Emergency 101 – School Bus Accident Drill

Tioga County Emergency Management Agency holds collision simulation

by Benton Best – June 13, 2017

On Monday, June 5th, 2017, the Tioga County Emergency Management Agency facilitated a School Bus Collision Simulation Drill in Farmington Township followed by a mass casualty simulation at the UPMC Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Wellsboro. With participants from the Northern Tioga School District, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital, the District Attorney’s Office, Tioga County Fire Police, and various local EMS, Fire, and Law Enforcement agencies, the drill was largely viewed as a successful opportunity for training in Tioga County.

As you can imagine, any incident involving a school bus collision would be a worst case scenario and could potentially require a large-scale emergency response. Any time that multiple agencies from multiple disciplines are activated on the same emergency scene, the complexity of the incident multiplies exponentially. The dedicated emergency planners and emergency responders in Tioga County came together on this day in an effort to practice this scenario and ensure that an incident like this can be conducted with efficiency and effectiveness.

Planning for the drill began in the summer of 2016. Leadership from the Northern Tioga School District asked for a realistic, full-scale exercise that could test the capabilities of school officials and local EMS, fire, and law enforcement to respond to a school bus collision involving a mass casualty scenario. This could test on-scene security and protection, the ability to perform efficient patient triage, and the reunification of students with their parents.

The exercise was conducted using real-live actors. In this simulation, makeup was applied to the actors to indicate injuries such as bruising and bleeding. The actors were then given scripts and informed of their make-believe symptoms in order to ensure that the incident was realistic as possible. Some of the other actors included parents who were upset when they found out that their child was involved in the accident. This type of realistic acting is essential to ensuring that we practice the “real thing.” The actors were very convincing.
The players being tested in the exercise included law enforcement from the State Police and Tioga Borough as well as school administrators performing student accountability and reunification. EMS and Fire Department responders from Nelson Twp, Lawrenceville and Tioga.

The patient care response was broken down into three main sections; Triage, Treatment, and Transport.
The triage unit was responsible for quickly assessing how many injuries existed and their level of severity.
The treatment unit was responsible for providing any immediate life-saving interventions on-scene to ensure that any critical injuries were quickly attended to.
Finally, the transport unit was responsible for identifying the capacity of each hospital to take injured patients from this mass casualty incident, and then assigning EMS transport units with each patient and final hospital destination.

All of these different units reported up to the Unified Command which consisted of a Fire Chief, School District Officials, and the State Police.

After taking a break and transporting the student actors from the simulated scene in Farmington Township, the exercise resumed in Wellsboro. The medical staff was standing by and prepared to take on over twenty pediatric patients in the emergency room with speed and efficiency.

The process began when students arrived on a school bus and were carefully triaged by experienced medical professionals. Any patients who had critical injuries were immediately admitted to the emergency room while others who may not have been as injured were processed and moved to the next station.

Because it was vital to ensure that no life-threatening injuries were missed, the emergency room had two more stations which continued to re-assess the condition of each patient to ensure that their symptoms hadn’t progressed. Different medical professionals continue to evaluate so that there was a fresh set of eyes each time.

Finally, once the patients had been treated or cleared from having any injuries at all, each student was escorted to a member of the school district staff then performed one-on-one reunification with the students’ legal guardians.

At all times during the exercise, the hospital and the school district maintained complete student accountability and ensured that students were only released to their proper guardian.
Some of the injects that were involved with this module of the exercise included parents asking to be reunited with their children, news media attempting to conduct interviews in the waiting room, and incident command decision making which included administrators from both the hospital and the school district.

As you can see, the Tioga County Emergency Management Agency, the Northern Tioga School District, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital, and local EMS, Fire, and Law Enforcement agencies are all working diligently each day to ensure that worst case scenario incidents will run as smoothly as possible if they happen in our area.

Plans are already underway to continue conduct drills similar to these in other parts of the county as well. We encourage all citizens and responders in Tioga County to consider testing your capabilities for large-scale emergencies and disasters. This is how we can all be better prepared.

If you have a family emergency plan, please test it. If you have a workplace emergency plan, please test it. If you have questions about how to do so, please contact us at 570-724-9110 or emergencyservices@tiogacountypa.us.

Idea/Concept: Benton Best
Videography: Tyler Burgett, Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Benton Best
Anchor: Benton Best

Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Laurel Health Center

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