This April 10, 2013 photo released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows emergency responders during a mock crash in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio is using a federal program to train thousands of police, firefighters and others to clear highway crash scenes more safely and efficiently. (AP Photo/Ohio State Highway Patrol, Glenn T Koslowsky Jr.)
This April 10, 2013 photo released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows emergency responders during a mock crash in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio is using a federal program to train thousands of police, firefighters and others to clear highway crash scenes more safely and efficiently. (AP Photo/HO, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Glenn T Koslowsky Jr.)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is using a federal program to teach thousands of police, firefighters, tow-truck operators and other emergency responders to clear highway crash scenes more safely and efficiently.
The Federal Highway Administration trained instructors in the state who are now teaching others — including law enforcement, transportation workers and coroners — to improve how they work together at crash scenes and to get wrecked or disabled vehicles out of the way faster. The traffic incident management training is intended to decrease the time drivers spend sitting in bottlenecked traffic and the potential that a situation escalates with secondary crashes and injuries to responders or travelers.
"It's communication, cooperation and coordination," said Al Phillips, the Ohio Department of Transportation's emergency operations coordinator.
Nearly 2,900 Ohio responders have been trained in recent months, according to ODOT and the State Highway Patrol. They aim to train thousands more this year.
The training encourages them to use common sense and good judgment to protect public safety while restoring traffic flow as quickly as possible, Phillips said.
If a disabled or wrecked truck is blocking a multilane road in rush-hour traffic, for example, the training would have responders consider whether the vehicle could be safely pushed to one side and retrieved later instead of waiting for a tow and further blocking heavy traffic, patrol Capt. Roger Hannay said.
About 20 states are using the training program at varying levels, and Ohio is among the leaders in deploying it, said Doug Hecox, a highway administration spokesman. The government expects all states to be involved within about a year, he said.
"The more we can keep highways operating efficiently and safely, the better," Hecox said. "Nobody likes traffic jams."
The training is helping to re-energize an Ohio crash-management program called QuickClear that was launched about a decade ago but grew stagnant after some initial training, said Hannay, who co-chairs the Ohio QuickClear committee with Phillips.
Phillips said it's already being put into practice with noteworthy results, including what he deems the most efficiently handled crash he's seen in a three-decade career. In that case near Mansfield last year, a traffic crash that was serious and required a medical helicopter that closed Interstate 71 for only 20 minutes because the responders had been through the training.
The program is free for the trainees because the federal government pays for instructor training and materials and the state allocated funding to cover such related costs as brochures.
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