Safety First: Training proves beneficial for Transportation Department staff

School bus drivers are entrusted to transport students safely to and from school, beginning their routes early in the morning and ending them after a long day at work.

When bus drivers transport students, there’s no telling what they’ll encounter. For this reason, these dedicated employees spend many valuable hours training and preparing for such unexpected bumps along the road.

On Monday, March 23, at approximately 6:40 AM, while driving route 16, school bus driver Joel Niño experienced one of those bumps when he began having issues with bus number 108, stalling about a 1 mile east of FM 2520 at 21064 Espinoza Road.

Niño quickly jumped into action, utilizing the training skills and putting them in motion. He exited the bus, setting up safety reflective triangles and began inspecting the engine to ensure other issues didn’t require immediate attention.

As Niño opened hood open, he noticed a flame from the wire harness next to the gas line. Niño immediately reached for the fire extinguisher and sprayed the entire engine. Within a few seconds, Niño evacuated all 12 students aboard the bus to a safe area.

The Transportation Department, like other departments, counts on teamwork to get things done. Such was the case on this day when fellow driver, Felix Almaraz, came to the rescue to assist. Almaraz loaded all 12 students onto his own bus, trans-porting the students to start their school day on time at La Paloma Elementary.

Mechanic Jesse Garcia arrived in another bus at approximately 7:15 AM to relieve Niño and deliver a working bus so that he could continue his middle school and high school routes. The wrecker, which had been dispatched, later arrived to tow the bus back to bus barn.

Transportation Director Erica Flores explains that Niño’s quick thinking and training came into play, which proved beneficial.

“Thanks to the quick reaction and safety-minded thinking of Joel Niño, all students were safely evacuated. Had he not thought to inspect the hood, the flames could have quickly spread causing serious damage or completely engulfing bus in flames,” she said. “Joel’s quick thinking and passion for student safety is what minimized this potentially dangerous situation.”

Flores also commends other staff members for stepping in to assist whenever the need arises during these situations.

Transportation Department staff members undergo routine training and have been attending bus evacuation training sessions since December in order to assist them in their day-to-day routine.