‘Disaster’ strikes Island Transit

Friday morning, smoke started billowing out of a building and bus on the Island Transit campus.

Fortunately, it was only a drill to see how well Island Transit staff communicated with local law enforcement and rescue officials in the event of a disaster.

The drill was comprised of two incidents — the first was an explosion in the rear of a bus parked next to the building and the second was an explosion in a conference room inside the building. To add a touch of realism, theatrical smoke was pumped into both the bus and the conference room. Three people, complete with makeup to show injuries, were in the conference room and one person was in the bus when the simulated explosions occurred.

The remaining employees were evacuated to a nearby gazebo while firefighters responded to assess the situation and pull the victims from the building and the bus.

The disaster drill provided a chance to see how Island Transit’s disaster plan worked. It also gave employees an idea of what to do in the event of a disaster.

“We want everyone to know that we’re always in training,” said Phyllis Brett, safety and service development manager with Island Transit.

Local firefighters appreciated a chance for the training opportunity.

“I thought it was a good drill,” said Joe Biller, chief of Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue. He added that, even though planning for the drill began before Hurricane Katrina, the disaster shows the importance of such training.

He said that it’s good to ensure that public services such as Island Transit are on the same page as firefighters. That way, employee evacuation won’t interfere with firefighter operations.

Biller said the drill give firefighters a chance to see the layout inside a building.

Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue participates in about three such drills throughout the year.

Friday’s exercise was the first time firefighters trained at the Island Transit building. Previous training with transit dealt with simulated accidents involving buses crammed full of passengers.

Biller said firefighters also work with the school district so they can familiarize themselves with school buses and the layout of schools. They also like to see how schools evacuate during a fire drill. That way they are prepared should an incident happens in a bus or at a school.

“Practice makes perfect,” Biller said.

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