CINCINNATI — Prompted by recent security-related events, First Student Inc. installed an alarm system in its fleet of 22,000-plus buses.
In late May, a loaded .22-caliber revolver was found on a First Student bus in Columbia, Mo. This incident, coupled with the hijacking of a bus contracted by First Student last year, led the company to strengthen its on-bus security.
"In the aftermath of the hijacking, we did a complete examination of how we could improve security and safety across the board at First Student," said Gary Catapano, vice president of safety for First Student.
The company wanted a system that had intrusion alarm security features but was also equipped with an advanced child-check system. To accomplish this, it purchased an alarm from Child Check-Mate Systems.
"We've equipped the system with high-tech security equipment," Catapano said. "A Doppler radar infrared detector that has special circuitry in it to do sampling verifies if there is someone on a bus that doesn't belong there when the bus is not in use." When this detector is activated, the interior bus lights turn on and an alarm sounds.
Once a driver enters the bus and disables the intrusion alarm, the device becomes a child-check alarm, reminding the driver to make sure that all students are off the bus before he or she exits. Its technology also notifies management if a driver has left a bus without checking for passengers.
While the alarm system will enhance the safety on board First Student's buses, Catapano emphasized that the security training programs the company has developed for its drivers have enhanced safety as well. Moreover, he said that First Student has its own security group that works closely with the company's safety team to investigate security concerns and establish preventive measures.
"The intrusion alarm alone does not buy you security," he said. "It's only when you have security training, develop emergency procedures and have a security team available to work with that you have a solid foundation to build upon in terms of creating a safe and secure environment for students and employees."
The system installations were scheduled to be completed at the end of July. Drivers have been receiving training on how to operate the system during First Student's safety meetings, which began in mid-July and will run until the end of August, prior to the start of the school year.