Tag Archives: omnitrans emergency response

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

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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.