HANNIBAL | Two old school buses donated by the Hannibal Public School District served an important new purpose after reaching the end of service — members of area emergency agencies performed joint rescue exercises on the vehicles Saturday near Hannibal Inn.
Mark Kempker, training officer and public education coordinator with the Hannibal Fire Department, said the exercise was made possible after the School District approached fire officials about donating the buses and Jason Krigbaum, owner of Heartland Auto Body and Towing, provided trucks and support for the exercise. Hannibal Fire Department personnel were joined by representatives from Hannibal Rural Fire Department, Marion County Ambulance District, Bowling Green Fire Department, Palmyra Fire Department and Licking Fire Department as they engaged in a two-day course led by Ron Walters, adjunct professor with the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute.
After a four-hour classroom session about the construction of school buses and an eight-hour hands-on training period, each person received certification from the MU FRTI.
Walters led the first session with information about how school buses are built — he emphasized the strong structures of the vehicles, the thicker metal used in their construction and the safety features inside them. School buses pose specific challenges for emergency crews that are different from other vehicles on the road — Walters provided guidance to teams working on each bus. Crews removed the windshield from one bus, as members of a second team gained entry near the driver's window of the second bus.
“This is the safest vehicle as far as human transportation on the road today,” Walters said. “You put your child in this bus — provided there's no mechanical issues or human error, whether it be the bus driver or John Q. Public out there — they're not going to get hurt.”
Walters said everyone at the training learned the ways to gain access to a vehicle that is akin to a house built out of concrete instead of wood. He has led the classes across the Show-Me State for the past 10 years, combining 35 years of experience as a school bus mechanic and service as a volunteer firefighter in Lincoln County.
Kempker said the class was funded by the Missouri Division of Fire Safety, and he commended members of fellow emergency departments, the Hannibal School District and Krigbaum for supporting the event. He said teams used a Sawzall, the Jaws of Life and other equipment to practice rescue procedures and remove windshields, seats and cut into sections of the bus to practice life saving techniques in the event of an accident. Later, each bus was flipped on its side for further training.
“It's just a great opportunity to see a lot of agencies working together,” Kempker said. “Because when one of these large-scale events happen, we will be working together as a coordinated team. So by practicing as a coordinated team right now, this gives us the skills necessary to provide life safety measures in that time of need.”