Five Best Practices for Securing Your School Buses
Since the terrible tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and other schools across the country, the subject of school security has been appearing with increasing frequency in the news. While most of the coverage has been about school shootings, another aspect of school security that has become an area of concern is the limited oversight for students on school buses. Whether it is a six-year old getting choked with a scarf, or violence around and on buses continues to be an area of concern. To compound matters, there is a worsening school bus driver shortage throughout the country that is forcing some districts to hire less-qualified individuals for this important job.
All of this has made it a top priority for schools to create new protocols to assure the safety of students and drivers on school buses.
The following five points are an excellent place to begin when looking to better secure your school buses.
1. Background Checks for Employees
The first step in assuring school bus safety is to confirm that all of your bus personnel are professionally trained and have passed both criminal and sex offender background checks. These extensive background checks are necessary to prevent the possibility that you might hire anyone who could in any way endanger the children – and especially important in light of the current driver shortage. Another preventive tactic taken by many schools is to hire two employees per bus; this ensures that the bus driver can focus on safely navigating the road knowing that there is another adult supervising the children.
2. A Sound Plan for Emergencies
There are numerous types of emergencies that could take place on a school bus. Bus drivers and other bus-riding employees must be trained to identify all of these potential unsafe situations. These could include situations outside the bus such as other cars driving dangerously or bad weather, or inside the bus such as students carrying backpacks with possibly dangerous materials or student bullying. Any of these situations could rapidly lead to an emergency. For any adult personnel on the bus, there needs to be a sound plan prepared to account for each of these different types of emergencies. Beyond the driver and other adults on board the bus, the programs must be taught to all students and faculty to ensure that in an emergency everyone can get to safety and avert any additional risks.
Because the students on the bus are in the temporary care of the driver and other responsible adults, these must have the resources and information to respond if an emergency does occur.
3. Delivering News of an Emergency at the School Facility
What happens when there is a bus full of students heading for school and the driver learns that there is an emergency on the campus? One of the worst things that can happen in an emergency is for a bus that is in transit to school to arrive on the scene, compound the problem and endanger more students. To ensure this never occurs, the bus driver must be trained on the relocation protocols, and be notified immediately when these are needed. Alerts should be automatically sent via text and push notifications, not just via email, so that the notifications are not overlooked or missed. Once they receive an alert, the driver can drive to the designated and predetermined safe location.
4. Reporting an Emergency on the Bus
If there is a shooting, violent act or some other kind of adverse incident on board the bus, the bus driver must be able to send a notification to the school administrators and/or Safety Resource Officers (SROs), If the bus is on or near the campus at the time, they will want to initiate a hard lockdown. The driver should also be able to send alerts to school safety officers or law enforcement in case of a non-emergency situation such as a fight or bullying on the bus.
5. Mobile Accessibility for Notifications
Since school buses are typically in transit, any Incident Management System being used to enable all the above alerts and notifications must be accessible via both Android and IOS mobile devices. This will make it possible for the driver or other adult to report incidents directly from the bus.
To learn more about how The SilverShield™ System can help you keep children and drivers safer aboard school busses, schedule a free demo now.
Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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