Local first responders train for potential crisis situation

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "I just witnessed a freight train, or freighter, hit a school bus".

It is a doomsday scenario that many hope never happens, but one that first responders need to be prepared for.

Wednesday morning, several local agencies gathered to test their skills on a drill designed by the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine.

"Every year as part of our community service we try to do a drill that will help our local police and fire departments and EMS people, to develop their skills. We pick something that they choose that they would like to work on that year," said WARM Director Kimberly Lansing.

Local first responders participate in the drill annually.

This year, the challenge was to do rescues in a tight area.

"We're very fortunate that these incidents aren't happening. This is a very realistic scenario that could happen here in our community with all the railroad crossings, with all of the school buses and all that. So ultimately when you look at it, we practice and hope we never need it," said La Crosse Police Department Sgt. Tom Walsh.

Students in the Health Science Academy from schools across the area played the role of the victims in the crash.

While no students were actually hurt during the drill, first responders say it was their presence that made everything feel more real.

"Being able to see our own students involved in this, it gives you a little more ownership to the actual drill itself," said La Crosse School District Safety Coordinator Scott Johnson.

And they were able to help give suggestions on how to improve future responses from a unique perspective.

"They looked at us and said 'You're transporting us back in a bus back to the reunification site right?' 'Yeah that was the plan.' Well how many of them would want to get back onto a bus just after they just had a bus accident," said Johnson.

In past years, WARM has simulated a chemistry lab explosion, hostage situations and more.