News and Tribune

May 17, 2013

Emergency officials stage bus wreck, gas spill at FCHS

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

FLOYDS KNOBS —  A school bus had turned over after being struck by a gas tanker, and as the truck leaked chemicals, emergency crews rushed in to try and rescue the kids who were trapped inside.

Thankfully Friday’s crash scene was only a simulation, but for Floyd County emergency officials, it was an important test to prepare them for a real life scenario.

“With a chemical spill, you’re going to have a lot of people involved,” said Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Herthel.

Hazmat crews, fire and rescue and medical officials — Herthel said such a scenario would require numerous responders.

The simulation was staged at Floyd Central High School, which is in the coverage area of the Greenville Volunteer Fire Department. Greenville responded to the accident, as did other local fire departments and ambulance crews.

Smoke poured out of a fog machine underneath the gas truck, and drama students from Floyd Central played the victims. They were tagged with different type of injuries, and they donned face paint to resemble cuts and scratches.

Inspectors observed the evacuation and the battling of the hypothetical blaze, as they scored response times and rescue methods used by the emergency officials.

“We’ll go back after this is over and tear this apart and see how we can make things better,” said Mike Ross, assistant director of Yellow Ambulance.

He observed his crew and made notes to review with the team after they finished treating the supposed victims.

“It’s also good to work with other agencies and improve communications,” said Yellow Ambulance Director David Abrams.

The stage was set to be as realistic as possible. A lady, pretending to be a parent of one of the kids trapped inside the bus, yelled and ran toward the scene where she was restrained by first responders.

Emergency radios blared with instructions and descriptions of the supposed wreck, the condition of the victims, and the dangers associated with working an accident where chemicals had been spilled.

The bus used in the drill was on its way to the junkyard before it was donated for the exercise, said Bill Wiseheart, director of facilities for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.

“It does give them a chance to practice in a real life situation,” he said, as he added the bus will be sent to the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department for further rescue exercises.

Meeting emergency workers, learning about the hazards of chemical spills and practicing communication with parents during an accident — Wiseheart said the simulation was also beneficial for school officials.

“It helps everybody coordinate better in an actual emergency,” he said.