It was a scenario no one wants to see: an overturned school bus with several injured children on board. Thankfully, the overturned bus on the roadside pullout was part of a mock accident to help train firefighters from two different counties. Firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, Christina Lake Fire Department and the Joint Fire Protection District Ferry County #3 and Stevens Country from Orient, Washington participated in the simulated accident on April 27 on the pullout just before the Christina Lake Golf Course turnoff.
Firefighters had to rescue several injured GFSS students and a bus driver who were trapped inside a bus on its side. Firefighters also had to find and attend to two students who had crawled down the embankment after the accident.
Ken Gresley-Jones, Christina Lake fire chief, said the exercise went very well. “We enjoy an awesome relationship with Grand Forks Fire/Rescue and are working on getting to know our American associates,” he said. “I am very happy with the result. There were no egos and no problems. It was great.”
He said the Grand Forks and Christina Lake fire departments do joint practices once or twice a year, but that it had been about eight years since they’ve attempted something on the scale of the mock bus accident.
Kevin McKinnon, deputy fire chief for the Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, said about 25 responders were involved in the training session.
“We planned the session to be as realistic as possible and were lucky to have ‘real’ patients in the form of GFSS drama students,” said McKinnon. “The students did a great job performing as injured bus riders, and had amazing make-up (bruises, fake blood) to add to the realism of the scenario.”
McKinnon said the mock accident was about as close to the real thing as they can get without having patients with real injuries. “The primary goal of the practice is dealing with a mass casualty incident, which includes triaging the patients (worst injuries get dealt with first) and giving them initial care to get them ready for transport to the hospital by ambulance,” he said.
Beside the medical component, firefighters performed extrication work on the bus using tools such as the jaws of life and cutting tools. They also practiced rope work on bringing up the two students who went over the embankment.
“Keeping things organized on such a large-scale incident with as many responders as we had (and from multiple agencies) also tested our personnel accountability system,” said McKinnon. “Grand Forks Fire/Rescue and Christina Lake Fire Department have recently changed to similar accountability systems, so we expected them to blend together fairly well, and we found that the U.S. team’s system merged in nicely too. Overall, quite a bit was accomplished in the two-hour time allotted for the event.”