Firefighters from six local towns watched as Beauchine Towing raised a propane truck, flipped on its side for an emergency practice drill. The training session, sponsored by the Franklin Fire Department and assisted by Tow Masters, helped emergency responders learn tow truck capabilities, and gave them the opportunity to work together as a team should a propane truck or school bus ever become involved in a rollover or multi-vehicle crash. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 16, 2011TILTON — Whenever there is a school bus involved, some learning will soon follow, and that was exactly the case when area fire departments and tow companies gathered to play out rescue scenarios with buses, propane trucks and passenger vehicles last weekend.
Kevin LaChapelle, Deputy Fire Chief for the Franklin Fire Department, helped coordinate a multi-agency training drill on Saturday, thanks in part to the contribution of an old bus from First Student School Bus Transportation.
"They gave us an old bus, and we (Franklin Fire Department) decided this was a good way to use it. This training gives us all the opportunity to develop good working relationships between tow companies and local fire departments," LaChapelle said.
Franklin firefighters and tow trucks set up a variety of scenarios throughout the day, including a school bus on its side with a car wedged beneath it. Emergency responders practiced safety measures to remove victims from inside the vehicles, and worked with the tow truck drivers on clearing vehicles and other obstacles in such a crash.
"We also had a t-boned vehicle, a car on its roof with entrapment, a car driven under a bus, and a propane truck on its side," said LaChapelle.
Responders practiced basic stabilization maneuvers and rescue procedures.
"Every community has a need for this type of a drill. We all have propane trucks and school buses on our roads," he said.
Taking part in the learning session were 34 firefighters and emergency medical technicians from Franklin, Tilton-Northfield, Sanbornton, Hill, Canterbury and Salisbury. Tow truck companies who participated in the drill, all part of Towmasters Association, were Beauchine Towing of Franklin, Bailey's of Merrimack and Rusty's Towing of Tilton; among the three companies, they brought along a total of 12 employees to demonstrate their skills and equipment.
Lending the perspective of a bus driver was First Student driver Karen McAllister. With the bus flipped on its side, she was able to see how emergency workers would respond.
"This was actually really informative. I was able to talk with the fire departments to review safety procedures and see what we (bus drivers) can do to protect our students," McAllister said. "I've been taking notes, and I'm bringing this information back to share with the company."
She also learned what a tow truck can do in the event of a bus accident, and what she, as a driver, can do to be of assistance when they arrive on the scene.
Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter was also taking notes. He said he found the capabilities of tow truck drivers to be much more than he ever thought, and was impressed by the "amazing things they can do."
Being new to Sanbornton, Dexter said the drill also gave him an opportunity to see how well Mutual Aid works as he practiced side by side with other local fire departments, which would be called upon to assist a department handling a large accident. With Sanbornton located beside Interstate 93, his company is often called upon for vehicle emergencies on the highway and, while no one wants to see a school bus or propane tank accident, he came away with a lot of new knowledge on how to handle such an occurrence.
"This was most definitely worthwhile. I really thank Franklin for being so great in working with me and for offering this training today," Dexter said.
Tow truck companies supplied the propane truck and passenger vehicles used to set up the crash simulations for the day. Rusty Drew of Rusty's Towing in Tilton said he and the other tow truck companies were glad to help out and work with emergency responders during the drill.
"We all get a lot of our training under the gun, so working with fire departments today is a great way for them to understand what we can do to help them save lives," said Drew. "We're able to show them our capabilities and learn to work together as a team."
LaChapelle said scenes laid out for the drill were "low frequency, high risk" events, but preparation and pre-planning for such an accident is what helps save lives and protect the public.
"We're really grateful for Tow Masters, who made this possible and for all the drivers who came out here with their trucks and donated their time and expertise to make this drill a success," he said.