Evacuations for Special Needs bus. Christie Obershaw Moses Lake School District. PREPERATION.
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Careful planning for emergencies is essential when transporting children with special needs. No plan can cover every contingency. The most valuable asset in an emergency is professional judgment, common sense, and the ability to stay calm.
A written evacuation plan should be created and practiced by drivers and aides on every special needs route. “Crossed wires” could be disastrous in an emergency. This plan must be revised when route changes occur, and not six weeks later. Substitute drivers should review plans before driving routes and get familiar with them.
Two basic scenarios should be considered: an engine fire and a breakdown in a dangerous area. It must be decided ahead of time who's responsibility it is to do what. Spell it out. Consider the students medical condition, communications skills, is there a walker, or wheelchair. Decide… in or out of chair. Determine the best sequence for evacuating the students
School buses come in many different designs. Drivers, aids and substitute drivers must know the location of allemergency equipment and exits and how to use them. Drivers and aids should learn how to locate and open every exit with your eyes closed, using seat backs as reference.
Awareness of student’s abilities and disabilities can be extremely important in an emergency.
An accurate seating chart should be maintained on the bus to help account for students in an emergency
Drivers and aids should be informed of any physical, mental, emotional or medical conditions that could affect how students react in an emergency.
As much as possible, students with special needs should actively participate in evacuation drills. Actual practice is more, not less, important for students with special needs. Many students with disabilities can learn to unbuckle restraints, use the radio, use the emergency exits and even how to stop, shut off and secure the bus.
It is generally safer to evacuate students in their safety seats. With practice, it is possible to carry two safety chairs at once. Leaving students in the safety seats also keeps them from wandering off.
Even in a minor collision, the bus shouldn’t be moved until authorities arrive unless absolutely necessary. This includes non-collision incidents, such as an on board injury to a student such as a fall.