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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Emergency plan pays dividends

A community never knows when disaster will test its emergency preparedness.

Monday morning was cold, but the weather was ideal for mid November. A school bus was on a routine trip, taking students from Huntsville's Lee High School to the Huntsville Center for Technology when it careened off Interstate 565 and dropped nose first for 30 feet.

The wreck killed four students and injured dozens more.

To say the incident was a tragedy is not enough. To find out why it happened and how to prevent death and injury in bus accidents needs open discussion after families, friends and neighbors work through their grief.

School officials apparently don't like seat belts in school buses for a variety of reasons. But their reasons don't outweigh students' rights to have a choice of buckling up or not buckling up.

Children become familiar with seat restraints beginning with their trip home from the delivery room. They grow up knowing to buckle up.

Preschoolers know how to buckle themselves in. They know how to release the buckle and free themselves if necessary. Schools don't need another layer of bureaucracy to oversee this chore.

Even if some students didn't use restraints, having them in buses would give other students the opportunity to do so.

In the meanwhile, Huntsville emergency units responded professionally to the accident and got quick treatment for those who were injured.

The incident shows the value of having a good emergency plan and knowing how to make it work.

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