Crews attend bus crash mock drill

Candy Neal/The Herald
Jasper first responders safely move “injured” Ireland Elementary fifth-grader Brock Lampert from a school bus during a mock drill at Jasper High School Wednesday evening. Brock wasn't actually injured. The mock drill was part of a training that included first responders, emergency medical technicians, police, 911 and school staff.


JASPER — First responders and EMTs worked together Wednesday evening to remove a young boy from a school bus.

Workers inside the bus strapped the student to a safety board, securing cushion around his head. They opened an emergency window at the front of the bus and passed the boy through the window into the waiting arms of of the crew outside.

A few minutes before, they did the same thing with another student, taking him out through the bus’s back door.

Neither boy was actually injured. But the emergency personnel worked as if they were.

They were getting practice, getting more of a feel about school buses and the equipment they would need should a real emergency like that occur.

The practice was part of a mock drill of a school bus crash. About 30 emergency personnel were at the training, including first responders, emergency medical technicians, police, 911 and school staff. The drill was led by Rick Allen, former Southeast Dubois superintendent, who participates in and provides school transportation safety training. Prior to joining the school district, Allen was an EMT for years. He has also served on the Indiana State School Bus Committee.

“I know what’s going through your head when you’re responding,” he said. “I know what’s going on with EMTs when they’re responding. I know what’s going on through those principals’ heads when they hear (that there’s an accident).”

Allen went through the features of the 84-passenger school bus parked outside of Jasper High School Wednesday evening, showing the group the safety features and emergency exits. He explained why having a rolling bus land on its wheels is a better situation than one that ends up on its side. He had the people at the training go through the bus, entering at the front steps and exiting by jumping out through the back emergency door.

After removing the students from the bus, the group went inside the high school go through a tabletop mock drill. Before going through the exercise, they received tips from Allen and watched an 8-minute video of various school bus crashes that were recorded by cameras inside the buses.

People groaned as they watched and heard the crash impact, saw people jostle around inside and heard the children on board screaming.

Allen explained the importance of having a plan in place for such a situation, and practicing that plan.

“When people are upset and frustrated, you need to be clear, heard and concise,” he said.

Responding to a vehicle accident is familiar to local emergency crews. But handling a school bus crash is a more unique situation, said Glenn Buechlein, Greater Jasper’s assistant superintendent of support services and transportation.

“Major bus crashes are quite rare, so we don’t have much experience with them,” he said. “So we decided to set up a scenario here.”

The scenario worked on during the tabletop drill was of a school bus with 25 children on 400 West south of Brescher Drive. It was forced off the road by an oncoming car that drove into its lane. The bus rolled over and landed at a 30-degree angle in a water-filled ditch. It was February and the temperature was 37 degrees.

Those at the drill talked through all parts of the scenario, from the major details of removing injured students from the bus and meeting up with parents to reunite them with their children, to the smaller details of who will release details to the media and who will contact the nearby church to ask if it can be opened and used as a meeting place for parents.

Allen was glad that so many emergency personnel attended Wednesday’s drill. “It was a great turnout,” he said. “Training is important. And they want the training. You can tell they learned a lot.”

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