Taking The Dreaded Call

Posted on September 27, 2011 by - Also by this author

Accidents are a part of the business, but it is still a traumatic experience no matter when it happens.
Last Thursday, I was enjoying visiting with a friend in the parking lot of our office. The county fair was going on across the street. Many friends park in our lot for the event and walk across the street. The day could not have been more beautiful. I then heard my name called on an overhead loudspeaker to report to the office immediately.
I entered the office and was told to report to our dispatcher. Meanwhile, my cell phone was ringing with my wife calling me from her work — the county 911 center. Of course, the wife always trumps a business matter so I answered her call first.
She immediately asked me if I knew that one of our buses had been involved in a crash with injuries. I didn’t. She asked me if I could tell her where the bus was heading as the passengers didn’t know where they were. At the same time, another employee told me that our bus is seven miles east of the township of Lost Hills in a remote location and involved in an accident. I relayed the same information to my wife. Ironically, she was the one that answered the 911 call for help from a passenger on the bus that stated many people were hurt and needed help.
I asked my wife, the 911 operator on duty that moment, how severe the accident was. She told me that they were receiving numerous calls from other people and were launching a helicopter to respond to the scene and several ground ambulances to handle multiple victims. She told me she was sick to her stomach “I just know we are going to get sued,” she said. I told her she could count on that but it certainly isn’t the first time, so let’s not worry about it right now.
She asked me to respond to the crash site as an official request. She also said that I had to make arrangements to pick up the uninjured passengers as soon as possible and provide an ETA to her as soon as I have one. Well, of course. I had to remind myself she was functioning in a dual role as my wife while trying to maintain her composure on the job and do what protocol dictates for a 911 operator handling a bus crash call.
We immediately dispatched another bus. With luck, I had a driver sitting in a bus that had just completed an assignment and was ready to roll. I took off for the accident scene and began the tedious task of documenting everything I could, arranging for a tow truck, shooting photos, and interviewing passengers. There will be a complete story about this in an upcoming issue of LCT Magazine. Obviously, no one likes to air dirty laundry, but I think with so many operators entering the bus market, there are important lessons to learn here that are worthy of publication.
More to come. . . .

-- Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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