Management & Operations

How to train bus drivers in safety techniques

Posted on January 1, 2001

By definition, most transit bus drivers are high-risk workers, working late at night and alone. To help defend themselves from potentially dangerous situations, Mark Anderson of San Diego Transit offered these tips at the California Transit Association’s Annual Meeting in November:

  • Prepare. Decide what to wear and how to wear it. Plan for various situations through training and role-playing. Be somewhat physically fit in order to better defend yourself.
  • Identify. Do a quick glance around the vehicle to check for people who may give you problems. Learn what problems can be handled while approaching a stop and while stopped. Know the signs of a situation that is “heating up.”
  • Deescalate. Use verbal controls to help calm the situation down. Know how to present yourself to reduce the risk of being robbed or attacked. Always leave yourself an out.
  • Defend. Know techniques for self-defense as well as the elements of an assault. Always interact with the person from a seated position so there is no question of who is the aggressor. “You need to be proactive in having operators protect themselves and others,” Anderson said. “Hopefully they will never, ever have to use these techniques.” Operators at San Diego Transit sit through a three-and-a-half hour CD-ROM that further details the above elements. They also learn self-defense techniques. Operators at Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) work closely with the local police department to better coordinate safety and security measures. They practice tactical deployment of the police as well as how to do such things as disable a bus. All of Santa Monica’s buses are equipped with a silent alarm system. The Santa Monica Police Department, in cooperation with the BBB, made a training video that walks operators, as well as security personnel, through some tactical maneuvers. Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) also practices collaborative training and prepares for worst-case scenarios that include active shooters, hostages and casualties. Troy Holt, manager of safety and security at MST, recommends making a scenario as real as possible to test the coordination of the agencies and their ability to respond to a situation at different times and days. MST also makes its buses available to local law enforcement offices for training.
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