Students learn survival skills |

Students learn survival skills

Jill Darby

Picture this: You’re 10 years old, riding on the school bus. You look up and the bus driver is slumped over the wheel. The vehicle is out of control. What do you do?

Douglas County School District’s lake transportation Lead Student program teaches a selected group of youngsters how to react in emergency situations in which the bus driver is suddenly unable to operate the vehicle.

Drivers choose a few students from each route to join the Lead Student program, where they learn to:

— Pull the emergency brake valve and turn off the key.

— Safely evacuate the bus if they smell or see fire.

— Look around to see where they are.

— Turn the key back on to use the radio.

— Squeeze the radio trigger and ask for help, then let go of the trigger and await response.

— Wait 10 seconds for an answer then call again.

— Say, “my name is ‘blank’ and we have been in an accident. Please help. We are at ‘blank location’ and we have some people hurt.”

— Be ready to answer questions, such as: Do you smell fire, smoke or fuel? Are the students OK? How many are on the bus?

Zephyr Cove Elementary School fifth-grader Clark Barnett is in the program this year for the second time.

“It’s good because you save people’s lives,” he said. “We learn how to stop the bus, like if the bus driver has a heart attack. It’s most important to stop the bus before you crash.”

Reed Hughs, 10, said the program taught him to remain calm and be safe.

“You get to stop the bus,” he said. ” I learned how to talk on the radio, so if a bus driver gets hurt or something you can help control the bus. They teach you not to panic.”

DCSD Transportation Coordinator Dan O’Rork drove Lead Students around Monday so they could practice safety measures. Bus driver Sandy Beliveau was also on board to help out.

O’Rork pretended to pass out and students took turns running to the front of the bus, pulling the emergency brake and radioing for help.

“Your drivers have picked you guys because they believe you guys have the smarts to do this,” O’Rork told his young crew Monday. “You guys have a chance to save your friends.”

Third-grader Meredith Grasso was one of four children chosen to participate in Monday’s simulation.

“It was scary going up there because I didn’t know where the emergency brake was but then I saw ‘parking emergency brake’ written on it in big letters,” she said. “I think if there were not lead students, people might get really hurt.”

O’Rork advised the lead group to make sure they know where the brake is on their daily bus.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your driver where the parking brake is,” O’Rork said. “This afternoon, get on the bus and ask your driver where that parking valve is.”

O’Rork told students never to touch any controls, unless the driver is incapable of handling the bus.

“One thing very important to remember, you guys aren’t allowed to press any of these buttons unless the driver can’t,” he said.

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