School bus drivers who can identify the students on their buses and keep a roster of passengers on board will help to reduce confusion when students have to be transported from the scene of the incident.Accounting for students will help first responders
School bus drivers will have a huge impact and greatly assist emergency responders if they can account for the students on their buses following an accident or some other type of emergency.
For drivers who have taken the time to learn the names of the students they transport, identifying them becomes second nature, and as long as the driver is capable, he or she can identify students for first responders.
However, there are a number of situations where this might not be possible. The driver may be unconscious or otherwise disabled; there may be a substitute driver operating the bus; the driver may be transporting students for a field trip and there may be students on board whom he or she does not know, etc.
Most adults carry a driver's license or another form of identification. Students do not always have photo identification with them. Other ways to identify students if a driver is unable to do so may be to check a backpack for a name or ID tags, to ask other students or to check a wallet for identification.
In the event that no name can be established, a detailed physical description of the student should be documented. Specifics should include gender, ethnic origin, approximate age, speech accent, hairstyle and color, approximate height and weight, clothes, shoes and any other distinguishing characteristics. If a driver is unable to document all of these characteristics, he or she should choose the critical and most distinguishing characteristics.
To establish a list of students on a bus, emergency responders will search the driver's area for a roster of students who are assigned to the bus. If a list is found, it will only be a starting point to identify the students on board, as it may not be accurate or complete.
I recommend that each school bus have a list of potential passengers on the bus located in a place that is easily accessible to emergency responders — perhaps by the driver's seat near the front door of the bus.
Some students may need to be transported to hospitals, some may released to parents after being checked by EMS and others may need to be placed on another bus to be transported home or to school. A seating chart with names of the students riding the bus would also reduce some of the confusion in an emergency and help in determining which students, if any, were transported away from the scene of the incident.
During field trips and sporting events, the chaperone or coach should provide the school bus driver with a list of passengers on the bus. (Names can easily be scratched off the list if students were unable to attend the trip or event at the last minute.) The list can then be placed in an accountability packet near the driver's seat. Again, this will help emergency responders account for all passengers, especially if the driver, chaperone or coach becomes incapacitated.
Language may be a barrier in communicating with some students and parents. If you feel that this could be a problem, notify the school district to find an interpreter and arrange in advance for that person to be transported to the location where his or her services will be needed in the event of an incident, whether it's to the accident scene, a medical facility or a briefing area. Oftentimes, law enforcement and fire officials have contacts for bilingual individuals.
Lt. Paul Hasenmeier has been a firefighter for the Huron (Ohio) Fire Division since 2000. He is also a paramedic and a fire inspector. Hasenmeier has an associate's degree in fire science and has gained knowledge through technical rescue disciplines. He has presented at numerous national fire and pupil transportation conferences. Hasenmeier can be reached at [email protected] or www.criticalrescuetraining.com.