You’ll probably never need to use the emergency exits in your school bus, whether it’s a door, window or roof hatch. But in certain crises, such as a bus submerged in water or engulfed in flames, these portals can be lifesavers.
School bus emergency exits must be in full working order at all times in case they are needed in an evacuation. Here is some advice from the pros on how to maintain the systems.
Keep things moving
The first factor in taking care of emergency exit systems is general maintenance. Any part on the bus that is meant to move should do so effortlessly. Hinges and other moving parts should be lubricated and checked for freedom of movement. Switches must be clean. Latches should be checked for tightness and mounting.
“Hinge lubrication, switch cleaning and general housekeeping are the basics,” says Thomas Spellman, a shop supervisor at Lake Washington School District in Redmond, Wash. Check emergency doors to be sure that they open smoothly. Spellman says that cleaning buildup from seals helps.
Mark Hillman, garage manager at Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District in Norwalk, Calif., also recommends checking the seals around the doors. “[A problem] we have had is the doors sticking shut and being hard to open from the outside,” he says. “This usually happens in hot weather when the rubber seal sticks to the door.” Hillman recommends rubbing talc on the seal.
Lifting fold-up seats by the side emergency exit can help to ensure they’ll fold up easily and quickly during an emergency. If a fold-up seat does have problems, it should be relatively simple to repair.
Robert Monberg, fleet maintenance supervisor for Gilbert (Ariz.) Public Schools, says, “We have had seats by the side emergency doors that would get stuck in the down position and would not rise. It was fixed by a recall.” Monberg says that a new cylinder usually fixes seats that don’t fold up by themselves.
Use cleaners carefully
Amy Williams of Specialty Mfg. in Pineville, N.C., says that while Specialty’s roof hatches are maintenance friendly, they “may need an occasional wipe with a cleaner.”
But be careful of the chemicals in the cleaners, warns James Giovanni, director of sales and marketing for Transpec Worldwide in Sterling Heights, Mich. “Chemical cleaners that contain a solvent can deteriorate plastic parts,” he says.
Both companies’ roof hatches are low profile. Transpec’s hatches protrude over the roof from 0.62 to 1.5 inches. Specialty’s hatches protrude 0.75 inch above the roof. They both also offer roof hatches with vents — Transpec’s Safety Vent and Specialty’s Static Vent ProLo — and their roof hatches are nearly maintenance free.