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April 09, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

The Yellow Bus' Vital Role in Homeland Security

School buses have been used in a variety of operations to protect the public in emergencies, such as hurricanes and floods. Here are details on how pupil transporters are preparing for and responding to times of crisis.

by Roseann Schwaderer


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During the Waco siege in 1993, Charley Kennington, then a local transportation director, was recruited to drive a bus with an ATF agent to the Branch Davidian compound. Unfortunately, before they arrived, cult leader David Koresh reneged on releasing children. Here, the compound is seen on fire days later.
<p>During the Waco siege in 1993, Charley Kennington, then a local transportation director, was recruited to drive a bus with an ATF agent to the Branch Davidian compound. Unfortunately, before they arrived, cult leader David Koresh reneged on releasing children. Here, the compound is seen on fire days later.</p>

Floods and tornadoes
As a result of Hurricane Katrina, Vales notes, “the magnitude of planning is significantly more than in the past — coordinating services, improving and putting more communications systems in place to communicate with other agencies in the area.”

In flooded areas, drivers are instructed that they “should not navigate a road where they cannot see the road,” Vales says. “We don’t want drivers navigating in moving water. … The bus has a large bearing surface and can be swamped by moving water. That may mean turning the bus around and finding an alternate route.”

People in areas where flooding is prevalent are “well aware of what the hazards are … they come out to meet the bus.”
Usually, there is advance warning of flooding; not so with tornadoes. Standard practice when a tornado is sighted is to seek emergency shelter for passengers.

“Do not attempt to outrun a tornado in the school bus; instead, abandon it for a strong building,” drivers are advised.

Then, the unexpected
Amid all of the training that exists, how do you train for the unexpected, and do you have the infrastructure in place to expect the unexpected? Under what conditions should a driver not attempt a rescue?

These are some of the questions raised by George Horne, a transportation consultant who retired as transportation director after 22 years at the Jefferson Parish Public School System in Harvey, La.

Horne tells of a storm during which a driver, seeing high water ahead, got off the bus and carried a student out of harm’s way — but he left students on the bus while doing this.

“What if the bus had floated away?” Horne asks.

He also wonders whether, in 2013, drivers are being adequately trained to pay attention to what’s happening at stops: noticing occupied vehicles parked nearby, other changes in the environment near stops, changes in the demeanor of student passengers, etc. Where does it end? you might ask.

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