How Secure Is Your Bus Yard?
The most common reasons for school bus operations to fence off or otherwise secure the bus yard are vandalism and theft, particularly of two-way radios and other expensive electronic equipment.
Beyond that, operations must also now take anti-terrorism measures into consideration, as government officials have identified school buses as potential targets for terrorist activities.
Operations of all sizes have taken precautions to secure the bus yard. For those still looking for ways to start, there are many resources available to guide equipment purchases and facility upgrade decisions.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA), in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Education and school bus operators, has developed a list of security-related action items for school bus operations, divided into recommendations for management, facilities, equipment and personnel. (The full list is available online at http://yellowbuses.org/documents/25actionitems.htm.)
Transportation managers must establish procedures and policies for their school bus facilities in order to ensure that only authorized personnel are allowed to enter and to protect school property. The Top 25 Action Items include developing plans for emergencies, staging practice drills with local emergency first responders and law enforcement, and developing a communications plan to contact parents and school administrators in the event of an emergency.
The action items also specify that operations should have updated route sheets and passenger lists available at all times. It is also critical to establish authorization policies for personnel, so all employees are aware of what areas are restricted to certain personnel only and who is authorized to take bus keys, enter the garage, etc.
NSTA’s list of action items recommends that operations conduct a risk assessment of facilities, including bus yards, garages, dispatch locations and driver areas. The recommendations include limiting access to bus parking areas and restricting the entry to one gate.
Fencing, lights, video surveillance and other security measures should be installed as needed, and operations should contact police to include the bus facility in their regular patrols.
The document also emphasizes that school bus operations must reduce the tolerance for security anomalies, such as overdue or missing vehicles, entry into the bus yard by unauthorized persons and unverified visitors.
Craig Baker, director of buildings, grounds and transportation, has been employed at Middlebury (Ind.) Community Schools since 1997. In 2005, vandals entered the bus yard and deflated the tires on several buses. After the incident, security equipment was installed to monitor the area, including camera coverage for 75 percent of the parked buses.
Since then, Baker says there have not been any incidences of vandalism among the school buses parked inside the fenced compound on campus.
Clark County Public Schools in Las Vegas has five bus yards located throughout the metro area. Each yard is monitored with closed-circuit cameras, says Director of Transportation Frank Giordano. Two of the yards are operating 24 hours a day on weekdays, but anytime the yards are not in operation, a contracted security service is present.
Both districts have secured their bus yards with chain-link fencing that is locked when personnel on site leave for the day.
At the Middlebury bus compound, local and county law enforcement agencies randomly patrol the campus, Baker says.
For larger districts that have their own campus security forces, patrolling bus yard locations may be part of the daily routine.
At Clark County, some of the district’s security vehicles are based out of the bus yards, both for the deterrent effect and out of logistical concern. “Vegas has become a pretty spread-out area, so [campus police] just report to the yard, pick up their cars and go on patrol,” Giordano explains. “As those guys come and go on their different shifts, there’s usually a couple cars parked in the yard.”