Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Emergency Evacuation

It was a typical Thursday evening. I had just gotten home from my after-school program run and was just putting my feet up and getting ready to eat dinner (thank you microwave dinners deluxe)when a phone call interrupted my, one time a week, quiet evening at home.

"Ms. Bus Driver, its an emergency, can you help?"

Amazing how one phone call can cause so much havoc in one evening. Not really knowing what I was about to get myself into, I immediately said, "Yes, what do you need me to do?"

"Go to Transit, get a bus with a lift, and go out to Nearby Town, and help evacuate the nursing home. There is a fire. Make sure you call Mr. Bossman when you get to Transit."

By the word "fire", the adrenaline was pumping, and I had already put my shoes on and was on the way down the stairs. The call came in at 6:51 pm. I was at Transit and on a bus by 6:54 pm. I was entering Nearby Town following the ambulances with lights and sirens by 7:07 pm. By 7:09, I was at the nursing home.

The smoke was thick. It felt like a hot August night and the road was blocked off. The fire reached within 30 feet of the nursing home. We were against a wall of smoke racing against time to get the residents to safety. It was chaos. Organized chaos, but chaos. Police were redirecting traffic, roads were closed, trains were stopped. The fire had jumped the 4 lane highway in several places. The county had come to a standstill. Reports flew in, 1000 acres burned, then 2000, then 5000, then 7000+. Damage is unknown. Speculation begins: Was it a careless brush fire, Was it someone burning trash, Was it a controlled burn out of control?

WHOP WHOP WHOP WHOP WHOP The helicopter soars overhead dropping water on hot spots where the trucks can't reach. Homes are in danger, some already burning. People are being evacuated to nearby churches, schools, towns. Fire departments from all over are battling the blaze. Emotions are running high and the intensity is heart pounding.

School buses, Transit buses, and Ambulances are piled into the parking lot at the nursing home. I load up two people in wheelchairs, secure them and go to make my way over to the safety shelter. I return again in the hopes of helping to transport supplies, or other needed items or other people who needed transport. I think it takes about 40-50 minutes to evacuate everyone. Ambulances are making several return trips for bed bound residents. Over at the evacuation shelter, people are swarming, nurses are working to make sure everyone is safe and the smell of smoke hangs in the air. The nursing home becomes a ghost town.

Did I just help evacuate a nursing home?


The Bus Driver