How To Get Everyone Off The Bus

Jim Luff
Posted on September 1, 2017

While state and federal inspectors closely examine exit doors, operators should spend time training drivers on how and when to evacuate.

Chaos in an Evacuation
An order for passengers to evacuate a motorcoach or a minibus immediately can create a stampede and cause people to die from being trampled. This is why it’s so important for a driver to lead and control an orderly evacuation and know when to do it. A driver should determine in real-time where to assemble passengers before ordering them to leave the bus.

When to Evacuate
Obviously, fire and smoke would warrant an evacuation. However, a highway collision does not necessarily require one. Leaving the safety of a bus to stand on a busy highway could place passengers at a higher risk than just waiting for law enforcement to arrive and detour traffic. The driver is always the “captain of the ship” and must make command decisions based upon the safety and risks to passengers aboard.

While your drivers might be familiar with roof hatches, how many have actually opened it all the way, beyond just for ventilation? The FMSCA requires emergency exits be tested every 90-days, and the results must be recorded in writing and signed by the inspector(s). Make sure every driver knows how to open every emergency exit on every fleet vehicle. Don’t just teach them where the red handles are; have them open all exits as if in an emergency.

Exits & Order

When boarding a new group for a trip, a driver should point out all of the emergency exits and explain how they work. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as an airline flight, but it would help to know in advance how they operate. In an emergency, the driver should calmly announce the need to evacuate and do so row by row and alternate each side of the bus for an orderly, safe, and efficient exit. He should direct the passengers to an assembly area and account for each passenger once all have disembarked.

Using Emergency Exits

The primary entrance door(s) should always be used unless compromised or blocked by a collision or hazard. Using a window exit is more difficult than it might seem. Once you unlock the windows with the red handles, the window pushes away from the bottom but remains hinged at the top. This exit will require help from people in and out of the coach.

On the inside, someone must hold it open for those exiting through the window. On the outside, the drop is steep and those who exit first should be directed to help others exiting behind them until all passengers have left. A roof hatch should be used only if the vehicle has flipped on its side or is submerged in water. The drop from the roof of a motorcoach on its wheels can cause serious injury. Even if the vehicle has rolled, passengers can easily fall and get hurt climbing out of a roof exit if they don’t get help from outside bystanders.

Great Ideas provides a broad range of information focused on new ideas and approaches in management, human resources, customer service, marketing, networking and technology. Have something to share or would like covered? You can reach LCT contributing editor and California operator Jim Luff at [email protected]

Related Topics: buses, driver safety, How To, motorcoaches, passenger safety, Safety, vehicle safety

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