School buses traverse all types of landscapes and in doing so encounter all kinds of dangers. The National Association for Pupil Transportation and School Bus Safety Company are partnering to reduce the risk of what can happen when these buses encounter downed power lines, especially as weather incidents seem to have increased.
NAPT and SBSC announced they created "Safe Practices for Downed Power Lines" in consultation with the power industry to address the dangerous situations that can arise when power lines fall onto a school bus, which the organizations stated can happen many times a year. Just last month, NAPT said a school bus in Oak Bay, British Columbia encountered this very situation. In that case, the school bus driver led the students off the bus, a risky decision because had the power line remained live, the result could have been tragic.
"We all agree that being prepared for such a catastrophe will help prevent it. The drivers need to know what to do and how to do it if they face such a situation," said Jeff Cassell, president of SBSC.
Mike Martin, executive director of NAPT, said few school districts prepare their drivers for encountering downed power lines and "we saw a huge need for this program" after surveying members across North America.
The new program is available to NAPT members for $125 plus shipping. NAPT said it addresses the myths about power lines and the information both the drivers and the students need to understand on when they can safely exit the bus. The programs explain what to do when a bus is involved with power lines and how to safely evacuate if they have to when they are unsure if the line is active or not.
Exiting the bus when power lines are involved is completely different from how students are taught to perform emergency evacuations in all other situations, NAPT and SBSC said. Assistance should not be provided under any circumstance. The student should keep feet together and "bunny hop" away from the bus.
"Overhead lines carry high voltages. These can be 30,000, 60,000 and, in some cases, as high as one million volts," explained Cassell. "The power companies are very concerned that if such a line is touching a bus and the breaker has not activated, untrained school bus drivers will take actions that they think are correct but could result in a tragedy."