HomeSafetyEmotions Run High During TSD Conference School Bus Evacuation Class

Emotions Run High During TSD Conference School Bus Evacuation Class

FRISCO, Texas – Regina Shirk, a school bus driver for University Place School District in Washington, stepped out of the “smoke” filled bus in tears after hearing that one of the “students” didn’t make it out.

Though only a drill held during the TSD conference, Shirk said the class was frightingly realistic. She drives a bus for students with special needs and doesn’t have an aide on board with her. “So, this is an eye-opener. I would be doing this by myself, getting special needs kids off a bus if there is a fire,” she said.

The class allows attendees to practice student evacuations by using training dolls of various sizes, some secured in car seats, inside a school bus filled with theater smoke to simulate a real-life emergency. Instructors also covered the specific plans needed for assisting students with disabilities and preschoolers.

Shirk discussed her experience inside the smoke-filled bus. “I couldn’t see anything, I’m searching. I couldn’t feel. I didn’t want to leave anyone behind. Just making sure — I didn’t want to lose a life,” Shirk added.

And the child she thought she left behind, had actually been placed outside the bus to simulate a student who jumped out of the window during the fire.

This year, in response to increased interest and demand, the TSD Conference offered two  full days of evacuation training. The school bus evacuation training experiences were held at Frisco Independent School District on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20.


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The training was led by Launi Harden, who recently joined the TSD tenured faculty and is a consultant and retired director of transportation for Washington County School District in Utah. She was joined by Denny Coughlin, owner of the School Bus Training Company and a retired fleet manager for Minneapolis Public Schools who has trained fire and police departments on school bus emergency response and rescue. Additional instructors were Aaron Harris, national sales and training manager for BESI, and Diandra Neugent, transportation manager for the Community Council of Idaho and lead trainer for the Head Start agency.

In addition to the evacuation portion, the day started with classroom training covering topics such as emergency protocols, communicating safety plans to students as well as staff, and designating roles for transportation personnel. During the second half of the day, attendees were provided with hands-on training which consisted of four stations: potential evacuation situations, fire extinguishers, wheelchair lift operations and car seats, and a timed evacuation drill.

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