Smoke began to roll from the back of the bus over the heads of passengers. It didn’t take very long for the visibility to be reduced to near zero as people began to find their way toward the emergency exits.
Fortunately, this scene didn’t involve any children and the smoke was non-toxic as Oswego City School District bus drivers, with assistance from the Oswego City Fire Department wereÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â involved in a safety training course a the district transportation center.
Tom Gunn, Director of Transportation, said, “This is a perfect time for smoke bus training for our bus drivers.” He went on to explain, “Smoke bus training has the Oswego City Fire Department personnel simulating a smoke filled bus. Basically we are reviewing emergency exit proceedings in the event of a situation of that manner.”
Oswego Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff McCrobie said, “This is a great simulation because we learn quite a bit in talking with Tom (Gunn) and the drivers on what their protocols are when there is a smoke situation or injury on a bus. We know what to expect and I will take that back and relay it to our personnel. This opens up a lot of eyes and this really reinforces the working relationships we have with the school district.”
Continuing he said, “It is going to provide a safer environment for the kids. The drivers now know what it is like to have smoke in a bus and know what to expect.”
McCrobie and Gunn watched as the bus packed with bus drivers as passengers began to fill up with smoke. McCrobie noted, “It is a non-toxic kind of vegetable oil smoke. We have a small smoke machine at the back of the bus and it will fill the bus quickly. The drivers really find out what the visibility is like on a bus in this type of situation.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â They know that the number one priority in a situation like this is to get everyone safely off of the bus.”
He noted that the fire department doesn’t want the drivers to worry about putting a fire out. The key is to get children off the bus and move them a safe distance away.
After the evacuation the drivers had a second opportunity to walk through the bus again. The vehicle was filled with smoke and all walked through, feeling under the seats and then exited through the emergency door in the rear of the bus.
After the training the drivers went back inside for further safety review.
Gunn noted, “There are two state required meetings through the school year, but we take a proactive approach and have monthly safety meetings with our drivers reviewing policies and procedures.”
Drivers found out how it was like to be in a smoke filled bus and even though the non-toxic atmosphere wasn’t dangerous there were still anxious moments.
However, this was a genuine learning experience and the only damage done is that some of the drivers smelled like French fries due to the vegetable base.
The lessons learned at the safety session hopefully will never be needed with a smoke filled bus on the highway, but through the partnership and cooperation of the Oswego City Fire Department and the Oswego City School District Transportation Department the children will be safer.
Jailyn Grace Nelson was born in Oswego Hospital on Nov. 22, 2014.