Vehicle Extrication: What You Need to Know About School Bus Construction


As vehicle extrications go, school bus extrications can pose a number of unique challenges, both because of the size of the vehicles and their solid construction. Before participating in a bus extrication, you should understand how buses are constructed so that you know where and how to take action to compromise that structure in order to free patients.

How a School Bus is Built

School buses are designed to be very strong in order to minimize interior penetration in crash situations and maximize the protection of their precious cargo. Bus frames are made with galvanized steel and molded steel channels that help the vehicle maintain structural integrity in a crash. Consequently, you will rarely find patients pinned in a bus; they are more likely to be trapped.

Buses have incredibly strong floors. They consist of a steel frame with sheet metal attached and then a plywood subfloor on top of that. A one piece 14 gauge steel bow framing runs the length of the bus and between each window. They also have a steel bumper that encircles the steel floor. Other features like steel members, rub rails, and a shell made of two layers of galvanized sheet metal add strength and rigidity throughout.

The electrical systems on a school bus are standard 12 volt. However they have multiple batteries wired in parallel, which can typically be found at the bottom floor level, behind the driver’s seat. When disconnecting the electrical system, you should cut and tape the negative cable first, then cut and tape the positive cable. The engine on a standard type “C” bus is located in the front, while the engine of a “snub nose” extended bus is likely located in the rear.

Designed for Safety

Clearly, school buses are designed to protect their occupants. And while it means that extrication may be more difficult, the tradeoff is certainly a good one. Thankfully, buses aren’t often involved in accidents that require extrication, but it’s wise to give some thought in advance to how you would approach a bus accident scenario. If you have questions about vehicle extrication or our extrication equipment product line, don’t hesitate to call us at (888) 427-3728 or email