The likelihood of a fatal or serious injury accident involving a school bus is relatively small, but school systems need to be prepared for any eventuality. At Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, we respond to these emergencies with what we call a critical incident team. The purpose of the team is to address the needs of the students and other passengers on the bus and to ensure proper incident investigation. This team should also protect the interests of the school system and minimize civil liability. This team comprises individuals who are specially prepared to handle critical incidents likely to result in media attention, civil liability or criminal charges. A working partnership among intergovernmental agencies — such as police departments, fire departments, insurance agencies and legal offices — is essential.
Team has 2 functions
In the event of a critical incident, the team handles administrative duties as well as accident investigation. Let’s first discuss these administrative assignments. Because an accident scene can quickly become an area of hysteria and confusion, a written policy assigning basic tasks is a necessity. Here are several basic questions that need to be answered through administrative policy.
Compliance is critical
In a recent meeting concerning a special-needs student, the principal was asked if she had a list of the special-education students and their assigned buses. Her response was that she had them for all the regular-education students, but not for the special-needs students. In this case, a policy mandate was not followed. This would have compounded confusion had there been a serious incident. Written policies and procedures can and will assist you in the event of a critical incident. Administrative and school offices need to understand the importance of transportation policies and be willing to share the responsibilities. Here are some areas of planning that require mutual agreement:
Crash probe basics
Investigation of a collision is an extremely technical process. A working partnership with public safety personnel is invaluable. Establishing a mutual protocol with emergency services at the incident scene is essential and can be done properly only through planning. Also, remember that school personnel should never hinder the critical work being done by police and fire departments. A trained collision investigator is an asset to any transportation system. There are generally three levels of collision investigation:
A quick summary
If you are interested in forming a critical incident team, here is what you need to do:
Author Eileen Danahy is a transportation specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Md.