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Facility Buses: Look for Changes Ahead

May 1, 2006
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Head down the highway in safety and comfort with the latest in transportation innovation by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor

To accommodate wheelchair transfers, there is the all-important wheelchair lift. Lifts are designed to take a person from the sidewalk, raise him or her up to floor level, and then position him or her in the bus. In 1975, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, says King, looked at safety statistics and determined that changes needed to be made to lift systems that would ensure better operation and a greater safety threshold. And improvements continue to be made. "New lifts now sport all sorts of bells and whistles," comments King. They have blinking red lights, for example, that indicate that someone is standing in the wrong place for safe operation. In addition, these improved lifts are equipped with cycle counters, which are similar to a car's odometer, explains King. From the time of installation until the bus is retired, the owner will know how many times the lift has been deployed. "This cycle counter," says King, "provides a great way to gauge use and determine a schedule of maintenance, inspection, or repair." He adds that this upgraded equipment is available now.

Coming Attractions
King bases his outlook on information and research from the bus industry, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and his personal experience and observations on pending federal legislation. As a direct result of the fire on the bus carrying nursing home evacuees from Hurricane Rita, King believes that the government and transportation industry will review and make safety recommendations on transporting limited sizes and quantities of oxygen bottles and similar medical devices in future vehicles. "Also, because their size is coming down, as well as the price, I believe portable defibrillators may become a standard part of the safety package," adds King.

Complementing the health benefits of cleaner air and better lighting, psychologic boosts also can add to quality of life (and travel), as exemplified by one of the most recent offerings of independence-the personal mobility device, or stand-up motorized scooter, which opens up a world of opportunity to those with limited mobility. "Right now, these two-wheeled mobility devices are rather large but, although it seems far-fetched, I believe that they will become smaller. There may even be fold-up models in the future," says King. In essence, the resident will ride to the bus, ride on the bus, and scoot off the bus to enjoy the day's activities.

The Most Underused Bus Feature
Whether a facility's transportation consists of new or old vehicles, King suggests that the most critical (and least regarded) accessory is the manila envelope that arrives with the new bus. "The most important part of that vehicle is the warranty card," stresses King. "Without it, the chassis manufacturer has no idea who you are, where you are, and what the vehicle's intended use is. With this information on file, you can automatically receive safety recalls and/or service information you need. So send it in-immediately."

That envelope also contains four universal wheelchair handicapped decals that should be placed on each outside corner of the bus. If the bus has a lift, there will be a maintenance manual included with the owner's manual and instructions on using the wheelchair tie-downs. The body manufacturer may also include an inspection pamphlet that contains valuable tips. "Did you know that you should never wash down a bus interior with a garden hose or that you should never use oil to lubricate the window seals? It's information like this that will keep your vehicle in top-notch condition," says King, "and it's in the information packet that comes with your new bus."

Halsey King is President of Halsey King & Associates in Carlsbad, California. For further information, call (760) 434-2400. To send your comments to the author and editors, please e-mail hoban0506@nursinghomesmagazine.com.