New to the job, Officer Austin Herr uses training, experience to save a man’s life
Last summer, Public Safety Officer Austin Herr was inspecting his patrol car at the Rock Creek Campus when it happened.
There was a loud bang. It was the unmistakable sound of cars colliding and metal crumpling. He knew immediately that it was a serious accident.
Though he was brand new to the job (a mere six months in) at Portland Community College, Herr leaped into action. Using his military experience and public safety training, he raced to Rock Creek’s Springville Road entrance where the sound of the collision emanated. As he drove up, he spotted the frightening two-car wreck.
“When I got there I saw the airbag powder floating out of one of the cars,” Herr recalled. “That’s when I knew it was really bad.”
No emergency vehicles were at the scene yet. He was the only first responder present. So, Herr quickly notified dispatch to get fire and medical rolling to the entrance as soon as possible.
But it would take a few more minutes before they could arrive. Herr rushed to help one victim who was trapped in his vehicle and had a serious head bleed. He quickly donned protective gloves and administered first aid to the man who was pinned by his steering wheel. Herr kept him talking and alert while applying pressure on his head to slow the blood.
“He started to hyperventilate, so I adjusted his head so he was more comfortable and applied the dressing to the wound,” Herr said. “I just wanted to stop him from going into shock.”
With help from a critical care nurse who also witnessed the wreck, both took turns assisting the victim until fire, police and medical units arrived. When the fire department got to the scene, it used the jaws of life to extricate the man. As emergency crews worked, Herr continued to help by directing traffic.
“Officer Herr showed compassion and quick decisive actions in rendering assistance to those who were in need during this awful situation,” said Derrick Foxworth, PCC’s Public Safety director.
As a result of the officer’s heroism, the victim he assisted made a full recovery. And, for his efforts, Herr was given the Western Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Award for Valor this past winter.
“This all felt routine in a way, thanks to my training,” said the humbled Herr. “You don’t even stop to think. You just go because you want to help and get everyone out alive.”
Not bad for being on the job for less than a year.
“Austin is very compassionate, and after the accident he was very concerned about the individual he assisted,” said PCC Public Safety Sergeant Rick Rivera. “He loves his job and the college community.”
Rivera said all public safety officers receive training modeled after the Law Enforcement Field Training & Evaluation Program (FTEP). This ensures the officers respond to incidents in an empathetic and respectful manner. They’re trained to identify the problem, assess the situation and respond in the safest and most effective manner, he added.
Herr has the background to go with his training. He spent four years in the Army as an active duty soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan before spending an additional four years in the reserves, getting discharged in 2013.
“Nothing prepares you for something like this unless you have been in similar situations,” Herr added.
Afterward, he enrolled in PCC’s Aviation Science Program and earned his helicopter pilots license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. However, because pressurization of flying caused him headaches, Herr switched careers, and instead became a public safety officer. Hired in late 2015, he’s become a fixture at the Cascade Campus in North Portland where he is known as the “Hipster Cop” due to his thick Ray Ban eyeglasses, pleasant demeanor and love of photography.
“Every day I meet new people which is fun,” Herr said. “People open up to me because I’m interested in learning more about them, and I think that comes across. It feels good to work for PCC.”