The rain held off long enough on Friday for Mt. Gilead Middle School students to get a lesson on school bus fire safety.
Bus Driver Mac McLaughlin and staff members met in the rear parking lot of the high school Oct. 9, along with members of the Mt. Gilead Fire Department, to give a presentation and demonstration.
“We’re going to smoke the school bus!” announced McLaughlin, “it’s part of School Bus Safety Week for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.”
He explained the purpose of the exercise was to familiarize the students with what do if their bus is full of smoke.
“Your ‘sensories’ are off – you don’t know which way is forward or backward,” he said. “This is to give them an idea so if something like this possibly happens, they don’t get scared.”
The middle school students walked to the parking lot and assembled, while a group of ‘volunteer’ students waited by the bus to be participants in the exercise. McLaughlin talked to the group about why they were there and what would take place. The volunteer students got on the bus and, after they were seated, the Mt. Gilead Fire Department used a smoke machine that produced ‘theatrical’-type smoke in the bus. In short order, the bus was evacuated through the back end and the students were led away from the vehicle.
After the smoke demonstration, the group was shown pictures of actual bus fires and emergencies that have taken place in the past. McLaughlin said if there is an emergency, it’s important to remain calm so everyone can hear the instructions that are going to be given by four trained student helpers (per bus).
“The four helpers have their job to do. The ones in the back get out of the bus first and start assisting the other riders in getting out the back. The helpers know what they are supposed to do. The rest of the kids stand up and stay quiet.”
He added even if the bus driver should lose consciousness, the four trained helpers know what they are supposed to do.
“Each bus in the district has gone through these fire evacuation drills with the students in the front and back of the bus,” McLaughlin said. “If something should happen, we hope the training kicks in and they will respond as we’ve shown them.”
McLaughlin said every school in the State of Ohio is supposed to do this. “Brenda Legros, our transportation Supervisor, is set on it. She says, ‘Do this. [Get] your helpers and your leaders.’ We did our fire evacuation drills a couple of weeks ago where each bus evacuates out the front and back. We do that every year so the kids get the idea and, by the time they are older, they are the ones who know how to do it. They are the ones who assist the kids out the back of the bus and we have a leader who leads them away from the bus.”
Friday’s demonstration was for the middle school students, and McLaughlin said they are still working on doing something for grades 1 – 5 for training. For the kindergarten and preschool students, a safety presentation was done, consisting of a Winnie The Pooh School Bus Safety video, a talk about safety rules on the bus, then on to the buses for an evacuation drill.
“We want to give them an idea of how it’s going to work,” he said.
School Bus Safety Week occurs each year in the district, and McLaughlin said it’s repetitive, but they do it over and over so the students know what to do and what could happen.
“By the time they get into high school, they know what’s going on.”
Reach Randa Wagner at 419-946-3010, ext. 1803 or on Twitter@MorrCoSentinel.