School Bus Under-Ride and the Yellow Jacket Split

Guess what?  Some firefighters and myself got our hands on another school bus for heavy rescue training in Norwalk, Ohio sponsored by the Northern Ohio Fools on a rainy April Saturday.  Of course, we spent some time covering the basics of school bus extrication with the newbies of this heavy rescue environment.  Then I had a few new ideas and challenges that proved to be worthwhile endeavor.  This article is going to focus on two topics of advanced school bus extrication; first, the school bus under-ride and second, a procedure I termed the yellow jacket split.


Here’s your scenario: report of a car that rear-ended a stopped school bus at a high speed.

Upon arrival you set-up a roadway block and luckily find an empty school bus.  The driver evacuated the bus and is uninjured; she reports no students were on the bus.  As you perform a 360 walk-around of the scene, you find a passenger car that is smashed into an under-ride position, which has slightly lifted the rear tires of the school bus off the ground.  There are two screaming and entrapped victims in the front seats of the passenger car.  No fuels are leaking from either vehicle and no power lines are down.  Learning point: Contact a heavy wrecker early.  If you train with them regularly they can help with stabilization and heavy lifting if needed.

What’s next?  Our focus must turn to stabilization.  We have an approximately 12-ton school bus sitting on a little car.  If we cut an A Post on the passenger car, the bus is coming down further onto the victims.  Be thinking of your options: stabilize and lift the bus or stabilize the bus and cut the car away from the victims.  First and foremost, chock the front tires of the bus, crib the void between the rear bus tires and the ground, and chock the passenger car tires.  Throw a strut on either side of the school bus to make an initial stabilization triangle if you have them.  Hopefully by now you get some EMS personnel near the victims for assessment.

Now we are to the point of deciding lift or stabilize and cut.  For this article, of course we are going to discus the lift job.  You will need a bunch of cribbing.  Learning point: How much cribbing does your department have?  Depending on the depth of the cars under-ride, we need to build a box crib on either side on the car in a position with access to the buses frame.  You might have to cut the muffler out and part of the buses outer yellow skin, you’ll understand why in a minute.  Once the box cribs are in place, with a solid platform on top place an airbag on each.  Now you will need a long, about 8’ – 6”x6” to stretch from crib to crib.  You understand now why the box cribs need to higher than the hood of the car and why you may have to cut out the muffler.

You are now ready to lift the school bus off the car.  Have personnel in place to do the following; 1) extend the struts and secure, 2) add cribbing under the buses rear tires during the lift, 3) monitor both airbags and the stabilization of the box cribs.  Once the bus is off the car and stabilized, you can then tunnel in, remove the roof, and /or pop the doors on the passenger car to get the victims out. 


In previous articles (School Bus Extrication , Train for School Bus Emergencies , Advanced School Bus Extrication) I have wrote about various aspects of school bus extrication.  The Yellow Jacket Split is new terminology that just came to me, as we wanted to open up the side of the bus larger than a window or picture window opening.  Many of the procedures and techniques are similar, but on an even larger scale.

The challenge: create an opening in the side of the bus greater than 3 window widths to facilitate easier access and flow.  Firefighters seasoned in school bus extrication basics performed the following to implement the Yellow Jacket Split technique:

  • Removal of at least 3 windows and cut the post tops.
  • Interior crew removed the seats attached to the wall being attacked.
  • Exterior crew made the cuts with 2 reciprocating saws.  The plan is to cut down from the bottom of the window on the left to the floor and then across the floor.  At the right edge of your planned opening, just cut down 6” or so to provide relief to hinge the wall out of the way.

This procedure is not all to time consuming for rescuers with a bit of training and good tool technique.

Wrap Up

School bus extrication continues to be a topic that I feel is extremely important for rescuers to understand and feel confident about.  The scene of a school bus crash is not the time to learn about roadway hazards, MCI’s, heavy stabilization, and school bus specific extrication.  Pass the baton of knowledge on and train hard.