Tech Rescue

School Bus Driver Extrication

Issue 10 and Volume 9.

Consider this scenario: Your crew gets the call for a school bus crash, and upon arrival, you find heavy frontal damage pinning the driver inside. This article will present some of the techniques to extricate the victim while minding the construction of types C and D school buses.

Construction Differences

There are four types of bus construction (A, B, C, D); however, this article will focus on types C and D. (Note: Many of the type C construction features can be found on type B buses and the techniques discussed will apply.)

All school buses are built like tanks, primarily to protect the passengers during a variety of collision types. But there are some easily distinguishable differences and other not-so-obvious features among them. First, the type C school bus has an engine compartment that resembles the engine compartment of a car, the major difference being that it’s just a bit larger. The hood is not reinforced material, so it will crumple under stress. The other obvious construction identifier is that the front entry door is behind the front wheels.

The type D school bus resembles a city charter-style bus where the front entry door is located in front of the front wheels. These buses are frequently referred to as “flat-nose” buses since the engine compartment is not located in front of the windshield.

In the sections that follow, driver access will be obstructed from the passenger-side main entry door, presenting a difficult scenario for access and rescue.

Type C Techniques

In type C school buses, the steering column goes through the firewall and into the engine compartment. This feature is especially important to recognize, as it resembles that of a passenger car. Think about the techniques we use to extricate pinned drivers of passenger cars: door removal, dash roll, dash lift, brake pedal displacement/cut, etc. On a type C school bus with no access to the passenger-side entry door, however, we’ll have to be more creative. Note: The options listed are not in any particular order and will ultimately depend on your equipment cache.

Option 1: Remove the window adjacent to the driver’s seat and then use a saw to cut down the side wall. Tip: Be sure to stay inside the A and B posts, which will ultimately mean less metal to cut. Often, there will also be some sort of electrical panel in this area and maybe an access door; if this is so, remove the panel and access door. Your goal is to open up a space large enough to position a ram between the A and B posts, as seen in the photo above. During the extension of the ram, you will see the A post, dashboard and steering column displace outward.

Options 2 and 3: Remember using the old spreaders to roll the dash of a passenger car? You can set up your hydraulic spreaders to perform this technique on type C school buses, or you can use a chain come-along. Just keep in mind that the hoods on these buses will crumple with the added pressure, so cribbing will be necessary to prevent your tools from binding.

Type D Techniques

In the type D school bus, the steering column goes through the floor, since there’s no firewall into the engine compartment. Extrication thus requires alternative tactics, and the most readily available option when working with type D buses is to use the hydraulic spreaders in a similar, but different manner than on the type C bus.

Without the hood to help with tool placement, you’ll have to attach one chain around the steering column and attach another chain to the frame underneath. Then, open your spreader fully and use chain hooks to grab the chains from the steering column and frame. Note: Placement of the spreader is important because it’s possible to torque the spreader arms if an in-line pull is not set up. Use cribbing to align the angle of pull. If available, you can use a chain come-along in place of the spreader.

Techniques for Both

Although we’ve trained with wrecker operators on the following technique, I’ll be the first to say that the stars and moon would have to align perfectly for it to happen. Namely, you’d have to call for a heavy wrecker early, they would have to get to the scene quickly, and ample space would have to be available at the location so that another big rig could get into the right position.

If you get to this point in your rescue, and it very well may be plan C or D, it’s possible for heavy wreckers to displace the steering column and dash with little movement other than what you want to move. The key: to position the wrecker so the front of the bus can be chained down. Next, wrap a chain around the school bus’s steering column and connect it to the wrecker’s chain coming off the boom. Once in position and the cable tensioned, the wrecker operator and rescue boss can coordinate the displacement needed for victim extrication.

A Final Word

The construction and extrication techniques discussed in this article are just the tip of the school bus extrication iceberg. Be sure to check out other training resources, visit your local bus garage and attend a hands-on school bus extrication training.