Madison school bus drivers learn they have only seconds to evacuate if there’s a fire aboard

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – Fire officials say statistics show there are at least six fires on school buses or motorcoaches everyday across the country.

Monday, bus drivers in Madison went to class to learn what to do if their bus should fill with smoke.

They learned they have only seconds to do the right thing.

At the Madison School Transportation Center, adults scrambled to get out of blackout conditions due to heavy smoke inside a school bus.

It was a drill.

“You gotta get the kids off quick,” said Captain Dustin Spires of the Madison Fire Department.  “You got about a minute to get them off before a fire on a bus becomes a bad situation.”

Madison firefighters showed drivers an experiment showing how quickly smoke can build up and visibility breaks down.

Spires emphasized drivers should concentrate on getting everyone off as fast as they can.

“Don’t do anything that’s going to slow down the evacuation process,” said Spires.  “Opening windows and stuff like that are taking time away from getting the kids off the bus.”

Madison School Transportation Specialist Bobby Jackson set up the training because of what he has seen elsewhere in the country.

“You got transit buses that are catching on fire and it could happen on a school bus, just like it could happen on one of those,” said Jackson.

Drivers also discussed how to handle a hostage situation like one that played out in Dothan last year.

That’s when a gunman boarded a bus, killed the driver and kidnapped a child.

Madison School Bus Driver Fred Richardson said that situation left many drivers uneasy, but showed them to be proactive.   “The key to that is being aware of your surroundings.  You don’t want people following you that are suspicious.”

Some 60 drivers will hit the road just after six o’clock Tuesday morning to pick up children for the first day of school.

Bus drivers say they are very worried about other drivers ignoring their stop signs, when they’ve stopped to pick up or let off a child.

It’s a $200 ticket if police catch a driver doing that.

All drivers, going both directions, must stop when the bus’s ‘stop sign’ is extended out, unless it’s on a roadway divided by a median.

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