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Penn. EMS workers study in the great outdoors

PITTSBURGH, Penn Continuing education usually conjures images of stuffy classrooms, flickering fluorescent lights and naps snuck on propped elbows.

The Pittsburgh Mercy Health System is trying to avoid those frights this weekend by holding continuing education classes for regional emergency medical services at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock. It’s the first time they’ve done it, and “I hope it won’t be the last,” said Jeff Wess, manager of prehospital services at The Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Some classes will take advantage of the surroundings, such as a wilderness skills class scheduled for Saturday evening. Others merely detail medical advances of interest to emergency medical personnel.

Yesterday afternoon brought a group of men and women seated at picnic tables, watching a grisly Powerpoint sequence of dead people. Christopher O’Leath, deputy coroner of the Westmoreland County coroner’s office, was teaching a course on death scene investigation and preservation. Birds twittered and chipmunks scampered as Mr. O’Leath cycled through images of car accidents, helicopter crashes, and fires, all with the aim of teaching the EMS students how to preserve death and crime scenes for coroners and police.

Mr. O’Leath’s class was probably the grimmest event of the weekend. Lighter entertainment included a country band that performed last night and a pig roast scheduled for this evening.