No one will ever forget the sight of that US Airways plane making a landing in New York City's Hudson River that frigid day in January 2009. As a Bronx native, I, along with millions of others who have made the daily commute down the Henry Hudson Parkway, could never have expected something like this would ever happen.
Fortunately, pilot Chesley B. Sullenburger III and his crew were on board. I just want to thank God that this story had the most incredible and happy ending possible with no loss of life. It's not often that a pilot must land his plane in the icy Hudson River so properly positioned for rescue personnel to respond in minutes. Talk about Getting the Big Picture — that was the ULTIMATE BIG PICTURE!
Sully exhibited qualities that we can apply to prevent injuries and fatalities in our own field of employment. As subject matter experts and training professionals, do you see that routine, seemingly harmless driving behavior could end up as a very serious situation? In an early media interview, credit was given to the pilot's and co-pilot's simulator training.
To ensure that all bases are covered and that both students and instructors are prepared to confront any potential hazardous situation, ask yourself, is everyone:
Ready for Anything - A good example of this was on September 11. It began as a routine morning until disaster struck and then it was the experience and readiness of the various responders that kicked in with one goal in mind: getting the job done!
Getting the Big Picture - When faced with an unusually high amount of a specific type of incident at your facility and, the solution can be applied in the simulated environment as Sully must have experienced, there is no excuse for not implementing your past training experiences as diligently as he did. In a crisis, he reverted back to simulated training scenarios and his military pilot experience.
Getting Creative - Pilot Sullenburger got creative real fast. Can you do the same when you see a pattern developing at your locations? Can you apply an immediate 'fix' to developing problems? If not, how long can you live with the problem?
Implementing Experience and Training - Only a well-trained and experienced pilot could have succeeded in accomplishing such a miraculous recovery. Is your experience utilized to correct harmful patterns that may be developing? Have confidence in what you have learned and impart your acquired knowledge in situations just screaming out for your input.
Staying Focused Under Pressure - Sully kept his cool along with all that were on board that plane. Do you and your trainers keep your cool? Those of you who incorporate simulation training into your curriculum, do you work together when applying your skills to what is taught in your simulators?
Are you satisfied with your responses to the above points? If not, don't kid yourself. Go back to the drawing board because you have some work to do.
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?