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November 02, 2012  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

Evacuating passengers with special needs and equipment

Pupil transportation officials must have access to medical information on the students they are transporting, especially when the students are dependent on medical equipment and others for their care. They must also have a well-developed evacuation plan for all students that they transport.

by Jean M. Zimmerman

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Students who require suctioning
There are three levels of suctioning for a tracheostomy tube. One is surface suctioning or shallow suctioning, which is suctioning at the opening of the tube. This is suctioning of what the student has coughed up.  
The other type of suctioning is pre-measured suctioning, which is suctioning the length of the tube. Deep suctioning is when a catheter is inserted until resistance is felt.

Suctioning is a medical technique that must be discussed at the student’s IEP meeting. The plan must also include who, according to the state’s nursing practice regulations, can perform what type of suctioning is prescribed.

While on the bus, suctioning is usually performed by a suctioning machine that is attached to the wheelchair. However, should an evacuation be necessary, it is extremely difficult to remove the suction machine. Therefore, every bus should be equipped with a manual bulb syringe to remove any mucus.

School systems must also have an emergency medical plan in place regarding who can replace a tracheostomy tube.

Students who need a ventilator
Many students who must use a tracheostomy to breathe also need a ventilator, which is a mechanical device that helps the student to breathe by pushing air into the lungs. Ventilators vary in size, and it may not be possible to remove the ventilator from the bus quickly, so every bus that transports a student who uses a ventilator should also carry an Ambubag.  

The Ambubag is also known as a big-valve mask, a hand-held device used to provide ventilation to a student who is not breathing or is breathing inadequately. During an evacuation, the staff will need to drag the student, and then the nurse or bus staff will need to breathe for the student via the Ambubag. Repeat this procedure until the student is safely out of the bus and additional medical help has arrived.

Students who use oxygen and a pulse oximeter
Some students may need supplemental oxygen during their bus ride. These students may wear a pulse oximeter, which is a probe attached to the child’s finger or toes. The probe measures the amount of oxygen saturation in the blood, and an alarm can be set to sound if the oxygen falls below a certain saturation level. The needs of a student who is oxygen-dependent are complex and must be discussed at the IEP meeting.

Oxygen is provided by prescription. Some school systems are now transporting oxygen in a closed container called an “O2 Bus Buddy.”

As part of the planning process, the IEP team should discuss:
• The student’s ability to request oxygen or assistance as needed.
• How much assistance does the student need to get on and off the bus?
• How long will he or she be able to breathe on their own if the oxygen runs out?
• Daily plans to check the equipment.

Nursing services
As previously mentioned, the need for an individual nurse for a student must be discussed at the IEP meeting, and this nurse must be part of the evacuation planning team. There also needs to be plans for a backup if the nurse is out sick or if the nurse is injured in the accident and cannot help. The nurse should help with other passengers once his or her student is well taken care of.

The Do Not Resuscitate order
Because of the progressive degree of some disabilities and medical conditions, some students may have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in place. In the case of an evacuation, the transportation staff must follow the school system’s policy regarding the DNR order, and they must inform paramedics of the DNR order.

An important point for transportation staff: A DNR order does not mean that you do not evacuate the student. All students must be evacuated.

Pupil transportation officials must have access to medical information on the students they are transporting. This information is especially important when the students are dependent on medical equipment and others for their care.

We must also have a well-developed evacuation plan for all students that we transport.

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Read more about: emergency planning, IEP

This is great article a subject never talked about and is so needed! I have a special needs daughter that is in a wheelchair and when she is on the bus the wheelchair she has, has a ton of straps that would have to be dealt with in case of an emergency, plus there is another child in a wheelchair that has quite a few straps himself, there is no aid on the bus just the bus driver. The bus driver asked me earlier this year of what to do in case there was some sort of emergency on her bus, how was she suppose to get all the students off plus cut straps off of both wheelchairs and get them to safety too. Do you have any suggestions on that? Thank you!

Angie    |    Jan 04, 2013 06:21 AM

I am a SBDI in New Mexico, a school bus driver and a EMT First Responder. I found this to be very informative and well written and I'm forwarding this to our special needs director in our school district. Thanks for a great article.

Harvey Bates    |    Nov 09, 2012 06:26 AM

Nice article, thank you!

Nikki Hughes    |    Nov 05, 2012 08:17 AM

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