Tag Archives: school bus safety

School Bus Tornado Safety

April 20th, 2017 is Minnesota Statewide Tornado Drill Day. The chances of a bus driver encountering a tornado while on their route is slim, however, drivers should know what to do and what to be aware of. Minnesota’s Severe Storms Awareness Week, will be a good time to review tornado safety plans with school bus drivers and students that ride the bus.

Tornadoes develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. A Tornado Watch is when the weather conditions in the atmosphere can result in the possibility of developing a tornado. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or has been indicated by weather radar. Warnings are issued for counties or communities that are in the path of the tornado’s location, direction and speed.

If a tornado warning is issued in the area, drivers should be aware of the signs of an approaching tornado or storm. Dark, often grey/green skies, wall cloud, large hail and or a loud roar some often relate it to the sound of a freight train. If any of these conditions exist while driving, drivers should take immediate action and seek shelter or stop and pull over.

In the event a tornado is moving toward the area the bus is driving, do not continue in that direction. Instead, the driver should either stop if the storm is close, or retreat at a right angle away from the storms path. NEVER attempt to outrun a tornado that is bearing down on the vehicle. If there is a likelihood the tornado will hit the vehicle, and there is not escape route available, the driver should:

  1. Alert dispatch if time permits, that they will be Evacuating the bus.
  2. Take the students to the nearest ditch. Get as far away from the bus as possible. Take cover on the storm side of the bus, so that the bus will not roll onto the children. Avoid areas with trees.
  3. Instruct the students to lie flat on their stomachs and cover their heads with their hands.

As with all bus evacuations, do not allow students to take their personal belongings with them other than their coats and jackets. These items can be used to cover their heads and bodies from flying debris. If the driver is going to take anything, take the first aid kit. Do not take the children to an underpass. It is not known how much shelter an underpass can provide from flying debris in a violent tornado. Most deaths and injuries in a tornado are caused by flying debris.

If the bus driver spots a funnel and there is no time to evacuate the bus, have the students remain in their seats and lie down below the window covering their heads with their hands. They should shut the bus off and get down away from the door. At anytime there is a house or building nearby that offers shelter and time permits to reach it, use it. Move to the lowest level of the structure away from windows and doors. If there is no basement, use a closet, bathroom or center hallway on the lowest level. Use cushions, blankets, or mattresses to cover the students with. These items will help protect everyone from flying debris.

Once the bus driver thinks the tornado has passed, they should look and listen for further funnel clouds before removing anyone from shelter. Sometimes there can be multiple tornados in one storm. It is absolutely imperative the driver stays calm and keeps the children calm. If the group had to take cover outside in a ditch, return the students to the bus for shelter against hail and rain that can come after a tornado. Attend to any injuries and notify dispatch as soon as possible of their location, any need for paramedics, and what the overall status is after any bus evacuation.

Having and reviewing a School Bus Tornado Safety Plan will prepare bus drivers in the steps necessary to keep the passengers and themselves safe during a tornado emergency. During the week of April 17th – 21st, 2017, the Department of Public Safety and the National Weather Service will be promoting severe weather safety and emergency preparedness information.  This is the perfect time for families, communities, schools, and school bus companies, to review and talk about their emergency plans and how they can prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.


School Bus Railroad Safety

There are a lot of things in life we dismiss however, railroad safety should never be one of them. One program to help bring awareness to railroad safety is Operation LifeSaver.

Operation LifeSaver is a national, nonprofit rail safety education group. They are announcing September 24-30, 2017 as Rail Safety Week. Their goal is to make everyone aware of the need to be educated and keep themselves safe at all railroad crossings.

The reason to commemorate a day for safety is their studies show about every 3 hours someone in the U.S., either a person or a vehicle is hit by a train. Hundreds of Americans each year are killed by train related incidents.

Whenever you are approaching a track, the first thing you should think is that there IS a train. So prepare to slow down. Start checking the traffic around you. If you are driving a school bus, your next obligation would be to prepare to stop, look and listen. I believe all traffic should stop at railroad crossings, but if you are driving a school bus you have no choice, it’s the Law.

It can take up to a mile to stop a train. Make sure you have complete clearance on the other side of the track plus 15 feet extra. Only cross the tracks when you can do it unobstructed by traffic or pedestrians. Trains hang over the tracks 3 feet on both sides. Remember the 15/50 rule. Stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet away from the tracks. This will insure the bus is not too close and will get hit with the overhang of the train, and close enough that you can look and listen in both directions for an approaching train.

If you see or hear a train coming, never think you can beat the train. Trains travel at high rates of speed but because they are so large, they appear to be going slowly. Rule of thumb, if you can see a train, wait. Also be aware there may be multiple tracks. Some trains run side by side. Just because you think you can beat the train you can see, you may miss the one you can’t see. So waiting until all tracks are clear is always the safest time to cross the tracks.

When you have determined it is safe to cross the tracks, cross quickly without stopping. Never stop your vehicle or change gears while crossing the tracks. Never drive around lowered or lowering gates. If your vehicle was to get stuck on the track, get out immediately. Run in the opposite direction the train is traveling and run going away from the track. Do not try to recover your vehicle until emergency help has instructed you to. All railroad crossings have an emergency notification sign to report any issue dealing with the signal or stalled vehicle at a crossing.

When you stop, look, and listen, you are increasing the odds you will clear the track safely and live to see another day. Don’t be complacent when it comes to railway safety. Your ability to observe the laws, tracks, traffic, signals and stop signs could make the difference in saving your life and the lives of others.

Winter Weather Driving Tips

It may be 40 in February, but we’re not out of the woods yet!
As the weather does it’s rollercoaster of hot and cold, we can forget what to do when the weather turns for the worst. Our winter driving skills can get lost if we don’t use them often, but we can never forget these few tips.

  • Prepare your vehicle. All too often you will see a car driving down the street with snow covered windows and windshield. I always wonder how much of the road and other cars they can see. Making sure your vehicle is safe to drive is one of the most important aspects of driving. Check your headlights, taillights, tire pressure and wipers. Always make sure before you pull out of your driveway or away from your home that your vehicle is in good working order.
  • It is okay to leave early. When the weather is uncertain so will be the traffic. Check the weather report the night before. Be aware of your route to work or school. Is it on a clear day a high traffic area? Diminish the risk of crash or being late by choosing to leave earlier, or using an alternate route.
  • Slow down! The faster you are traveling, the longer/further it will take you to slow down or come to a complete stop. If the road is wet or icy, you must allow your vehicle time and space to stop safely.
  • Increase your following distance. This goes hand in hand with driving slower. If it is going to take you longer to stop due to the speed your vehicle is going, then you must also have room. In icy or wet road conditions you should increase your following distance to 4-6 seconds, leaving a space cushion between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes open for emergency vehicles and snow plows. Stay back from them 300 feet or more. Snow plows can create visibility issues and emergency vehicles can make sudden turns or lane changes. Don’t be in a hurry.
  • Black Ice. If the ground looks wet, think Slippery. At intersections, overpasses and bridges black ice can collect and become very dangerous to drive on. These areas can be slippery even when other parts of the road are not. Decrease your speed when approaching intersections and slow down before coming into a curve in the road or going over/under any bridge.

If you are using these tips in your daily winter driving, you are giving yourself a fighting chance on surviving winter. Winter is hard enough to get through. It’s cold, dark and can stretch out over 4 months out of the year. Make your days smoother by getting there safely.

Welcome Back from Winter Break

Welcome back from Winter Break! We hope you and your loved ones had a safe and relaxing holiday.

Another Snowy Day in MN

Here are some SAFETY reminders…

  1. Students should be standing at the bus stop, not in the car, and in line at least five (5) minutes before the school bus arrives. This is for the safety of all students on the route.
  2. Students need to tell the bus driver if something happens or is happening that is disruptive to bus operations or destructive to school property.
  3. If a student is habitually late, he/she will be verbally reminded to be on time. If this persists, a student conduct report will be issued.
  4. Carry on items must be held on a student’s lap or fit within their own seating area.
  5. Any object that takes up a seating space or creates a hazard on the bus will not be allowed.
  6. Items left on the bus will be taken off the bus at the end of the route and turned in to the lost and found at the bus garage.