Due to the recent increase in bus accident fatalities globally, Canadian firefighters are using bus accident simulations to train new recruits and other rescue workers.

Picture the scene – a school bus lying on its side, with three smashed vehicles and frantic bystanders surrounding the accident. Dozens of children are trapped inside the bus, some of which are seriously injured, and several fatalities have already occurred. This is the simulated scenario which faced Canadian firefighters and ambulance personnel in a Comox Valley training exercise conducted at Oyster River Fire Hall, Black Creek on Saturday morning.

Firefighters from several different fire and rescue departments in the Comox Valley area participated in the exercise, and had to work together to free dozens of volunteer children who were playing the role of trapped accident victims. The school bus used in the exercise was an old school bus donated by Campbell River Christian School.

As well as the children, other volunteers acted as drivers, passengers, family members and curious bystanders to make the exercise as realistic as possible.

The rescue team personnel rehearsed calming of the frantic crowd and lead the family members away from the accident scene so that the emergency services could continue with the rescue operation.

As well as crowd calming, the team members had to tend to the children’s injuries which were realistically portrayed with fake blood and makeup. The simulation also allowed practice of emergency triage operations, where those who were more seriously injured had to be taken to a separate area for transfer by ambulance to local hospitals. Simulated fatalities also had to be dealt with, and were covered with sheets and referred to the coroner.

The training exercise took most of the day, and the participants were given constant feedback and opportunities to review their actions during the simulation. According to Niels Holbek, the Oyster River Fire and Rescue chief, the drill was an excellent learning opportunity which should assist in making real life rescue situations run more smoothly.

Holbek said the exercise was also a good opportunity to assess how different fire and rescue departments would work together and how long it would take for rescue services to arrive from the different departments across the valley. Experienced firefighters and vehicle extrication experts were on site at the training exercise to evaluate how effectively the participants rescued the volunteers, and their feedback will be used to design further training exercises for the future.


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