HOUSTON — More than 1,100 bus drivers and attendants here took part in a back-to-school training program called “Safety Expo” last month.

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) expo included hands-on drills in railroad crossing safety, gang awareness, student management, emergency evacuations, hurricane preparedness, first aid and green driving.

The event was held Aug. 4 to 14 in preparation for the 2014-15 school year. HISD Transportation Services partnered with American Red Cross, Operation Lifesaver, the HISD Police Department Gang Task Force, the Houston Fire Department, and Houston Health and Human Services.

“This year’s training was really exciting in that it puts folks in realistic situations and challenges them,” HISD Transportation General Manager Nathan Graf said. “It was not your typical training.”

One of the more dramatic hands-on activities was evacuating a school bus on fire. In partnership with the Houston Fire Department, thick smoke created by a smoke machine was pumped into school buses, significantly reducing visibility. Drivers and attendants had to locate simulated children on board and then safely evacuate by crawling down the aisle of the bus.

HISD’s Transportation Services also provided a compelling activity on the dangers of heat and the impact to children left inside a bus. Three years ago, HISD Transportation Services installed child reminders located inside and at the back of every bus. A driver must deactivate this alarm before exiting the bus. Otherwise, the horn will continue to sound. At the expo, drivers were reminded to conduct a thorough post-trip inspection prior to deactivating this alarm.

HISD transports more than 33,000 students with about 925 school buses, traveling 80,000 miles daily to and from school.

HISD also conducted a training on school bus emergencies last year. To see photos from that training, click here.