Accident (fake) sends students scrambling from buses


Something bad had happened up front in the school buses as they rolled up to the elementary, middle and high schools recently.

The collision or fire — or whatever the calamity was — meant that students had to get off the bus fast, and they had to get out through the back, a route none of them were accustomed to.

It sounded bad but the news that emerged was all good. First, it was all a drill says Michelle Rapoza, student services coordinator, so nobody was hurt. And second, the buses were evacuated quickly and efficiently, she said. It's reason for optimism should the next emergency be real.

State law proclaims that each year, all "pupils shall participate at least twice in on-bus emergency evacuation drills." For Westport, that happened during  during National School Bus Safety Week (October 22-26).

When the buses pulled to a sudden stop, the driver told the students what to do next. Since the front of the bus had supposedly  been damaged, two older students were asked to assist students off the back of the bus, with the driver exiting last  and moving all students away from the bus as he left.

When the drill was done, students were brought back on the bus to get their belongings.

High school and middle school students as the buses arrived at the two schools.The evacuation went very smoothly, Ms. Rapoza said, with a school delay of only about 10 minutes.

The elementary and Macomber students were evacuated at the elementary school.

"We had approximately four buses evacuating at one time," she said, Amaral bus company had safety officers at all locations to assure that the evacuations were done properly and smoothly.

"The elementary students did a great job existing the bus, with very few tears. This is a very scary experience for the younger students that are just beginning their early years of school and riding the school bus. But with the help of older students it all went very well with about a 15 minute school delay."

This is the first time the drills have been done in about seven years. "We will be completing a second drill with front and rear evacuation in the spring. Also in the spring,there will be classroom instruction on bus safety and emergencies.

Four possible reasons for bus evacuation are fire on the bus, unsafe position for the bus (bus on its side, on unsafe ground etc.), dangerous area (near water, train tracks, etc.), and hazardous spill.

Drivers, who get annual training in such situations, instruct the students to "Think, stay calm, and listen for instructions."


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.