Home Latest News Much Ado About School Bus Evacuations at EXPO
Much Ado About School Bus Evacuations at EXPO PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michelle Fisher   
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 14:30

Bus-Drill-web1Three safety experts covered a lot of ground during the STN EXPO workshop “Writing an Effective Bus Evacuation Plan” last month, with many concrete recommendations coming out of the Q&A portion.

Kathleen Furneaux, executive director of the nonprofit Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) in East Syracuse, New York, opened with a presentation on writing evacuation plans for students with disabilities. She shared pointers for transportation supervisors about pre-planning, such as educating yourself on evacuation techniques (carries, drags, Evac-Aides, etc.) and gauging the organizational attitude about bus evacuation training.

Furneaux also discussed the importance of building relationships, seeking inclusion in student IEP meetings, gaining access to student data and carefully reviewing the staff, equipment and student combinations on each bus. When writing the evacuation plan, she recommended:

  • Assess all the information collected
  • Create maximum safety from minimum efforts and time
  • Involve drivers and attendants
  • Write the plan — start somewhere
  • Review and improve

Sue Shutrump, supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for the Trumbull County (Ohio) Educational Service Center, provided practical tips, such as avoiding use of the stairs when carrying students off the bus and never attempting a full lift of a student weighing more than 50 lbs. by yourself. She said the proper stance to take when lifting is best described as the “weightlifter position.”

“We teach them to maintain a wide base of support. Keep the person low. At the exit door, we swing students’ legs out the door first,” continued Shutrump, who is co-chair of the NAPT Special Needs committee.

Charley Kennington, director of Innovative Transportation Solutions in Houston, focused on emergency evacuation plans for preschool students in child safety restraint systems (CSRS).

He stressed that training is number one and should include bus attendants as well as drivers. He recommended keeping expired equipment, such as a car seat or safety vest, for training purposes so school bus staff can practice by actually cutting the harnesses in this equipment during training exercises.

“These kids are dependent on bus staff to do the job. If I don’t train, I am not doing the kids justice, or my drivers,” Kennington added.

The first of several questions from the audience was: “If you don’t have a blanket or Evac-Aide, what do you use?”

Furneaux noted that bus staff could use a jacket or drag the child without a blanket.

“For many kids, you may not use the blanket,” Shutrump said, “but you have to with a 300-lb. kid.”

Furneaux cautioned that a fire blanket is not made for dragging because the fire retardant can make the fabric disintegrate. “If you pull on it with some significant weight, your hands will go right through it,” she said.

Kennington opined that doing without a blanket might save valuable time during an emergency.

Shutrump said it is important to get the entire school involved in bus evacuation training (pictured, above), including teachers who may chaperone field trips as well as behavioral and occupational therapists.

She added that students with autism often present an additional challenge even after a successful evacuation has occurred.

“With autistic students, it’s not so much how to evacuate them but how to contain them once they’re off the bus — many are runners,” she explained. “Go to the special-ed director with a specific training request.”

Other questions fielded by the panelists addressed how some school districts train bus staff to exit via the rear door versus both doors and why the student in a wheelchair is the last one out.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 16:28