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SPECIAL REPORT


pupil transportation with the Georgia Department of Education. The state specs were updated several years ago to allow water-based systems, in addi- tion to power-based systems. Cliff Shearouse, executive di-


rector of transportation services for Henry County Schools, located southeast of Atlanta, reported that most of the district’s special needs buses are equipped with Amerex systems, while other buses have the Jomarr system. But luckily, none of the systems have been deployed due to a fire. The engine compartment is the


hazard zone where fires most com- monly occur, according to Fireaway, Inc., which manufactures a fire sup-


pression canister system under the brand name of Stat-X. Engine bay fires occur for various reasons, such as mechanical failures or loose wires that rub against engine or chassis parts. Overheated wheels and brake compo- nents are also common fire sources. Kidde Technologies, which serves


the aviation and commercial bus mar- kets, recently introduced its Student Transport Automatic Fire Sensing and Suppression System for school buses. The system deploys a dry suppressant if a fire ignites in the engine or battery compartments. Firetrace International produces a tube that provides a continuous loop of fire detection in any hazard area on a vehicle. The loop is cou-


Have you installed fire suppression systems on school buses that transport special needs students?


80% No 12% 8%


Don’t know Yes


(Out of 227 responses)


Are you interested in installing fire suppression systems for special needs routes?


43% No


42% Don’t know 16%


Yes (Out of 180 responses) Reasons operations have yet to install fire suppression systems:


• The cost is too high • Waiting for standard factory-installed equipment • Waiting for technology to mature • Waiting for more proof that these systems are needed • Need to read/hear testimony from industry peers who have successfully used systems


• Concerns about how the technology works • No time to research the technology • Experiencing difficulty with getting approval from the district administration


(Out of 151 responses)


pled with a suppression system that deploys a dry chemical powder to extinguish fires. A session that is scheduled for the TSD Conference this month in Fris- co, Texas, discusses what the NTSB recommendation means for special needs transporters. It will also review the experience that school districts have had when using fire suppres- sion systems on route buses. ●


Fire Danger


Between one and two school bus fires occur every day, according to a 2016 study by the John A. Volpe National Trans- portation Systems Center, titled “Motor Coach and School Bus Fire Safe- ty Analysis.” The Volpe report said that over 380 of these fires are report- ed every year on school buses in the U.S. The National Transpor-


tation Safety Board also presented some statistics to provide a clearer pic- ture of these fire dangers. Deaths resulting from school bus fires are rare, but can be severe in worst cast scenarios. On the other hand, school bus fires that were reported resulted in no direct injuries or fatalities. In fact, the average re- ported property damage per incident was just a fraction of the total cost of the vehicle. The NTSB also called for an improvement in data quality and reporting, as well as operational train- ing, vehicle design and equipment development.


20 School Transportation News • MARCH 2020


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