Practicing for what they hope won’t happen

Published 10:03 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

PEDRO — Bundled up in yellow bunker gear, firemen tore away the side of the yellow school bus, their faces wet as much from sweat as from the downpours that hit sporadically that Saturday morning.

Methodically, with precision they sawed the metal frame out. With each yank, they got closer to saving those trapped inside.

Fortunately for those crews from Coal Grove, Upper, Elizabeth and Aid township fire departments, that bus on the Rock Hill High School parking lot was empty.

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Their work was just practice, but practice they and the leadership of Rock Hill Schools say is vital.

“Rock Hill and I are in agreement we need to bebetter prepared for everything with a school bus,” Jerry Massie, Elizabeth Township fire chief, said.

“We want to be prepared for what could be the inevitable.”

Each school day close to half-million buses transporting students travel city streets and rural highways in the United States, according to Legal Info website. Most go safely from home to school and back. But not always and about half of those injured in bus accidents are hurt in a crash. The rest from acts as simple as tripping going in or out of the vehicle or youthful rough housing.

All Saturday on the high school parking lot crews worked a variety of ways into the bus to polish skills they hope they will never use.

“For the people at the back door, there has to be a bigger opening,” Massie said. “If the door is blocked, we make our own doors. We have to be well-trained where we can do this job.”

Their main tool is the standard Jaws of Life equipment along with a generator to power it that each fire department carries on its trucks.

While crews practiced, Massie talked about how he and the Rock Hill district want to stage an even more realistic drill. That one would have people inside the bus with Lawrence County EMS and AirEvac on standby.

“You want it to become routine,” Wes Hairston, Rock Hill school superintendent, said. “Doing something in a mock situation would be very beneficial to residents and the school community.”

What that would take would be a coordination between local agencies, Hairston said.

“I think we could get enough people to volunteer their time,” he said. “I don’t think money will be an issue. We did a similar thing like this that didn’t involve money. I commend the local fire departments to take that initiative. It is better to be proactive than reactive.”