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Farmington students participate in annual school bus evacuation drills this week

Akin Road Elementary held school bus evacuation drills Monday morning.

Certain things happen at the beginning of every school year. Kids get new school supplies, they get new school clothes, they go back to school. And then, a week later, they learn how to jump out of the back of a school bus.

School bus evacuation drills are being held this week at all of Farmington's schools. It's not the first time for these drills, and it certainly will not be the last. But all the same, the drills are important. So important, they're actually done twice a year.

School bus evacuation drills are required by the state of Minnesota, according to Marschall Bus Lines manager Tom Severson. School bus safety was first included in schools during the 1970s, he said, but in 1977 the requirements became more defined. Since that time, generations of students have participated.

"We try to let students know what their responsibilities are on a school bus," Severson said, "and we try to let them know what it's like to have to go out the back doors so if there was a real need for evacuation, they would have some knowledge about what to do and they would be comfortable with the procedures.

The drills are conducted by bus drivers. The drivers go over the rules of the bus. They show students the two-way radios, the fire extinguishers and so on. Two older students are chosen to be responsible to help other students get out of the back of the bus.

In an emergency situation, the driver would be the last person off of a bus, providing he or she was not injured, Severson said. Students are also instructed on what Severson called a "buddy system," which would pair up older students who would, if needed in an emergency, be responsible to go for help.

Every student in every District 192 school building participates in the drills, even if they walk to school, get rides from parents or drive their own vehicles. The thought is that they still may encounter an emergency during a school-sponsored field trip, Severson said.

"We make sure we get everybody, and we do it twice a year. The state of Minnesota requires once in the fall and once in the spring, so we do it again in April, as a reminder to the students," Severson said.

But students aren't the only ones who have to go through drills and training every year. Marschall Lines bus drivers complete 10 to 12 hours of additional training annually.

"We have a good solid core of drivers who have been with us for many years. Evacuation drills become part of the routine, but we don't take anything for granted. That's why we do a lot of training on a statewide basis, so we avoid some of the complacencies and the things that can be pitfalls for drivers," Severson said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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