This article was originally published in The Daily Citizen, July 27, 2013. Used with permission. 

By Matt Burks

Hal is a 5-year-old boy who can talk, breath air, blink and even control his heart beat.

He is not a real boy, but his use by Emergency Medical Service personnel can save lives in the future.

Hal is a high-fidelity simulator mannequin — the first of his kind for EMS use in Arkansas. The Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC), a program of the Arkansas Department of Health in Little Rock, recently received Hal through the federal EMSC program.

Jack Hill, program manager for EMSC Arkansas, said there are 57 different EMSC agencies across the nation and each receive about $130,000 to operate the program.


“There is a lack of education across the nation when it comes to pediatric emergencies,” said Tonia Hale, director of operations for NorthStar EMS in Searcy. “Hal is a high-tech mannequin and you can do just about anything you need to do with it. It’s just like a real child and he’s going to help us be better prepared for pediatric emergencies in our communities.”

“Hal does just about everything but walk,” Hill added. “He can even generate his own cardiac rhythm and can dilate his pupils. The program is based on pediatric care, so this is a way to allow EMS professionals the opportunity to train on something that is realistic.”

Hill could have chosen any place in the state to debut Hal and the pediatric emergencies program, but he knew early on it would be Searcy.

“I’ve known Tonia for several years and we’ve had several meetings at NorthStar about this program,” he said. “We really wanted a service that isn’t too big or too small, that has a great relationship with emergency room personnel. How we picked NorthStar was based upon those criteria and they fit the bill perfectly.”

Hale said NorthStar employees are honored to pilot the program. More important is the knowledge the employees learned in the program, she said.

“The health department asked if we’d be interested in doing this and we jumped right on board,” Hale said.

Jeff Graham, assistant principal of Sidney Deener Elementary in Searcy, is also EMT certified and was allowed to participate in the program. He said he will share what he learned with Searcy administrators for possible future programs related to pediatric emergencies.

“I’m observing the training to better handle emergency situations involving a child,” Graham said. “This is a very neat program and it will be beneficial for everyone, including Searcy students.”

Patt Cope is a part-time employee of NorthStar and program director for the Arkansas State University-Searcy EMS program. She said what she learns in the simulation will help her better train students at ASU-Searcy.

Hale said all available NorthStar employees participated in the program Thursday on a rotation. She also said there is a plan to bring Hal back to Searcy in the near future.

“We trained on the medical side of treating the patient today,” Hale said. “Hopefully, in a few months, we are going to have a pediatric trauma patient scenario using the mannequin.”

Hill said Hal will return to Searcy after being introduced to EMS personnel across the state.

“High fidelity training is very popular in hospitals because of what they can do,” Hill said. “It’s nice to be able to provide that same level of training to EMS providers out in the field.”