Buses offer rare practice for firefighters
Fire departments from across southern Leavenworth County had a rare opportunity Saturday to practice extrication on decommissioned school buses.
“It’s not often you get to cut a school bus apart,” said Tim Bowlin, Sherman Township firefighter.
Schools allow fire departments to inspect buses to gain a better understanding of how they’re built, Bowlin said, but seeing the interior structure, locating support beams and removing bolts is much more effective training.
Tonganoxie, Fairmount, Sherman, Stranger and Reno townships participated in the exercise Saturday, and Lansing Fire District No. 1 joined the departments Wednesday, Oct. 24, to practice an accident scenario.
Bowlin and Sherman Fire Chief Dan Tallman stumbled across the available buses in March when they went to buy a junk car for extrication practice. Midway Auto Parts in Kansas City, Mo., donated a full-length and a short bus for the exercise.
At the Wednesday evening training, fire departments knew the drill would take place somewhere in southern Leavenworth County but had to respond as if it were a real call to a bus accident, Chuck Magaha, Fairmount Township assistant chief, said. Magaha organized the Wednesday drill, using mannequins as patients in the bus. Inside the bus, and unbeknownst to firefighters, there was a hidden camera so departments could review the footage to see how everyone performed. About 60 firefighters participated on Wednesday, Magaha said, and of the footage he’s watched, he’s impressed with how everyone handled the drill.
Saturday was the first time in about 10 years that local departments had a bus extrication training, Bowlin said, and in addition to the technical knowledge it offered, it was also a good opportunity for the neighboring departments to work together.
“It’s a good way to get to know the resources you have around you,” he said. Departments learned about one another’s specific tools and specialized knowledge, which will help them work together better when they respond to emergencies.
As an assistant chief and emergency manager for Leavenworth County, Magaha said, he was glad fire departments had the opportunity to gain practical experience with buses, but it also brought up some weaknesses in service. When everyone knew about the evening drill, almost 60 people could attend, he said. But when he asked who could make it to a call at 2 p.m., only about a dozen firefighters from all of southern Leavenworth County would be available.
“We’ve got the resources, but we don’t always have the resources in place,” he said.
Overall, the trainings were a success and a great team effort, Magaha said, and he agreed with Bowlin that joint trainings are integral to successful partnerships with neighboring departments.