Every 15 Minutes Presentation at Tillamook High School Makes Strong Impression

EDITOR’S NOTE: This presentation came just days after a tragic accident that resulted in the death of 18-year-old Neah-Kah-Nie senior Henry Gernert, and it was determined that the driver’s blood alcohol was above the legal limit according to the Sheriff’s Department’s initial press release. So there was even more of a message for our community this year. Actions have consequences, and if you drink and drive or get into a vehicle with someone that’s been drinking, the choice could be fatal. Make the right choice – don’t drink and drive.
As a retired teacher who worked in the Tillamook School district from 1994 to 2020, with 2000 – 2020 at THS, my students and I attended many of these events. My personal opinion is that Every Fifteen Minutes is one of the most important learning experiences that THS students will have in their high school careers. Before the start of this program, it seemed like there was a string of alcohol-related fatalities involving students. After starting Every Fifteen Minutes, this streak was interrupted. I was glad to see the program scheduled again this year.

Story, Video & Photos by Don Backman
“Don’t let her die!” The anguished scream cut the air as emergency responders transported a severely injured accident victim away.

A scene along the highway after a tragic accident? No. This took place in front of Tillamook High School.

On Wednesday, April 6th, 2022, the circle at the front of Tillamook High School was the scene of a staged fatal accident in front of the entire high school student body and several adults. The accident was simulated, but judging from the quiet and focus of the assembled students and adults, this event caught their attention. Which was the entire point.

“Unique in its design and powerful in its impact, “Every 15 Minutes” is an educational experience that reminds us all of the dangers associated with driving while impaired. The crash is staged, the emotions are real!” reads the website Every15minutes.com. It goes on to state, “The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and texting while driving.”

The events involved the community agencies which respond to accidents: fire, medical, law enforcement, and even the funeral home. It brings a degree of realism and drives home the message about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

The events began with the sound of a crash on the public address system, followed by screams and blood-splattered students enacting the aftermath of a tragic accident under the gaze of black-robed silent figures with faces painted a ghostly white. Law enforcement and emergency responders all arrived as they would in real life.

It ended with the local funeral home loading up and taking a deceased person away.

The assembled students watched somberly as their peers carried out the enactment.