Right place, right time – emergency response team member recalls critical encounter with stranger

Apr 04, 2023
Tim Thompson Click to Enlarge

A few years back, Tim Thompson – paint shop millwright at Dearborn Truck Plant – was headed home on Southfield freeway. There was a long backup due to an accident.  

Traffic was moving slowly, at a walking pace. By the time he made it up to the scene of the accident, he knew he needed to assist – and quick. 

There were no first responders on the scene yet. In one of the vehicles involved, the driver was slumped over and not doing well.  

 “The driver of the vehicle was not breathing, and he looked terrible,” Thompson recalled. “He was extremely pale and had a bit of a gurgling sound going on.” 

Luckily, Thompson is a trained emergency response team (ERT) member at the Dearborn plant, and he had just gone through a very thorough and engaging 40-hour refresher. Thanks to that annual training session and his many years of experience, he knew exactly how to help.  

In this training, Thompson said the presenter had reiterated the importance of creating a clear airway, and if somebody was not breathing, how helping to clear the airway was critical.  

“When I saw (the driver), it looked like he needed his head leaned back,” he said. “Essentially what had happened was he got the air knocked out of him on impact. Then the way he ended up collapsed forward with the seatbelt holding him in, he was unable to catch his breath.”  

Thompson added it had probably been a few minutes since this individual had taken a breath. So, he quickly stabilized the driver’s neck and head and gently pulled him back. He said when he did, it was like “cracking open a pop can.”  

The driver instantly took a huge breath of air and within a few minutes was conscious and speaking. Shortly after, first responders were on the scene and Thompson headed home.  

It’s unclear what could have happened to the man had Thompson not been there to assist. But one thing Thompson knows for sure is that sometimes the simplest solutions are all that’s necessary in an emergency situation.  

“It was just so cool because it was something that any ERT member would have done,” he said. “It was totally within the realm of our training and easy to assist. Just one thing like that made all the difference in the world.” 

Thompson has spent much of his life working for the Blue Oval and celebrated his 30-year anniversary with the company in January. Having started at Norfolk Assembly Plant in Virginia, his Ford journey ultimately brought him to Michigan. Although much has changed throughout his tenure, one thing always remained the same for Thompson; choosing safety above all else.  

Emilio Bacon, process coach in the paint department, admires Thompson for his positive and optimistic attitude. He said Thompson never judges the day solely based on the outcome, but the honest efforts he brings to the job every day.  

“It feels incredible to help,” Thompson said. “To have the knowledge and skills to be able to help someone in the first few moments of an emergency is incredible. Small things can make such a huge difference for somebody, and that’s what our trainers have taught us.” 

The emergency response team is a group of volunteer plant employees who are the first to respond to an emergency on-site at the plant. The team members undergo many hours of training and use their skills to assist in an emergency until first responders arrive.  

Interested in becoming an emergency response team member? To learn more, reach out to your plant safety department.