Emergencies happen; sadly, all too often, which is why it's important to be prepared. If you're a Transportation Director or an Assistant Superintendent, you need to ask yourself, "Are our bus drivers prepared for an emergency?"
In the event of a bus emergency, drivers can help fire and medical personnel and enhance the safety of their passengers during accidents or other serious incidents by the following:
Being certified in CPR and first aid
Bus drivers usually have regular contact with the passengers on their buses. Thus, drivers becoming familiar with their students' medical histories and/or recent illnesses or conditions can be useful information, particularly if a student becomes sick on board (or in the event of an emergency). It's equally important for drivers to be trained in first aid and CPR since they have initial contact with their passengers. Basic first aid and CPR training can be obtained through numerous organizations, including the American Red Cross or your local fire department. During this training, drivers learn how to handle medical and trauma emergencies, including bleeding control, shock, respiratory and cardiac arrest, seizures, diabetes-related problems, hypo- and hyperthermia, and spinal precautions. Obviously, a driver never hopes to use these, but it's important that they have the knowledge in case it's necessary.
Knowing when a bus evacuation is necessary
School districts usually have procedures for their drivers to follow in different emergencies, including evacuating the school bus. Several instances merit a bus evacuation:
- Fire. If a fire starts on the bus, statistics show that smoke, hazardous gases and fire will spread throughout the bus in two minutes. Therefore, an evacuation is essential.
- Fuel spill. If, following an accident, fuel is leaking from the school bus or another vehicle involved in the crash, a spark could ignite a fire. Evacuation is necessary.
- Downed power lines. If power lines are draped across the bus and there is no fire hazard, it will be safest to remain on the bus until electricity has been shut off. However, if a fire ignites, the bus must be evacuated. Jumping out of the bus from the exit farthest from the point of contact with the power lines may be necessary.
Bus drivers should use their best judgement in the event of a bus emergency on a busy section of roadway or on a dangerous curve in the road, as it may be safest to evacuate.
Establishing a system for identifying students on the bus
Accounting for students will help first responders in the event of an emergency.
For drivers who have taken the time to learn the names of the students they transport, identifying them becomes second nature, and as long as the driver is capable, he or she can identify students for first responders. If students are not known - for whatever reason - backpacks can be checked so that student IDs can be found.
It is strongly recommended that each school bus have a list of potential passengers on the bus that is easily accessible to emergency responders.
Bus drivers who know CPR, are familiar with bus evacuation procedures, and have established a system for identifying students on a bus can greatly help fire and medical professionals in the event of an emergency and - more importantly - prevent serious injury or death.