Travis County first responders see TSTC’s EMS technology up close

Matt Briggs, second from right, a TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor, shows Austin-Travis County EMS employees where the college’s ambulance simulator computer system is housed. (Photo Courtesy of TSTC)

ABILENE When Austin-Travis County EMS purchased an Immersive Interactive lab, its staff members wanted to learn what the lab could do from an organization that had experience with the technology.

That is why department members traveled to Abilene recently to tour Texas State Technical College’s Immersive Interactive lab and its ambulance simulator after seeing a news story on social media. They left with more knowledge about the technology and information on how to train their first responders.

“Austin-Travis County EMS is known as the most prestigious EMS service in Texas. When they contacted me inquiring about our ambulance simulator and wanting to visit our campus, we were more than thrilled,” Ashley Blackburn, TSTC’s Emergency Medical Services program coordinator, said in a news release. “They were excited to see the new technology for EMS education and how we utilize this equipment for our students.”

Austin-Travis County EMS employees were able to drive TSTC’s ambulance simulator during a recent tour of the program in Abilene. (Photo Courtesy of TSTC)

Jason Cantu, a captain with Austin-Travis County EMS, said the goal was to learn how to better utilize the lab’s technology.

“We have two of the manikins in our lab and are hoping to get a child (manikin) in the future to help with our training,” he said in the release. “We have not been able to use our lab as much as we would like. We wanted to see how it can be used by someone who has been active with the technology.”

The first responders spent time in different virtual environments — from an emergency room to an accident scene — courtesy of the lab’s preprogrammed scenarios.

“It is great that we can build out different scenarios in the lab to give our capstone paramedic students a more realistic scene of what they can expect in the field,” Cantu said. “Our students will not be as overwhelmed in the field if they first experience a situation in a controlled environment.”

The ambulance simulator allows Austin-Travis County EMS employees to navigate through a virtual parking lot. (Photo Courtesy of TSTC)

During the tour, the Travis County first responders were able to drive the ambulance simulator. Cantu was the first to drive and was “hit” by a vehicle, causing everyone inside to feel the effects.

“This simulator can be a great training tool for younger students,” he said.

Garrett Hedeen, the occupational health and safety specialist for Austin-Travis County EMS, agreed.

“Any type of experience you can get behind the wheel, especially in a simulator like (the one at TSTC), the better you will be,” he said in the release.

The first responders agreed that the best part of the ambulance simulator will be for those treating patients during the drive.

“This will give you the experience that you cannot just be there for the ride,” Cantu said. “You have to find somewhere to brace yourself while also working on a patient.”

Austin-Travis County EMS employees read one of the patient descriptions in an Immersive Interactive lab module. (Photo Courtesy of TSTC)

According to, the need for emergency medical technicians in Texas was expected to grow 19% between 2020 and 2030.

In its Emergency Medical Services program, TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Paramedic, as well as certificates of completion in Emergency Medical Services – EMT, Emergency Medical Services – Advanced EMT AEMT and Emergency Medical Services – Paramedic. The program is available at the Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen campuses.

TSTC is currently accepting applications for the Emergency Medical Services – Advanced EMT AEMT program at its Brownwood campus. The two-semester program will begin in May. For more information, email [email protected].

For more information about TSTC, visit