Boardman firefighters cut through bus for training

By Josh Stipanovich


A school bus turned over Monday morning behind the main township fire station on U.S. Route 224, trapping one.

Several firefighters worked for an hour to extricate Buster Rescue Randy.

Rescue Randy, a 170-pound dummy, was pinned between a window and the asphalt as a part of a training session to help firefighters practice and understand the procedures, in event of the real thing.

Firefighters had to saw through the roof of the bus to gain entry. They inflated air bags to lift the bus, which allowed them to free the rescue dummy.

Mark Pitzer, a training instructor, described the process: Stabilize the bus, assess the situation, access the bus and make the rescues.

“As we lift, the bus becomes unstable. We have to create multiple openings,” Pitzer said. “There will be a lot of things going on at once.”

During the past 10 years, Pitzer said, he’s been involved in two minor school-bus accidents. He added that, usually, most school-bus accidents are minor, but that doesn’t mean an incident like the one presented to firefighters Monday won’t happen.

“We’d rather train for the worst-case scenario, do it in this environment where we can talk about things, see what works, [and] what doesn’t work ... so we would know how to attack,” Pitzer said.

Patrick Romeo, Boardman fire captain, said Monday’s rescue was a lot slower than it would be in a real-life situation. He said one important aspect of the training session was to allow each firefighter the chance at gaining hands-on experience, adding that two crews would usually be working at the scene.

“The most important aspect is understanding that all kinds of vehicles are involved in accidents,” said George Brown, fire chief. “While we normally work on motor vehicles, buses and heavy trucks and those things also pose severe needs. So, this gives us an opportunity for our training to try those things and know that if something happens, we’re going to know the best route to go.”

Brad Calhoun, township trustee, had the opportunity to operate the saw and cut the final side of the bus roof, which gave firefighters an entry point to bring equipment in for the rescue.

“You don’t hope that ever happens, but when it does, if they’ve never had an experience getting in on a bus full of 6- to 18-year-olds ... they have to at least have the experience,” Calhoun said. “You’ve got to do it: Prepare for the worst.”

School buses are the safest mode of school-related transportation, but 24 school-age children, on average, are killed in school transportation accidents annually. From 2000-2009, 107 total fatalities were reported, according to a 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.

“Buses are probably one of the safest mode of transportation ... [but] it’s going to happen somewhere in someone’s community,” Calhoun said.

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