Safety Expo puts HISD bus drivers to the test with hands-on drills

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HISD Transportation Services kicked off the 2014-2015 school year on Friday with its annual back-to-school Safety Expo training program – challenging more than 1,200 bus drivers and attendants to commit to student safety.

The three-day event, held at the Northwest Transportation Center, required HISD bus drivers to participate in both classroom training and hands-on activities. HISD Transportation Services partnered with the American Red Cross, Houston Fire Department, Operation Lifesaver, HISD Police Department Gang Task Force and the City of Houston Health and Human Services to host the event.

Chester Glaude, HISD Transportation Senior Manager of Operations and Training, said that in its third year, the Safety Expo has proven to be beneficial for bus drivers and trainees across the district.

“The expression that you see on the drivers’ faces and their feedback has been great,” Glaude said. “You can see that they are actually participating and learning.”

One of the more dramatic hands-on activities included evacuating during a mock school bus fire, hosted by the Houston Fire Department. During the demonstration, participants crawled through a smoke-filled school bus and were required to locate and safely evacuate simulated children on board.

Other demonstrations included railroad-crossing safety, first aid, student management, emergency evacuations, green driving and gang awareness, where participants were placed in real-life scenarios to recognize gang signs and behaviors that may occur on campus and during routes.

“Instead of us saying, ‘Here, read a book or pamphlet,’ we’re actually giving drivers hands-on experience so they will know how to react,” Glaude said.

HISD Transportation Services also is taking steps to address the dangers of heat and the impact to children left inside of a bus. In 2011, the department installed child-reminders located inside and at the back of every district bus. Each driver is taught how to routinely pre-check their bus to help prevent accidents. In order to deactivate the alarm, a driver must conduct a thorough walk-thru on their bus every morning and before they exit each day. Otherwise, the horn will continue to sound.

Glaude says that although the Safety Expo is a requirement for all HISD bus drivers, he believes the training serves a broader purpose.

“This type of training is beneficial because you’re not only learning what you can do for HISD, but what you can do for your personal life,” Glaude said.