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School Bus Rescue: Exit at the Rear of the Bus

When existing opening aren't enough...enlarge the opening for efficient extrication of victims.

Above: Firefighters assess access and begin dismantling rear door.
For gaining access and ease of evacuation, remember three simple points: Use existing openings, enlarge existing openings, or make your own opening.

In this installment we consider access and removal of the rear door. We'll focus on enlargement of existing openings and creating your own opening.

As seen in Through the Roof, this full-size school bus has been turned on its passenger side. The side exits and passenger side windows have been rendered inaccessible leaving the front, rear, and roof as access points. In Through the Roof, we looked at operations to enlarge roof hatch openings to improve access and rescue. This post will focus on access, opening, and enlargement of the rear door.  In our next installment, we'll focus on interior operations for disentanglement and access. 

Keep in mind that school bus accidents of this magnitude are rare, but when they do occur there is almost certainly going to be significant injuries, need for disentanglement, and protracted operational periods.  Successful management of incidents such as these require solid performance of the first in units. A significant knowledge of scene size up and vehicle construction are also vital. The 7 basic bus rescue points will aid any responder in the setting of a large vehicle/school bus event.

Below: Most rear doors are hinged to swing open towards the passenger side. In this situation the door does not hamper egress. Most doors lack a hold-open device, meaning if the bus were on the drivers side, the door would need to be supported in the open position or removed to keep it from obstructing operations. In either event, keep in mind there are seats directly forward of the door that do impede the use of this space as an exit. Those seats will need to be removed (as seen in following) in order to maximize extrication space.

Note height of door from road level.

Interior latch assembly can be removed with wrenches or socket set
Above: This view demonstrates the robust latching system and bolt throw (receiver removed). The entire latch assembly can be removed with hand tools (wrench/socket) from the inside; thus freeing the door.

Below: Traditional forcible entry tools and techniques may not be successful on the rear door of a school bus.  
Forcible entry tools and techniques may not be successful on rear doors

Use of a power saw to remove door hinge
Above: A battery powered saw can be used to cut away the door hinge and completely remove the door. The evolution can be completed fairly quickly with a well maintained saw and replacement blades.

Below: Once the door and glass from rear windows are removed, a cutting tool can be used to remove the door/widow frame and create and enlarged opening. Again, this can be accomplished quickly with well maintained equipment and skilled firefighters.

Hydraulic cutters remove frame between rear widows and door

Door/window frame removed. Note edge protection in place.
Above: Door/window frame removed providing greatly improved access. Note seat removal operation taking place adjacent to rear of bus. In combination, these two evolutions provide greater access/egress and facilitate removal of immobilized victims.

Below: Door removed and opening enlarged. Note the added space created by removal of rear seats. This creates an opening that allows for safe, efficient movement of immobilized patients.

Added space created by removal of door and rear seats. Note tape used to protect edges.

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