Evacuating a bus full of excitable elementary students isn’t easy. Add in thick smoke and students with physical disabilities, and that task …
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Evacuating a bus full of excitable elementary students isn’t easy. Add in thick smoke and students with physical disabilities, and that task becomes much harder.
North Washington Fire District helped Mapleton Public Schools district create such an environment to train 49 of its bus drivers how to safely evacuate students with special needs in case of an emergency.
The training occurred Aug. 15-16 at the fire district’s administration office, 8055 N. Washington St.
Mapleton transports about 3,000 students on its buses, and Assistant Director of Transportation Mary Shannon said the district’s No. 1 priority is to get students to school safely and on time.
“Trainings like this one are an integral part of maintaining our outstanding safety record and providing our families with school bus drivers that are dependable, knowledgeable, trained and prepared for any situation,” she said.
The district transports 34 students with special needs, Shannon said.
The fire department helped fill the bus with thick smoke and had the drivers evacuate students through the back door.
Greg Preston, assistant chief of life safety with the fire district, said this scenario might exist if there was a mechanical failure and the bus caught on fire.
More than likely, he said, the bus wouldn’t fill that quickly with smoke, but it was good to prepare the drivers for the worst-case scenario.
“The buses have narrow aisles, and when visibility is reduced and you’re walking, basic things that aren’t obstacles usually all a sudden become one,” he said.
Those obstacles can be purses and book bags that students leave behind.
“Those just add to the confusion,” he said.
Preston said this training was beneficial to the drivers because during an emergency dealing with children, emotions would be running high.
If the drivers know what to expect and what to do, they may be calmer in a similar scenario, he said.
Shannon said no students have been evacuated from school buses in the six years she’s been with the district.
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