How Would Your School Bus Drivers Respond If A Fire Broke Out?
published on September 09, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
On January 31, 2019, a driver in Tamarac, Florida, had to deal with one of the nightmare scenarios most school bus drivers hope they never have to handle - a fire onboard the bus. For reasons still under investigation, black smoke started coming out of the engine compartment, followed shortly by an intense fire that destroyed most of the bus's front end.
Fortunately, the bus driver acted quickly. Upon smelling smoke, he immediately pulled over. Then he was able to quickly and efficiently evacuate all sixteen elementary students out the back door, ensuring nobody was hurt.
While we're troubled by the lack of follow-up reporting with information on why the bus caught fire, this is otherwise a feel-good story about a bus driver doing everything right. Of course, for most transportation directors, it should raise the question: Would my school bus drivers be able to handle the situation so effectively?
Tips for Maintaining Fire Preparedness on Your Buses
1. Train -and Quiz- Your Drivers on Evacuation Procedures
Want to know which school bus drivers are going to do well if they need to evacuate their bus? Randomly stop them and ask how many emergency exits their bus has, and where they're located. The ones who are fully prepared will immediately know the answer without needing to think or count.
For everyone else, it should be a call for some remedial training.
2. Allow Drivers to Periodically Conduct Fire Drills
When was the last time your students got experience evacuating a bus? When was the last time a student operated the emergency exits or rear door? Periodic fire drills onboard the buses can help prepare students for a potential future evacuation.
Keep in mind, there's always the possibility that students would have to evacuate themselves if the driver was disabled.
3. Verify All Fire Extinguishers Onboard
Hopefully, every district already does this, but on-bus fire extinguishers should be checked at least once a semester, to verify that they are not past their expiration date.
On the topic: Does anyone onboard the bus actually have experience using the particular model of fire extinguisher your district purchased? Have even your school bus drivers had a hands-on test? If not, it could be worth it to buy a few extra units specifically for training purposes. When there's a fire on the bus, you don't want your driver stopping to read the directions.
Preventing Fire Is Everyone's Job
The lack of information about why the fire happened is concerning, but otherwise, this story is a model for how school bus drivers should behave when a fire breaks out.
Do you think your own drivers would do the same? Let's talk safety in the comments!