Fair Oaks Middle School students Thursday practiced escaping from a bus in an emergency situation.
"All the students at Fair Oaks school are going to go through a bus evacuation," Roxanne Pogge, Fair Oaks teacher, said. "It's required each year that they learn how to exit a bus safely in case there would ever be an emergency and they would need to use it."
In three different shifts, each of the school's teams brought down their kids. Three buses were brought to the school, and the students were instructed by their drivers.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Exiting students become a blur as Fair Oaks Middle School sixth-graders Drake Miller, center, and Colling Hinrichs, right, help them exit during a bus evacuation drill Thursday morning.
"The drivers will tell them what they're expected to do in case of an emergency and how to behave," Pogge said. "Then each of the kids will have a chance to exit through the back door a couple of times and make sure that they know how to do that safely, since that would be the most likely exit route that they'd want to take."
Teresa Brandel, a bus driver with the Fort Dodge Community School District of nine years, instructed the students on proper evacuation conduct and procedure. Specifically, how to exit the bus in an emergency.
"We have to talk them through a few safety issues and stuff like that first. Being quiet, walking, not running," she said. "They'll be taught about the exits that are on the bus. They will actually participate in a drill where they will evacuate through one of the emergency exits and go to a safe location."
While the fifth- and sixth-grade students did get the chance to leap out of a stationary bus, it wasn't a fun and games day.
"We try to make it as fun as possible, but fire drills aren't the greatest thing, or evacuation," Brandel said. "They have to be serious about it because if it would actually happen they need to know what to do."
The middle school students respond to the drill "matter-of-factly," Pogge said.
"It's probably about 20 minutes out of their life they go through this," she said. "They've done it since they were in kindergarten, so they've learned to expect this is something that they have to go through, get it done and go back to class."
The bus evacuation drill, held yearly, is not much fun for staff either.
"I personally am not fond of jumping from high places," Pogge said. "I wouldn't describe it as fun; it's just purposeful."
The importance of being able to safely evacuate a bus is emphasized to the students regularly.
"We read them the news all the time of instances around the country where kids have had to evacuate the bus, the driver's been impaired and there's not an adult there to give them directive," Pogge said. "The kids were able to take care of themselves safely, because of the training they had experienced in their district."
Recently, according to Pogge, a bus of swimmers, heading to a competition, was rear-ended and the students had to spend time off the bus.
"While we like to imagine it never happens, and predominantly our buses are safe pieces of equipment and we've got great drivers who make sure our kids get where they're supposed to be, things do happen," she said.
Pogge said the district's bus drivers should be praised.
"They do such a good job of transporting so many kids over so many miles, whether it's to and from school, to sporting events, field trips. In my history in the district, it's been pretty uneventful, which is what we would like it to be," she said. "It's because our drivers are well-trained, compassionate and take good care of the kids."
She added, "They deserve a pat on the back."