Training Days: School Bus Evolutions

By Tom Kiurski

Firefighters generally love to do some good hands-on training. If the training involves destroying things, that usually adds to the enjoyment. So what firefighter wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to destroy some school buses?

Since school buses constitute a major mode of transportation in most communities, it makes sense to train on these vehicles. In fact, the nation’s 450,000 school buses transport more than 24 million students to school and school-related activities every school day in the United States.

A school bus extrication training class was offered in our area. The response was overwhelming; therefore, each area fire department was limited to sending only two firefighters to the training. They were to bring their new knowledge back to their departments to share with the remaining firefighters.

Several Livonia, Michigan, firefighters attended the class. After they completed the training, they put together an excellent program for our firefighters.

My job was simple–get some school buses. Since I had never done that type of thing before, I was not sure where to start. A trip to my city’s school bus transportation director seemed like the obvious first stop. He didn’t have any buses that could be used for extrication. The director checked with other area transportation directors to help me in my search. By the end of the week, I was working with two school districts, and it looked as if I would be getting two buses, meaning there would be no need to conserve cuts with the additional vehicle. I followed up with our local transportation director, who was happy that it worked out for us. When he asked about our putting on a fire extinguisher demonstration for school bus drivers, I offered our services at no charge and at their convenience.

I worked with our local towing company to arrange transportation for the buses. When the procurement day arrived, I was extremely happy to find out that we were arranging transportation for FIVE school buses!


(1) Hands-on tool use is a great way to overcome bus extrication challenges. Here, firefighters attack the roof. Click to enlarge

I scheduled training on the buses over a three-week period. The first class was in the classroom and would last a week. This was done so that all shifts could be exposed to the training. The classroom session involved a PowerPointâ„¢ presentation on the “anatomy and physiology” of the school bus: types of buses, bus construction features, locations of engines and other system components, safety features, terms, and so forth. We also informed the firefighters about the training scheduled in the next two weeks.

The second class, held the following week, was at our training area, where the buses were located. By this time, we had two buses tipped onto their sides, but we left the other three upright. We discussed shoring, stabilizing, and cribbing these large vehicles. Generally, once on a bus is on its side on a flat surface, it is quite stable; but we usually don’t get the luxury of flat surfaces, especially if a bus rolls off the road or is leaning on a curb, another vehicle, or another object. Airbags, cribbing, and shoring were the order of the day.


(2) Hydraulics can be a big help when it come to school buses. Don’t you wish you had one of these in your backpack when you were in school? Click to enlarge

The third and final week of bus training was the highlight and involved cutting the buses at many different points using many different tools. Windows were removed, and several window frames were removed to make larger openings. Roof cuts were made with many different tools, but since the two layers of metal were separated by insulation, the air chisel forced us to make two separate cuts in most cases. Other saws on hand proved less time-consuming for this task. We also used hydraulic tools, torches, and some hand tools. Firefighters received some great training and had a good time.


(3) Battery or electric, train with what you would normally have on-scene. Click to enlarge

Importantly, many people came together to do parts of the required training tasks; therefore, no individual was overwhelmed. My role in this training evolution was the easy one. This training would not have been possible without the help of the Livonia home team, especially bus experts Dave Heavener, Jeff Bennett, and Bob Jennison.

Go back to your fire department and develop an interest in bus extrication. Learn from the online resources, training books, and DVDs–and attend a class. Once you’ve done this, get your buses and train.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators ( Fire Engineering, 1999) , is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.

Subjects: School bus extrication, vehicle extrication, rescue.

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