As a parent of two school-aged children, and working in the school bus security industry, the recent school bus driver shooting and child abduction in Alabama really struck a chord with me. The heroic tale of the school bus driver’s ultimate sacrifice to protect his precious cargo left me wiping tears from my eyes and I was glued to on-line coverage of the successful rescue effort of little 5-year old Ethan.
When I discovered that a Seon school bus camera captured the confrontation, I was glad our camera system was able to contribute to the investigation and reveal the true courage of the school bus driver. As details of the on-board events were released to the media, it reinforced for me the importance of emergency preparedness in school transportation.
The video footage retrieved from the bus revealed a terrifying 4 ½ minute ordeal for students, culminating in the fatal shooting of the school bus driver, Charles Poland and the kidnapping of a 5-year old child. But what the school bus video highlighted was an incredible display of school bus safety and emergency preparedness training.
Let’s examine a few factors that played a role in preventing an even greater tragedy:
School Bus Camera Systems Installed on the Bus
According to CNN, the scene was captured by a camera mounted at the front of the bus. Thanks to the foresight of Dale County school transportation officials, a working school bus camera was installed to protect drivers and students. That footage can be used by investigators and school officials to not only get a clearer picture of the sequence of events, but devise ways to prevent it from happening in the future.
School Bus Driver Trained to Protect Students
Witnesses and officials who reviewed the recording reported that Jimmy Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed the school bus driver a note demanding to take several children. Charles Poland, the school bus driver, refused. He placed himself between the gunman and students saying, according to a report from School Bus Fleet, “These are my students, they are my responsibility, and you are not taking them off this bus.” That heroic act alone gave students time to escape using the emergency exit at the rear of the bus, and prevented any further hostages or injuries.
Students Practiced Emergency Evacuation Drills
Follow-up coverage on this story also revealed that as the school bus driver blocked the path of the would-be kidnapper, older students opened an emergency exit on the back of the bus and ran away from the bus. Twice-yearly emergency drills taught them how to evacuate; training they used to escape this very dangerous situation. This emergency preparedness training prevented more students from being hurt or taken by the gunman.
All Safety Procedures Followed
Officials in Alabama report that all safety procedures were followed, contributing to the safe return home of those 21 students on board the bus. Dale County officials can be credited for their efforts to ensure student and driver safety through emergency training. But above all, it was the selfless act of one school bus driver, Charles ‘Chuck’ Poland, that saved the lives of these students. It takes a special kind of individual to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of others. We, along with the rest of the world, mourn his loss and will forever remember his dedication to his students. He was a true hero, deserving of this week’s nomination for the President’s Medal of Freedom.
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