Category Archives: Emergency response

Police K-9 Training Exercises at Omnitrans

k-9 bomb dog training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE K-9 TRAINING EXERCISE

This week, Omnitrans was honored to make its bus yard and facility available to an elite group of K-9 law enforcement officers for explosive detection training exercises.

When Detective Brad Phillips of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department contacted us to organize the training, we were happy to help.

k-9 bomb sniffing dogs training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

“We often work with local law enforcement to provide vehicles for training exercises,” says Omnitrans Security and Loss Prevention Supervisor Mark Crosby.  “It’s mutually beneficial because it helps us assess our own emergency preparedness. It also gives us the opportunity to get to know each other and establish a relationship before an emergency situation arises rather than after.”

sbX vehicles, Omnitrans buses and the San Bernardino office were used for this training exercise. In talking with the officers, we learned that the dogs are exposed to many different types of toys when they are puppies. Eventually they will zero in on one toy that is their absolute favorite. That toy is then removed and used only as a playtime reward for successful detecting missions. Basically, these K-9s work for fun!

k-9 bomb dogs training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

“When we pull up on a scene and they see other k-9 units, they know its play time,” grins one officer. “They are incredibly smart and love to hunt.”

Watching these teams together, the deep affection between the canine officers and their human partners is obvious.  Not only do they work together, they also live together as family. “We’re together 24/7,” chuckles another officer. “My dog sleeps in the same bed as my wife and I. We’re pretty much joined at the hip. He follows me wherever I go.”

k-9 law enforcement training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

The training exercises are a double blind. Neither the dog nor his partner knows where the item is hidden. When they inspect the scene, the two move in tandem, thoroughly inspecting any possible hiding place, focusing completely on the task at hand. The dog sniffs every part of the vehicle, becoming gradually more excited as it hones in on the scent.

One officer explains to us how refined the dogs’ sense of smell is. “As humans, when we walk into the kitchen and stew is cooking on the stove, we simply smell stew. These dogs smell beef and carrots and potatoes and pepper—all of the individual ingredients that make up the whole. They break down information that specifically.”

k-9 law enforcement training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Occasionally the officers might purposely throw in a “distractor” to see if the dog can be thrown off track. During one exercise, a dog alerted her partner to a little bag of peanuts tucked under a bus seat, before continuing her search.

When the dog finds the item he signals his partner by sitting and looking into his eyes expectantly. The reward is immediate: lots of praise and petting and, of course, exciting playtime with the much anticipated favorite toy.

k-9 law enforcement training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

The work of these K-9 teams was impressive. In each case, the dog was able to correctly locate the substance and alert his partner.  Working for fun is a great motivator!

VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE K-9 POLICE DOG TRAINING EXERCISE AT OMNITRANS

– Juno Kughler Carlson, juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Special thanks to Omnitrans Security and Loss Prevention Supervisor Mark Crosby

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k-9 law enforcement training exercise at Omnitrans, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Coach Operators: more than a driver

As Omnitrans CEO Milo Victoria points out, transit is not about buses. It’s about people. “Omnitrans provides a great service to the community. It’s not just about transferring people from point A to point B. We consider our passengers to be part of our family, and families take care of each other.”

This is why every Omnitrans coach operator receives extensive training, not only in customer service and the safe operation of our coaches, but in multiple emergency scenarios as well. They learn to deal with a wide variety of crisis situations from careless car drivers to terrorist attacks. The goal is to be prepared for anything.

Over the past year Omnitrans coach operators have helped with the identification and safe return of elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s. They have acted to save lives of those suffering from heart attacks or diabetic seizures. They have offered assistance to women who appeared to be victims of abuse. They have even come to the aid of small children who were lost or abandoned.

Yesterday, one coach operator had the opportunity to put his emergency skills into action when an officer-involved shooting took place near Hospitality in San Bernardino. See the full story in the San Bernardino Sun. He was driving his bus when he heard the sound of gunfire and his rearview mirror suddenly shattered. This 18 year fleet veteran acted quickly, calmly pulling the bus out of danger, speaking with police on the scene and notifying dispatch.

“I was scared at first,” he said frankly. “But then my training kicked in and I knew exactly what to do. My first priority was the safety of my passengers.”

“This is the whole purpose of our training program,” says Omnitrans training supervisor Don Frazier. “Because our coach operators are so well prepared, their reaction becomes almost instinctive. Ray Lopez, our director of Safety and Security, and his team Brenda Rosas and Mark Crosby do a really remarkable job with annual emergency training. The coach operators are given the skills to handle even the most unexpected situation and are confident in the immediate support and backup they will receive from dispatch and our field supervisors. Being a coach operator is not just about driving a bus. It’s about helping people and coping with the unexpected curves life throws at us every day.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Shakeout Earthquake Drill planned Thursday

News release from the San Bernardino County Fire Department:

This Thursday, October 18 at 10:18 a. m., the Omnitrans bus fleet will slow or stop all over San Bernardino County as a part of the Great California ShakeOut Earthquake Drill.

A mock emergency announcement will be made to passengers, and if it is safe, buses will slow and pull over as they would in an actual earthquake. During the simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, Omnitrans coach operators will practice safety procedures that would be followed in the event of a major earthquake.

Omnitrans, the County’s largest transit provider, will be conducting other simultaneous company-wide earthquake preparedness activities on October 18th including:

  • Conducting a DROP, COVER and HOLD ON drill for their employees at all their facilities at 10:18 a.m.
  • Displaying an Omnitrans Travel Training bus to instruct children on bus safety during an earthquake as a part of the ShakeOut event at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands.
  • Distributing refresher awareness material to Omnitrans Coach Operators on the proper procedures to be taken if an earthquake strikes while they are on the road.

“The important thing is for our riders not to panic, but to remain calm and follow the instructions given by their coach operator and/or transit supervisor on-scene until a higher level of authority arrives,” says Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor. “While the bus is shaking during an earthquake, passengers should stay seated and protect their head and neck.”

This year’s ShakeOut exercise focuses on commuter preparedness by encouraging commuters who drive themselves or use public transportation to take steps today to prepare should a major earthquake occur during
their commute.

If an earthquake occurs while you are driving:

  • Safely pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake.
  • Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards.
  • Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over.
  • If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

For more information about the Great California ShakeOut and to register your participation, visit www.ShakeOut.org/california.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department, Office of Emergency Services reminds you to prepare now so you can get back to normal sooner after the next major earthquake.

Read more about the important role Omnitrans plays in emergency disaster preparedness:

Omnitrans participates in disaster planning exercise

Photo of the Omnitrans moblile command center

Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor and Ray Lopez, Safety & Security Director, stand outside the Omnitrans Mobile Command Center

Omnitrans participates in disaster planning exercise

Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor (seated) and Ray Lopez, Safety & Security Director, test emergency equipment in the Omnitrans Mobile Command Center.

On June 13th, Omnitrans joins representatives from the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, Verizon and other area agencies to evaluate and update the Golden Guardian 2012 tabletop exercise in the Cajon Pass. The analysis is part of the annual Golden Guardian Exercise, a statewide disaster preparedness program for first responders from local government.

The tabletop exercise focuses on a “ShakeOut” scenario, a 7.8 earthquake on the southern section of the San Andreas Fault. The Cajon Pass is of particular concern in this scenario because it sits directly on the fault and is a critical artery for transportation, electrical, gas, petroleum, water and telephone lines for the region.

“Since the events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, it’s become increasingly important for public transit agencies to have a seat at the table for these types of discussions,” said Ray Lopez, Director of Safety and Security at Omnitrans. “We have the opportunity to collaborate on a preparedness plan with other first responders and see what works and what doesn’t when we put that plan into action.”

Some of the key stakeholders and first responders participating in the “ShakeOut” exercise at the Cajon Pass. The exercise simulates disaster scenarios likely to occur as the result of a 7.8 earthquake in the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault.

According to Lopez, there are small but critical details that are often overlooked in the planning process that will typically surface during a tabletop analysis. “Agencies who plan on sharing fuel in a crisis situation might suddenly realize the nozzles on their fueling stations are incompatible with each other,” he said. “Or emergency crews might want a bus to help evacuate an area an hour away, not realizing it would actually take longer for the bus to arrive. By discussing potential disaster scenarios like “ShakeOut,” we can get a clearer understanding of each others’ needs and capabilities moving forward.”

Lopez also believes that training Omnitrans employees for disaster preparedness at home as well as on the job is a critical component of the bus agency’s plan. “When a crisis strikes, things can quickly become chaotic,” said Lopez. “In addition to trying to keep routes up and running, we would need to set up shuttles to transport people to places like relief centers or hospitals. We would also need coach operators to drive those buses. If they have a home emergency plan in place and know that their families are taken care of, they will be more likely to respond.”

Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor and Ray Lopez, Safety & Security Director, outside the Omnitrans Mobile Command Center.

Omnitrans is one of the few bus agencies to have its own mobile command center, equipped with satellite phones, laptops, radios and other communications equipment. “In an emergency scenario, this would be the heart of our operation,” said Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor for Omnitrans. “Our mobile unit would become an information hub, and we would act as a liaison between Omnitrans and our partners. We would know what road conditions or crisis situations coach operators are reporting to dispatch and be able to communicate them directly to disaster crews and community partners. At the same time we would know what emergency activities are taking place on a regional level and keep our own people appraised as to what’s happening.”

“Preparedness for the next emergency is the key,” says Lopez.

Click here to view a copy of the Omnitrans Hazard and Mitigation Plan.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Kathleen B. Springer, Senior Curator of Geological Sciences at the San Bernardino County Museum speaks to participants in the “Shakeout” exercise at the Cajon Pass. The Pass sits directly on the San Andreas Fault and is a critical artery for transportation, electrical, gas, petroleum, water and telephone lines for the Southern California region.