Waldo County firefighters participate in school bus extrication drill

By Ben Holbrook | Jun 26, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Firefighters begin cutting through the top of a school bus during a drill Sunday, June 24, in Searsmont as part of a drill to simulate what would happen if a school bus were involved in a serious accident.

Searsmont — Firefighters from Searsmont, Montville, Brooks and Liberty ran a simulated drill Sunday, June 24, involving a school bus that had a vehicle pinned underneath to practice how to secure both vehicles and safely remove any occupants.

The firefighters first walked around the perimeter of the scene to assess what steps would need to be taken to safely remove any of the occupants in the vehicles. Because the school bus was tipped on its side and resting on the hood of a car with the back end of the bus suspended about 4 feet in the air, one of the first steps the firefighters were told to do was stabilize the bus so it wouldn’t tip over.

Tracy Harford, a Searsmont firefighter, said the school bus extrication training presented a good opportunity for some of the firefighters to familiarize themselves with the tools they would be using in a real-life situation, such as the Jaws of Life, spreaders and Sawzalls.

Once both vehicles were properly secured and the school bus was braced to prevent it from tipping over, one group of firefighters began entering the school bus through the rear emergency door and another group began cutting an access point through the top of the school bus near the front of the vehicle.

The heat further complicated the process of gaining access to the school bus and car, as the firefighters, dressed in full gear, were swinging crowbars to break windows and lifting saws over their heads as they worked to cut through metal and other materials.

After gaining entry to the school bus, several seats were cut out to create more room to maneuver the backboard firefighters used to evacuate the occupants of the bus. The drill operated under the parameters that there were 20 people on board the school bus, and a firefighter served as a victim in the accident.

While crews were busy working inside and outside the school bus, another group began the process of attempting to extricate the occupants of the vehicle the bus had been resting on. Firefighters began by deflating the vehicle’s tires before meticulously cutting through the side of the car.

After completing the school bus training, firefighters also trained on another car to learn the appropriate way to handle a vehicle that had flipped onto its hood. The vehicle used in that simulation and the one used in the bus extrication were donated by Totman’s Enterprises, and the school bus was purchased from the Town of Camden for $5.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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