LAWRENCE, Mich. — More than 80 people participated in an emergency training event here this fall that showed them what it feels like to be in an overturned school bus as well as one filled with smoke.
The professional development activity, sponsored by the Van Buren Intermediate School District (ISD) in conjunction with Lawrence Township Emergency Services, was presented at Van Buren ISD’s transportation center in Lawrence on Sept. 22.
To view a photo gallery from the event, go here.
As the provider of transportation for special-needs students in Van Buren County, Van Buren ISD invited all local school district transportation personnel in the county to participate in the hands-on training event.
Two buses that were ready for disposal were used for demonstration. One bus was turned over on the right side, with a wheelchair secured and a life-size mannequin belted in. Firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel practiced cutting open the vehicle to simulate rescue efforts.
Transportation personnel were taken through the overturned bus to see what an actual emergency would feel like and how disoriented they may become.
The second bus was used to practice emergency evacuation of a smoke-filled bus. EMS personnel seated transportation staff in the bus and then filled the vehicle with non-toxic vapor. All staff members were to exit the bus in the prescribed emergency evacuation techniques.
Other activities during the day included demonstrating the proper use of a fire extinguisher, with each person extinguishing a practice liquid fire. Also, each participant was instructed on the proper use and placement of highway flares — both lighting and extinguishing the device.
Following the exercises, participants expressed how the hands-on training placed them in a position that was much different from what they had imagined.
Here are some of the comments from participants:
• “I never realized how far off the ground a driver would be in a [rollover] situation.”
• “The student strapped into the wheelchair was a real eye-opener for me.”
• “The bus filled so fast with smoke [that] I hardly had time to react.”
• “I could not believe how disoriented I became in the smoke-filled bus.”
• “I came here today because I had to, thinking this was a perfect waste of time. When I got into the cut-open bus and later the smoke-filled bus, I changed my mind. This was the best day ever.”
Mark Niewoonder is transportation supervisor for Van Buren Intermediate School District in Lawrence, Mich.