DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - When is a school bus, not a school bus? In DeSoto County, when there's a major emergency or disaster.
The county is working out the kinks in a new emergency response plan. It involves preparation, planning and believe it or not, school buses.
"The school buses sitting in the water in New Orleans was kind of a negative image," says John Caldwell, Director of Transportation for DeSoto County Schools. "Everyone said what about the school buses? We have this asset here. So how can we best use it?"
The answer is to transform the school buses into an ambulance. Two of the county's school buses can now be used to transport injured people in emergencies. The district has a new tool called AmbuBus to make the most of the people movers. During a disaster, they can be used to evacuate hospitals or nursing homes.
Caldwell wants to make sure the district's prepared, if and when, the time comes. They're doing drills this week and last to see what it takes to operate.
When it's fully set up and all the bus seats are removed, up to 12 stretchers can be placed on the bus.
"When you have an ambulance," says Caldwell, "it can take two or sometimes only one."
The school district will be working hand in hand with the DeSoto County Emergency Management Agency. They've helped out before in severe weather or emergency situations, but this offers a new option.
The State Department of Health paid for the bus-into-ambulance kits. They take about two hours to set up. The school district is still deciding whether to keep one fully installed and ready to go.