This past Saturday the Lee’s Summit Fire Department partnered with the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and the Lee’s Summit R7 School District to demonstrate how quickly smoke and fire can engulf a school bus, and how long can it take to evacuate a student-filled bus, with or without seat belts involved. Nearly 300 NAPTconference attendees were on hand at Lee’s Summit Fire Station #7 to witness the demonstration.
Once a fire was set on the first bus, the volunteers on the second bus began evacuation procedures in three different scenarios. In one, the volunteers were not wearing seat belts. In the other two, they were wearing seat belts, but in one of those enactments, they closed their eyes to simulate the lack of visibility due to thick smoke filling the bus.
Then, a third overturned bus was used to show how long a passenger might take to evacuate in that situation. Footage from cameras inside the bus streamed onto a screen in front of the audience and showed firefighters struggling to escape the overturned bus. Then, the bus was set on fire and the audience could compare the time it took to evacuate and the speed that fire spread through the bus.
All of the flammable and combustible fluids were removed from the buses before the fire. Straw along with personal items that students would normally bring aboard, such as backpacks, were included on the buses.
Assistant Chief Dan Manley, explained to the audience what was occurring inside the bus as the fire progressed and what the fire department would be doing as it arrived on scene.
After the demonstration, some volunteers commented on their experience. One said that the smoke was so “thick, black, and heavy,” that “panic can set in pretty quickly.” Another noted that school staff members and students go through regular fire drills “nonchalantly,” but that scenarios like these are “evidence of why we do them.”
NAPT’s goal in presenting the demonstration was to show bus fire evacuation scenarios in a way that was as realistic as possible, and show the urgent need for school bus fire evacuation training.
The Lee’s Summit Fire Department would like to thank all of volunteers and agencies that collaborated to make this demonstration a success.