Getting Everyone Off The Bus Safely

Checking lists on a school bus

WATERBURY – Loading and unloading special-needs student on a school bus can be a challenging daily task, and it can be especially critical for students, monitors and drivers during an emergency. That’s why All-Star Transportation drivers and their monitors prepare evacuation plans for their buses.

In Waterbury, where All-Star provides buses for special needs students, drivers and monitors spent the opening weeks of the 2018-19 school year reviewing and updating their evacuation plans.

“I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that all special needs vehicle should have a written plan that both the driver and monitor work on together,” says Brenda Bass, All-Star’s director of training. “This will save precious time and confusion as to who does what in the case of a real emergency when minutes may count.”

Checing bus evacuation plans
Waterbury Manager Ed Costa looks over new bus evacuation plans.

The main feature of an evacuation plan is a floor plan that notes the location of the first aid kit, the fire extinguisher, the fire blanket, the radio and the seat belt cutter. An evacuation plan also includes a list of where each student sits and a brief description of each student’s disability. The plan further notes whether a student is mobile or needs assistance when evacuating.

Also critical to an evacuation plan is a knowledge of wheelchairs and the systems used to secure them in the buses. In some events, drivers and monitors may not have the time to operate lifts and unload wheelchairs as normal. So, in preparing their evacuation plans, drivers and monitors the Waterbury staff reviewed how to release each seat belt within the chair and other body support apparatus; how to remove each child’s work tray; how to release the foot straps; and how to release the harness on travel chairs.

“This has been a very worthwhile exercise because it has sparked conversation between the drivers and monitors, and other staff,” Bass said. “I am very impressed with the attention to detail and plans that are being submitted for our review.

“One of the very important lessons that I learned while attending any special needs training is that we should never put a child on the bus unless we know how to get them off,” Bass said.

Once approved, copies of the evacuation plans kept in the bus, along with route sheets, for spare drivers.