WALLENPAUPACK - This was only a drill. One might have needed to keep that in mind, watching up close as scores of firefighters and EMS personnel moved in concert about an overturned school bus on Wallenpaupack grounds, with more than a dozen high schoolers aboard, screaming and what looked like, serious injuries.

WALLENPAUPACK - This was only a drill. One might have needed to keep that in mind, watching up close as scores of firefighters and EMS personnel moved in concert about an overturned school bus on Wallenpaupack grounds, with more than a dozen high schoolers aboard, screaming and what looked like, serious injuries.
The unthinkable- which happens from time to time, if not here then elsewhere- requires emergency responders to be ready, and that’s what this exercise was all about, Assistant Superintendent Keith Gunuskey explained. Gunuskey said he is lucky enough to see both sides- he’s also president of Texas No. 4 fire company in Honesdale.
A long time in planning, the event unfolded at Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School (WNIS) at 9 a.m., Saturday. The big yellow school bus- which had been donated to the Pike County Emergency Training Center for practice sessions such as this- was laid on its passenger side, right off a curve. There were 14 students, liberally applied with make up. Gunuskey said that they had  meeting with them ahead of time to prepare them, for what this sense of realism can do to their emotions.
No one played the driver.
Twelve climbed on the bus through the emergency door, only to find the seats on the side, and windows straight up. Two were left outside- “ejected”- one girl was stationed in the woods behind a boulder, where a firefighter “found” her, as he combed the area.
Tafton Fire Company arrived first, closely followed by Hawley. Soon came a legion of their comrades, staged due to the longer response times they would experience: Forest (Kimbles), Central (Bohemia), Greeley, Lakeville, Hemlock Farms, Blooming Grove, Promised Land, Ledgedale; Lackawaxen Ambulance and other ambulance units.
As reinforcements arrived, the many hours of training played out, as the volunteer firefighters acted, keeping serious in their roles. Buzz saws were used to widen portals into the wrecked bus. Stretchers were placed; first aid rendered. The “victims,” looking bad an playing the part with moans and heavy breathing, were placed according to severity. The “walking wounded” were escorted to one spot.
Fire hose was at the ready in event of fire; wood blocks were placed to stabilize the bus.
As school officials watched, the “patients” were boarded on ambulances and actually taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department. It was there that phase 2 would take place, as hospital personnel also staged a triage and incident command center, gaining valuable experience.
The last “victim” was extracted and taken away about an hour and a quarter after the 9-1-1 call was made.
Following the drill, the emergency personnel were meeting inside the WNIS cafeteria, for a review of what they had just done, to discuss what went well and was gained, and what could have been done better.
David Jackman, the high school’s video and photography instructor, made a video which is to be shared with each fire department for review and future training.
Gunuskey explained that this is a “12 month problem” which can impact every school, as well as summer camps. The latter might be using older buses, and traveling back roads, where an accident might occur. All local first responders, and the community, are affected, he said.
The drill came about in meetings held with the emergency management directors from Pike and Wayne Counties and local fire chiefs. “We were just kind of tossing around, what’s a drill that we could do that’s small in scale, but big on impact,” Gunsukey said. “Our goal was to try and get as many people in our area [first responders] the experience… I want every single person to go on the bus and feel the confinement and see how tight it is in there. Thank about what you would do if you had to get in there and do something.”
“The kids were amazing,” he said. “The kids absolutely played the parts, played the injuries.”  He added, “Nine times out of 10, the people on those school buses are children, and those are the hardest kind of emergencies to respond to.”
Each of the fire departments have their own training, but drills such as this are especially beneficial, Gunuskey said, with multiple departments working together. Each company gets to know what each other’s have in terms of resources.
“We are so lucky to have Wayne and Pike County Emergency Management on board who are so involved and what to be part of planning, who want to be involved in making our schools and kids safe.”
The last school bus crash drill performed by Wallenpaupack Area School District was held approximately 10 years ago, and involved a school bus and the Stourbridge Line train at a crossing near Hawley. Saturday’s exercise was one of several kinds performed; last fall they had an active shooter drill, and they also have weather and fire drills, Superintendent Michael Silsby added.