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School Bus Extrication - Part 1: Our Precious Cargo

School Bus Extrication - Part 1: Our Precious Cargo

David Pease, Carolina Fire/Rescue/EMS Journal

We see the bright yellow buses travel our roads and highways everyday. These buses are not only carrying the future of our country, but the future firefighters, rescue and EMS workers that will inherit our plight to protect and save lives. It is our duty and obligation as rescue workers to be highly skilled and trained in rescuing this precious cargo.

Looking at the statistics, we see that riding a school bus is really quite safe. Nationwide, over 450,000 school buses provide daily transportation. Over 23.5 million elementary and middle school children ride these buses daily. This computes to about 10 billion student rides annually. There were 46,000 buses manufactured in the 1998 / 1999 school year. When we look at the accident statistics, we find that that the large majority of injuries to children are non-serious. The fact is, 96% of the 8500 to 12,000 children injured are minor. Only 4% of the injuries are considered serious, amounting to about 350 to 475 students. Only 11 students were killed inside of the school bus while approximately 15 were killed loading and unloading the bus. It would be safe to say that school bus accidents are few in relation to the number of buses that travel the roads daily. The problem however, is when the few do occur, are we ready to handle the complexities of scene management, triage, treatment and the reinforced construction of the bus itself.

In these next two articles we will discuss the scene management, triage, bus construction and bus extrication. We will look at some of the techniques used to better our management of the scene and reduce our extrication and victim retrieval time. With more safety features being incorporated into the buses, as with cars, we find our job of extricating becomes harder and harder.

Scene Management

Operating at the scene of a school bus accident can be quite different than operating at your standard motor vehicle crash. Several factors come into play when dealing with this type of accident. Obviously, the number of students on board the bus is a big factor. Another big factor is the age of the students on the bus. Older students are going to be easier to handle and deal with than a bus loaded with elementary children. The scene is going to become, if not already, chaotic to say the least. Your Incident Command system, your multicasuality plan, triage, and a good overall scene management plan will be in order.