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Tragedy 'Every 15 Minutes'

Manlius FD plans for intense teen DWI program

High school prom season is still months away, but the village of Manlius Fire Department has begun the initial planning stages for the teen DWI awareness program, Every 15 Minutes, which is set to run in April.

E15M is a national program dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts of teen drinking and driving. "Every 15 minutes" refers to the frequency that teens are killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents each day.

"The program is designed to make students aware of their responsibilities for themselves and all others in the vehicle, and the consequences of drinking and driving," said Manlius Fire Chief Paul Whorrall.

The two-day program is for high school juniors and seniors, and will include a mock car crash, classroom activities, students designated as the "walking dead," and an assembly at the Fayetteville-Manlius High School.

Because a large portion of the program's success relies on the element of surprise for the students, Chris Halliday, public education coordinator for the fire department, asked that many of the details not be given just yet.

While the fire department has held DWI programs for students in the past, E15M is much more involved.

"Right now, we have meetings with the school once a month to check in with the different planning committees for the program," Halliday said. Aside from the school and fire department, the police department, funeral homes, hospitals and parents are also involved in the program.

"During the mock car crash, we have an ambulance take "injured" students to the hospital, and some get taken away by a hearse, while the parents watch and play the role of grieving mothers and fathers," Whorrall said. "It's all very intense."

Since the program began in Spokane, Wash. in the early 1990s, more than 300 high schools have participated in E15M nationwide. Fayetteville-Manlius High School will hold its first E15M program April 13 and 14. If all goes well, it will run every two years, Halliday said.

"In the end, we want students to not even consider drinking and driving as an option," Halliday added. "And when they go off to college, we hope the message has a ripple effect as they tell their friends about what they learned."

For more information about Every 15 Minutes, visit every15minutes.com.

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