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April 09, 2014  |   Comments (6)   |   Post a comment

District's new plan targets better bus evacuation drills

By Thomas McMahon


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Changes to Bedford (Ohio) City School District's bus evacuation drills have made them safer and more orderly, officials say. Here, evacuation teams wait for students to come out to board the buses.

Changes to Bedford (Ohio) City School District's bus evacuation drills have made them safer and more orderly, officials say. Here, evacuation teams wait for students to come out to board the buses.

BEDFORD, Ohio — A new system for school bus evacuation drills has led to safer and more focused training for students and staff, according to officials at Bedford City School District.

Supervisor of Transportation Patrick Carney told SBF that in the district's previous system for evacuation drills, a supervisor and mechanics would meet at schools as students were arriving in the morning. The students would then quickly practice evacuating through the various doors on the bus.

"It was pretty chaotic, and we always had to rush the process so the students could get to class on time and the buses could begin their next routes," Carney said. "If you rush this process, the students do not see it as the important safety lesson it should be. Also, when the drivers are rushing, they are not as focused as they should be."

That latter point became clear one day when a driver stood up to give his students directions and did not set the parking brake. The bus rolled into another bus' back end, where students had been practicing evacuations just minutes earlier. Fortunately, Carney said, no students were injured.

After that incident, Carney developed a new plan for school bus evacuation drills, and then he discussed it with all of the school principals in the district. Here's how the new system works:

As part of the new evacuation drill plan, teams chock the wheels of each bus and check to make sure that all parking brakes are engaged.
<p>As part of the new evacuation drill plan, teams chock the wheels of each bus and check to make sure that all parking brakes are engaged.</p>
• After all morning routes are complete, the transportation department sends buses to schools to conduct evacuation drills during school hours.

• There are four teams, each with four drivers.

• The first step for the teams is to chock the wheels of each bus and check to make sure that all parking brakes are engaged.

• Next, transportation staff calls the school principal on the two-way radio and prompts him or her to send individual classes out to board the buses.

• The drivers then give the students instructions, and the drills begin.

Carney noted that one of the advantages of the new setup is that teachers and other school staff members participate, which he said helps with student attentiveness and behavior.

"Our evacuation drills are now safer and more orderly," Carney said. "I hope other school districts that do their evacuation drills the way we did in the past will realize that an orderly evacuation with wheels chocked is the best way to go."


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We are all aware that in real world scenario that driver's will not chock school bus wheels. The wheel chocks are not left on the school bus at anytime. The purpose of the drill being conducted this way is for safety and to have students attention on the drill, this way they will know where to go and how to get off the bus in a real emergency situation.

Brian    |    Apr 14, 2014 12:41 PM

I understand why you are chocking the wheels but as mentioned by another reader this is not a real world scenario. We do bus evacuation drills two times per school year for all of our 4400 hundred student population. We designate two days in the fall and two days in the spring and we employ all of our full time drivers and some spares and assign them to specific schools. We have the full cooperation of the schools who send a teacher and/or Educational Assistant or both on each bus to assist and to evaluate the driver. We load the buses at the schools and the driver heads to a local church, mall, arena, etc parking lot within a five minute drive or less. This give us plenty of room to perform the evacuation safely. We also encourage our route drivers to perform at least one route bus evacuation per school year. We have had no events and/or close calls to date.

Ken Bergen    |    Apr 14, 2014 11:51 AM

We basically do this same process, only we pick a day that school lunch is usually eatten a little quicker then before they go to play outside each class comes out and goes thru the evaculation drill. We are planning to use our local law enforcement to help with this, hoping it will help keep the students attention.

Trent Kuhl    |    Apr 14, 2014 06:14 AM

You carry chocks on all your buses? How do you secure them? Do you really think they will be used in a true emergency?

paul    |    Apr 11, 2014 07:05 AM

I can see the value in doing it this way but wonder if it takes away from anything when done this way. In the fall during safety week we do our evacuations. Over the course of the week the drivers spend time daily talking about safety and at the end of the week they go through a live drill in a safe location. one of the benefits I see in doing things the way mentioned in the article is that all students including non riders will have to participate which better prepare non riders for activity trips. The only problem I see in doing things this way and I say this based on years of experience training law enforcement officers is that you must train the way you will want to do it in an actual event. So the steps you take in the parking lot will be the steps you take on the railroad tracks. A lot of people get training ingrained into them to the point that they have trouble differentiating between the classroom and real life.

   |    Apr 10, 2014 03:33 PM

Great idea! In the local district I last worked in many years ago, we did something very similar in using teams of drivers and getting all students and faculty involved in the evacuation drills. We would target the PE classes as all students were required to have PE, thus increasing our chances of making sure every student in school would get the training. Never thought about chocking the wheels, but that truly adds a great deal of safety to the entire procedure.

Max Christensen    |    Apr 10, 2014 12:20 PM

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