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Getting out safely

Feelhaver students, staff practice bus evacuation drill

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Feelhaver Elementary School third-grader McCoy Cooley becomes a blur of red Dodgers jacket as he practices his bus evacuation under the careful watch of Fort Dodge Community School District bus driver Roger Baedke Thursday morning. Each school in the district will have a day where the students will get to learn about bus safety.

It’s one of the ultimate nightmares.

A school bus involved in an accident, lying on its side, on fire.

While the odds of that are slim, the Fort Dodge Community School District takes a proactive approach and each year, makes sure every student at every school has been through a bus evacuation drill.

Thursday was the students and staff at Feelhaver Elementary School’s turn.

Bus drivers Bob Hart and Roger Baedke became teachers for a couple of hours.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Fort Dodge Community School District bus driver Roger Baedke talks to a group of Feelhaver Elementary School third-grade students about bus safety Thursday morning. Each school in the district will have a day where the students will get to learn about bus safety.

“I hope they understand how to get out the bus safely,” Hart said. “Also, what to do once they get off the bus.”

The buses have an emergency exit in the rear, one in the roof and the windows can be popped out if the students can’t get out the front door.

“We want to keep them safe,” Baedke said. “It can take about four minutes to get them out. Most classes, we get them off in less than a minute.”

Neither driver — knock on the bus door — has ever had to evacuate a bus for real. They’re both confident that their regular and guest riders, will know what to do though.

Once each driver had a class seated, they carefully went over the instructions for evacuating, where to gather after they were out and when, getting off the bus is the best course of action.

Baedke challenged a group of third-graders.

“We had a second-grade class get off in 41 seconds,” he said. “Think you guys can beat that?”

The group gave it a pretty good effort, each student in turn set down on the floor of the bus, then carefully jumped down onto the ground before running off to a spot on the lawn with their classmates.

A few, had not quite listened to all the instructions, opting to squat, then jump.

“Go back through,” Baedke said. “Give it another try.”

Third-grade teacher Mike Stanley was watching his students run through their drill.

“They did pretty well,” he said proudly. “It’s pretty important we do this. We all ride the bus, whether it’s to school or on field trips.”