During emergencies, particularly those involving a school bus, fire and EMS (emergency medical services) personnel will come from all directions, and they are expected to bring calm to chaos.
School bus drivers can help by preparing for the "never happen to me" emergencies, having good situational awareness and remaining calm.
They can also assist first responders by attending first aid/CPR training sessions, knowing when to evacuate their buses and keeping a record of the passengers who are riding their buses.
With this knowledge and information, drivers' observations, decisions and actions can have a substantial impact, preventing serious injuries or even death both before and after fire and medical professionals arrive.
Training in CPR and first aid can save lives
Bus drivers usually have regular contact with the passengers on their school buses; many drivers talk with their students on a daily basis.
Oftentimes, this level of communication enables drivers to become familiar with their passengers' medical histories and knowledge of a recent injury or illness.
Insight into students' conditions is useful, particularly if a student becomes sick on board or if an emergency occurs, but it is equally important for drivers to be trained in first aid and CPR since they have initial contact with their passengers in an incident. We hope to never have to utilize the skills and procedures we learn, but they might prove to be lifesaving.
Basic first aid and CPR training can be obtained through numerous organizations, such as the American Red Cross or your local fire department.
During sessions, trainees 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.
Knowing when to evacuate a school bus
If an accident or other emergency occurs on a busy roadway or a dangerous curve, it may be safest to evacuate the passengers from the bus.
Many school districts have procedures for their drivers to follow in different emergencies, and the procedures may involve evacuating the school bus.
What scenarios merit a bus evacuation? I believe there are several types of instances when an evacuation should take place:
- Fire. If a fire starts on the bus, statistics show that smoke, hazardous gases and fire will spread throughout the bus within 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, all it will take is a spark to ignite a fire. You must evacuate the bus.
- Downed power lines. If power lines are draped across the bus and there is no fire hazard, it will be safest on the bus until emergency responders and the power company shut the electricity off.
If a fire has ignited, you must evacuate, but in doing so, the driver and students cannot make contact with the energized bus and the ground at the same time or they will risk being electrocuted.
Jumping out of the bus from the exit that is farthest from the point of contact with the power lines may be necessary.
- Roadway positioning. If a bus emergency occurs on a busy section of roadway or on a dangerous curve in the road, it may be safest to evacuate the passengers. School bus drivers know their routes best, and it will be a judgment call.
- Passenger injury. If none of the immediate threats to life outlined above are present following a school bus emergency that has left passengers injured, drivers should not try to evacuate them until emergency responders arrive — they could risk further injuring the students. Drivers should care for the injured parties to the best of their abilities using the knowledge they have gained from first aid training.