School Safety News – March 2009
School Bus Safety
Three Ways To Mitigate Risk in Pupil Transportation
Transporting students is one of the most visible facets of school operations. Think about what happens when a youngster is left on a school bus. It’s on the six o’clock news and raises parental and public concern about all aspects of pupil transportation.
According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, school bus transportation is safer by all statistical measures than any other form of transportation. Students traveling on a school bus are six times safer than those in family cars, and school buses account for the fewest fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. With statistics like these, it is easy to become complacent about the degree of risk involved in school bus operations.
School district administrators and Boards of Education should, however, always keep in mind that according to the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, each year some 17,000 students are sent to hospital emergency rooms as the result of school bus accidents. The adverse consequences of a school bus accident in which only one student is injured can be significant in terms of legal liability and financial impact. Good plans can help provide defense against lawsuits in the event of a minor accident or major tragedy.
Here are just three elements every plan should include:
The operation and maintenance of school busses must comply with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which are extensive and detailed. In addition, many state agencies and local school districts promulgate additional guidelines and requirements. The issue is not a lack of adequate standards, but rather in monitoring adherence to the standards. Whether bus transportation is operated by the school system or contracted to third parties, at a minimum, policies or contracts should incorporate provisions to insure that the service provider:
- Has written standards and procedures for vehicle maintenance;
- Insures maintenance standards comply with the bus manufacturer’s recommendations;
- Develops a preventative maintenance schedule and documents compliance;
- Trains drivers to (1) perform daily pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections (2) make a written record of any mechanical problems identified and (3) promptly report problems to designated personnel.
School bus drivers are responsible for the safe transportation of the country’s most important people – daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, grandchildren. The responsibilities of bus drivers are hands-on, and enormous. That’s why school bus drivers constitute one of the greatest liability risks in any school system. Two areas of particular concern are:
- Hiring criteria and practices – It is vital to insure that the hiring entity has detailed, specific, objective, and written employment criteria. Prospective drivers should complete a written application form. At a minimum, criteria should reflect any pertinent laws and regulations and include background checks – including both motor vehicle and criminal records – and require a doctor’s physical examination as well as drug and alcohol screening.
- Driver Training – Before transporting students, all bus drivers should receive thorough training and successfully pass both written and performance tests. Training and testing should include all of a driver’s responsibilities ranging from pre-trip safety inspections to accident procedures and first aid. In addition, employers are also smart to cover proper professional behavior and diversity training.
Don’t forget: Safety is a dynamic process requiring continual monitoring and timely review.”
Security and Emergency Preparedness
School districts that focus on only vehicles and drivers remain exposed to huge liabilities. School officials cannot ignore that school busses are extremely vulnerable to a wide range of security risks including incidents caused by criminals, sociopaths, unbalanced parents, domestic religious or political fanatics, or international terrorists. To identify all potential risks, security and emergency preparedness should be evaluated by competent professionals who have expertise in school safety and security. Administrators should then review existing policies, plans and procedures to address oversights and weaknesses.
When modifying, or developing, a comprehensive pupil transportation plan, it is critical to insure the plan emphasizes:
- Communication – When there’s a school bus accident, poor communication with all affected parties is one of the most common reasons for confusion and can exacerbate danger. For example, in the event of an accident do bus drivers know who to contact first? Second? What about communicating with parents?
- Coordination – Plans should include detailed procedures to assure coordination with all local and appropriate state authorities including law enforcement, fire and emergency services, as well as medical resources. For example, if there’s a fire on a school bus, who has primary responsibility for directing the response? School officials? The bus company? The fire department? A documented chain of command can prove invaluable.
- Compliance – Is the plan up-to-date regarding all applicable laws and regulations, local, state, and national? A designated school administrator must be responsible for keeping abreast of any changes or new developments from all relevant organizations such as the state transportation department, U.S. Transportation Safety Administration, Homeland Security, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If an attorney asks, “Why didn’t you know about . . .,” how will school officials respond?
For additional information contact American School Safety: 866-200-4545 or click here to contact us today.
Managing Risk: Active Shooter Incidents in Schools and Colleges
New American School Safety course addresses the safety-critical issues of security, emergency planning, and crisis response.
“Managing Risk: Active Shooter Incidents in Schools and Colleges,” offers educators responsible for student and staff safety a practical approach to improve site-based security plans. It’s designed to save lives if there’s a gun-carrying perpetrator in or on school property by teaching school personnel about prevention and response.
By examining real-world incidents, and identifying best-practice strategies and tactics, the course prepares educators to develop robust, effective, defensible policies and procedures. It covers plans to deter attacks and, in the event of an actual shooting, procedures aimed at minimizing casualties before public safety responders arrive at the scene. Participants learn about critical, and often unrecognized, factors in active shooter incidents, including:
- Understanding target selection
- Factors that influence the perpetrator’s go/no-go decision and
- The dynamics of shooting incidents
The course was developed for American School Safety by Ed Kardauskas, a senior security consultant with extensive command-level operational experience and an impressive career in law enforcement, security management, and international security. Kardauskas holds multiple, nationally-recognized security certifications and designations including CCP, PCP, PCI, CHSIIII, and CAS. To develop content, he worked with security consultants from SafirRosetti, an internationally-recognized security firm.
Mr. Kardauskas presents the program in a seminar-format that employs reality-based methodology. Content is structured to meet the unique characteristics and requirements of educational institutions and is suitable for:
- K-12 school system administrators
- K-12 school principals
- District resource officers
- College administrators
- Campus security officers
- Anyone responsible for groups of children and adolescents
Designed as a one-day program featuring hands-on scenario simulations, breakout groups, and tabletop exercises, the course can also be delivered in two or more shorter sessions or otherwise modified to meet specific institutional requirements.
According to Ralph DiFonzo, a former Supervisory Agent for the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force and now Training Director for American School Safety, “The Active Shooter course demonstrates American School Safety’s commitment to our mission to increase educational professionals’ core knowledge about school safety, security, and emergency management. It is also a good example of how we seek public and private partnerships to develop courses that expand and enhance the training we offer the educational community.”
For additional information contact American School Safety: 866-200-4545 or click here to contact us today.
Prevention is the Best Defense
American School Safety is constantly on the look-out for products and services that will strengthen school safety and security programs. When it comes to school bus safety, we think a driver monitoring program can help schools save lives and avoid the potentially substantial liability costs associated with bus accidents.
The “How’s My Driving” decal is one of the best-recognized in the United States. Since it was established in 1989, Driver’s Alert has grown to become the nation’s leading and largest “1-800 How’s My Driving” provider. Today, the company monitors over 500,000 vehicles for small and large fleets across a wide range of business and industries.
Driver’s Alert promotes and enhances school bus safety by enabling districts to identify unsafe acts, operations, and high-risk drivers before accidents happen. The company has extensive experience providing school bus driver monitoring, currently supplying programs for school busses operated by the states of Connecticut and Illinois, as well as for a number of regional and local school districts across the county. The results achieved are remarkable: 100% of the company’s clients reduce the number of at-fault crashes. In addition, Driver’s Alert reports that the number of calls about school busses is four times higher than calls about any other type of vehicle. Considering the priceless cargo school busses carry, it’s easy to understand why people are more likely to report concerns about school bus drivers.
Driver’s Alert provides 24/7/365 coverage at its state-of-the-art call center where highly-trained operators answer over 99% of calls on the first ring. All calls are digitally recorded and within minutes a digital copy of the call and a written Call Incident Reports are in the hands of clients. The company also offers online incident-specific and/or subject-specific training for drivers.
To learn more about Driver’s Alert call 866-200-4545 or click here to contact us today.