DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It would be a nightmare.
A school bus full of high school students returning home from a field trip collides with a loaded pulp truck at the intersection of Milo Road and Landfill Road in Dover-Foxcroft.
The school bus driver, seven months pregnant, is dead at the scene; five students are unconscious with head injuries; many of the 27 other students have an assortment of injuries; and the truck driver is in serious condition.
The accident scatters tree-length logs throughout the intersection, blocking much of the road, and smoke starts to roll from one of the vehicles.
Although the scenario was merely a “tabletop exercise” conducted Wednesday by the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency, the possibility of such an accident exists because the Milo Road is heavily used by pulp truck drivers.
Just how well community officials would respond if such an accident occurred was evidenced at the three-hour exercise, which was a prelude to a full-scale “disaster” next month. The details of the full-scale exercise are not being released until the day of the event.
About 40 representatives from Mayo Regional Hospital, Foxcroft Academy, Pleasant River Lumber Co., the Dover-Foxcroft Police and Fire Departments, Rowell’s Garage, which provides the bus transportation, and the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department demonstrated Wednesday just what kind of reaction there would be regarding command, control and coordination, life safety, communications, and the activation of emergency plans. In the process, they learned what cracks existed in the response system and how to fill them.
Piscataquis County’s EMA director, Tom Iverson Jr., was pleased with the exercise.
“All the organizations were communicating with each other, which is preparing us for the full-scale exercise to be held in April,” he said. He added that each department now has a better understanding of what the other departments must deal with in an emergency.
“This is unprecedented as far as the amount of cooperation among agencies,” Michael Grant of the Maine Emergency Management Agency said of the gathering. “It’s great to see how well organized they are.”
Grant said that for years, rural areas didn’t buy into the need for emergency preparation. Having assisted Iverson with training and funds for the project, Grant said he’s happy to see it come together.
Brian Mullis, Mayo Regional Hospital’s director of emergency medical services, said the Dover-Foxcroft area has always been known to pitch in and help where necessary.
“I think we do better in this area with the teamwork between the agencies than anywhere in the country,” he said. “This is an area where we excel. Our lives cross in so many areas that working together is automatic.”