotten by the “crews” around, although a few of us close by kept up a bit of conversation. After a while it became apparent that Chris had gone very quiet – too quiet.

My sense of smell is not one of the best, but one of the other “casualties” had a pretty good sense of smell.

‘Do you smell petrol?’ she asked. ‘Only it seems quite strong now.’

We all sniffed.

‘Oh yes, that’s definitely petrol,’ said the broken leg to my left. ‘Where’s it coming from?’

‘Chris, can you smell it?’ I asked.

No reply.

We looked into the car and there was Chris laying on the roof in the back and not moving.

‘Oh fuck!’ cried the instructor, and ran towards the car.

The exercise has now taken on a new dimension as Chris was laying comatosed in the back of the upturned car. Petrol has leaked out and the fumes in the cramped and airless conditions had rendered him unconscious.

The door was wrenched open and all of us “casualties” leapt up to help, all of us instantly cured. Chris was dragged out of the car and an oxygen cylinder was rushed over, quickly the mask was strapped to his face and the cylinder turned on. We waited while a stretcher was brought over and a vehicle readied for the real emergency, the mock incident now all but forgotten.

Chris began to stir. He was pale and his breathing was rapid. We made notes. Somebody leant forward to his jacket and took the bit of paper that said “deceased” written on it. A couple of minutes later the bit of paper was pinned back, it said “Was dead, but now just nearly dead”. The instructor wasn’t amused, especially when Chris regained consciousness and vomited.

A doctor gave Chris the all clear and normality resumed. He was left with a bit of a headache, but that didn’t matter as he gave us all a nice bit of entertainment.

The ambulance service – a kind and caring profession!


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