Sunday, August 20, 2006

Training for the Unthinkable

Yesterday training was held at the Oswego County Fairgrounds for a Mass Casualty Incident. Those participating included Volunteer Firefighters, Emergency Medical Responders, HAZMAT Personnel and School Bus Drivers. It was raining and windy.

The day started very early. Volunteer students started with make-up at 7:30. Each student was assigned very specific injuries and coached as to how to act their part. I was quite taken aback when I realized that one student was made up as a fatality.

The make-up was very life like. The bruises looked real, protruding bones were added and a couple even had blood pumps. The Firefighters and Emergency Medical personnel would have to determine the extent of each students injuries and treat them accordingly.

After make-up we headed over to the fairgrounds and helped set up for the spectators. The kids were placed on the bus and the make-up guy spattered and poured "blood" all over. The younger kids got bored waiting for things to start and lightened the mood for awhile by finger painting on the windows.

The scenario - a school bus driver was using her cell phone to order pizza for dinner and while distracted T-boned a truck full of hazardous chemicals. The chemicals in the truck started to leak and the kids started to yell and scream. The emergency radio call went out a little after 10:00.

Then we waited; it seemed to take forever before the first truck arrived. It actually was only a few minutes. Some of us that were observing were shocked when the emergency personnel set up 100 yards from the accident scene. It was later explained to us that it was because of the chemicals on the truck. They used binoculars to read the placard on the truck, looked up the chemical involved and responded accordingly. If they had rushed straight in to the bus they might have been overcome by the chemicals too and therefore unable to perform rescue operations.

The Firefighters had to wear full packs due to the chemicals. The front door was blocked by an injured student and could only be opened from the inside anyway. The back door had been disabled so that it would not open from the outside either. I didn't see how they finally got the doors open. The kids played their parts well. When they did get the back door open this student had been told to act as if he was panicked. He flew out the back door and kept right on going.

Here the truck driver is treated while the blinded bus driver tries to get help. The truck driver ended up dying and the bus driver was escorted to triage.

The emergency responders being debriefed.

Bus drivers held their own debriefing. We discussed emergency info sheets for students, how we would know who was still on the bus and who would had already been dropped off. How we do things slightly differently from one district to the next. How well would we handle seeing and caring for severely injured students. And of course we had the great seat belt debate, which is worth it's own post in the future.

So what happens when you get a bunch of bus drivers and firefighters together and there is a bus that no longer runs just sitting there? They set it on fire of course! This took place after the main training. Flares were placed in the drivers compartment and on a seat near the rear. I was surprised at how long it took for the fire to really catch but the fumes from the smoldering seat filled the bus quickly. It showed us how little time we'd have to evacuate in the event of a real fire emergency.

The fire in the front didn't seem to spread very much. Once the seat in back did catch the fire spread very quickly. The smoke pouring out of the front hatch was from the fire in the back.

It wasn't long before the flames shot out of the roof hatches and the firefighters put it out.

Even though this scenario was highly improbable, I learned a lot.


  1. Oh, wow! Some of those pictures are scary to look at!
    A school bus on fire??
    I hate to think it!

  2. In my 12 years driving I've never heard of a bus actually catching fire like this but we still drill just in case!