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March 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Hardening the target

by Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher


Some people don’t like change. It might not scare them, but it takes them out of their comfort zone. They always order the same dish at their favorite restaurant, and they never change the programmed buttons on their car radio.

But change is forced upon all of us, whether we like it or not. When I look at our industry these days, I see how useless it is to fight against change. Rather, we must learn to adapt and embrace new challenges.

One of these challenges is the need to upgrade the security of our school bus transportation system. As Editor Steve Hirano points out in his article on security training, "Industry Puts Greater Emphasis on Security Training," much has been done to bolster the readiness of drivers and other staff members.

As an industry, we are taking the necessary steps to identify and respond to suspicious people, packages and behavior. This is second nature to most bus drivers, who are quick to notice a stranger loitering at a bus stop.

Providing your employees with the School Bus Watch and School Transportation Security Awareness training mentioned in Steve’s article can only help to reinforce these security principles, but I think we still need to do more.

Buses left unprotected?
Too many of the nation’s 475,000-plus school buses are left unprotected during off hours. Some are left overnight in unsecured parking lots, while others are parked in front of drivers’ home. Still others are parked behind cyclone fences that are easily scaled or defeated in other ways.

Each year we hear about students who have taken buses for joy rides in the middle of the night or have slashed their tires. We also hear about thieves who have stolen radios from an entire fleet. Getting access to these buses is just not that difficult.

I understand that it isn’t always possible to construct impassable perimeter fences or walls around parking lots.

Imagine, however, if terrorists were able to gain access to a parking lot filled with school buses. What would stop them from planting bombs on the undercarriage of these buses? Even the most conscientious driver might overlook a well-concealed bomb during the pre-trip inspection. The terrorists, theoretically, could set each bomb to detonate when the buses arrived at school in the morning. The consequences would be catastrophic.

Take any steps you can
I’m not saying that this type of bombing risk is high. What I’m saying is that opportunistic criminals would not be hard-pressed to find exposed school buses. We need to make it as difficult as possible for anyone — whether they’re international terrorists bent on making a political statement with horrific violence or local teenagers with too much time on their hands — to tamper with our school buses.

If your buses are not secure at night, you should be exploring ways to change that situation. Lights, fences, walls, alarm systems, security guards — we need to consider every possible avenue of safeguarding the vehicles that deliver our children to and from school.


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