ST. LOUISVILLE - The word "emergency" has new meaning for Lakewood High School freshman Makenzie Killworth. "I had an allergic reaction once, but nothing like this," she said. Killworth participated in a dramatic portrayal of a tragic collision between a train and a school bus, designed to raise awareness of railroad crossing safety. Ohio Operation Lifesaver presented the live docudrama Oct. 16 along a St. Louisville railroad track to more than 300 school bus drivers and guests with help from the Licking County Educational Service Center and School Bus Transportation Supervisors, Ohio Central Railroad, Newton Township Fire Department and mutual aid providers, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Licking County Sheriff's Office, St. Louisville Police Department, Licking County Emergency Management Agency, and the Ohio National Guard.
Lakewood Transportation Director Mike Whittington, who participated in organizing the event, said it definitely affected his drivers. "They had tears in their eyes," he said. "All the drivers thought it was really effective." Whittington said drivers are all trained to "stop, look, and listen" at railroad crossings, but it never hurts to be reminded. Lakewood has very few railroad crossings on its bus routes. In fact, the crossing on SR 79 near O'Neill Drive may be the only one, he said. Other districts have many railroad crossings. "It all paid off," said Whittington of the event.
According to Ohio Operation Lifesaver, the mock train and bus crash has a two-fold purpose. First, it provides safety education and visual reality to school bus drivers who transport our most precious cargo every day. The goal is to ensure that bus drivers never place themselves and their passengers in a position where a collision is possible.
Secondly, emergency responders and law enforcement have a rare opportunity to respond to and handle a complex and challenging incident. Equally important, emergency responders and law enforcement receive practical experience dealing with an unusual incident requiring extra vigilance to maintain personal safety.