BEDFORD, Ohio — A new system for school bus evacuation drills has led to safer and more focused training for students and staff, according to officials at Bedford City School District.
Supervisor of Transportation Patrick Carney told SBF that in the district's previous system for evacuation drills, a supervisor and mechanics would meet at schools as students were arriving in the morning. The students would then quickly practice evacuating through the various doors on the bus.
"It was pretty chaotic, and we always had to rush the process so the students could get to class on time and the buses could begin their next routes," Carney said. "If you rush this process, the students do not see it as the important safety lesson it should be. Also, when the drivers are rushing, they are not as focused as they should be."
That latter point became clear one day when a driver stood up to give his students directions and did not set the parking brake. The bus rolled into another bus' back end, where students had been practicing evacuations just minutes earlier. Fortunately, Carney said, no students were injured.
After that incident, Carney developed a new plan for school bus evacuation drills, and then he discussed it with all of the school principals in the district. Here's how the new system works:
• There are four teams, each with four drivers.
• The first step for the teams is to chock the wheels of each bus and check to make sure that all parking brakes are engaged.
• Next, transportation staff calls the school principal on the two-way radio and prompts him or her to send individual classes out to board the buses.
• The drivers then give the students instructions, and the drills begin.
Carney noted that one of the advantages of the new setup is that teachers and other school staff members participate, which he said helps with student attentiveness and behavior.
"Our evacuation drills are now safer and more orderly," Carney said. "I hope other school districts that do their evacuation drills the way we did in the past will realize that an orderly evacuation with wheels chocked is the best way to go."