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Emergency Exit & Evacuation

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An emergency situation can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. It could be a crash, a stalled school bus on a railroad-highway crossing or in a high-speed intersection, an electrical fire in the engine compartment, a medical emergency to a student on the school bus, etc. Knowing what to do in an emergency–before, during and after an evacuation–can mean the difference between life and death.

10.3.1 – Planning for Emergencies

Determine Need to Evacuate Bus. The first and most important consideration is for you to recognize the hazard. If time permits, school bus drivers should contact their dispatcher to explain the situation before making a decision to evacuate the school bus.

As a general rule, student safety and control is best maintained by keeping students on the bus during an emergency and/or impending crisis situation, if so doing does not expose them to unnecessary risk or injury. Remember, the decision to evacuate the bus must be a timely one.

A decision to evacuate should include consideration of the following conditions:

  • Is there a fire or danger of fire?
  • Is there a smell of raw or leaking fuel?
  • Is there a chance the bus could be hit by other vehicles?
  • Is the bus in the path of a sighted tornado or rising waters?
  • Are there downed power lines?
  • Would removing students expose them to speeding traffic, severe weather, or a dangerous environment such as downed power lines?
  • Would moving students complicate injuries such as neck and back injuries and fractures?
  • Is there a hazardous spill involved? Sometimes, it may be safer to remain on the bus and not come in contact with the material.

Mandatory Evacuations. The driver must evacuate the bus when:

  • The bus is on fire or there is a threat of a fire.
  • The bus is stalled on or adjacent to a railroad-highway crossing.
  • The position of the bus may change and increase the danger.
  • There is an imminent danger of collision.
  • There is a need to quickly evacuate because of a hazardous materials spill.

10.3.2 – Evacuation Procedures

Be Prepared and Plan Ahead. When possible, assign two responsible, older student assistants to each emergency exit. Teach them how to assist the other students off the bus. Assign another student assistant to lead the students to a “safe place” after evacuation. However, you must recognize that there may not be older, responsible students on the bus at the time of the emergency. Therefore, emergency evacuation procedures must be explained to all students. This includes knowing how to operate the various emergency exits and the importance of listening to and following all instructions given by you.

Some tips to determine a safe place:

  • A safe place will be at least 100 feet off the road in the direction of oncoming traffic. This will keep the students from being hit by debris if another vehicle collides with the bus.
  • Lead students upwind of the bus if fire is present.
  • Lead students as far away from railroad tracks as possible and in the direction of any oncoming train.
  • Lead students upwind of the bus at least 300 feet if there is a risk from spilled hazardous materials.
  • If the bus is in the direct path of a sighted tornado and evacuation is ordered, escort students to a nearby ditch or culvert if shelter in a building is not readily available, and direct them to lie face down, hands covering their head. They should be far enough away so the bus cannot topple on them. Avoid areas that are subject to flash floods.

General Procedures. Determine if evacuation is in the best interest of safety.

  • Determine the best type of evacuation:
    • Front, rear or side door evacuation, or some combination of doors.
    • Roof or window evacuation.
  • Secure the bus by:
    • Placing transmission in Park, or if there is no shift point, in Neutral.
    • Setting parking brakes.
    • Shutting off the engine.
    • Removing ignition key.
    • Activating hazard-warning lights.
  • If time allows, notify dispatch office of evacuation location, conditions, and type of assistance needed.
  • Dangle radio microphone or telephone out of driver’s window for later use, if operable.
  • If no radio, or radio is inoperable, dispatch a passing motorist or area resident to call for help. As a last resort, dispatch two older, responsible students to go for help.
  • Order the evacuation.
  • Evacuate students from the bus.
    • Do not move a student you believe may have suffered a neck or spinal injury unless his or her life is in immediate danger.
    • Special procedures must be used to move neck spinal injury victims to prevent further injury.
  • Direct a student assistant to lead students to the nearest safe place.
  • Walk through the bus to ensure no students remain on the bus. Retrieve emergency equipment.
  • Join waiting students. Account for all students and check for their safety.
  • Protect the scene. Set out emergency warning devices as necessary and appropriate.
  • Prepare information for emergency responders.