Transportation Security and Safety

Head Start programs should consider these action items when they address transportation security and safety risks. These items are based on effective practices identified by a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.


Head Start transportation managers coordinate and supervise a program’s transportation services. A key part of the job is making sure their program’s transportation services are prepared for security and safety risks. To do this, transportation managers should do the following:

  • Develop a written security program and emergency management plans in conjunction with program administrators, law enforcement, fire department, first responders, and an emergency preparedness agency. The plan should address traditional crises such as fire, a weather emergency, serious accidents, school evacuations, and terrorist activities.
  • Review and modify emergency plans as necessary considering increased threat levels from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or local agencies.
  • Develop a command structure for responding to a crisis. Know the roles and responsibilities of first responders and determine the chain of command within your organization. Verify 24/7 contact information.
  • Identify multiple evacuation routes from schools and bus facilities. Identify alternatives for regular routes that use key infrastructures, such as major bridges or tunnels, in case of increased or targeted security alerts.
  • Coordinate and stage a practice drill of emergency plans with local security partners.
  • Develop a communications plan for getting information to programs, parents, and law enforcement.
  • Appoint a single person to communicate with the media and the community.
  • Make sure updated route sheets and passenger lists are readily available for all buses and all schools.
  • Prohibit unauthorized persons from entering buses. Establish authorization standards and procedures.


Transportation facilities include locations where vehicles are stored overnight, parked, and stopped to pick up and drop off passengers. When creating and evaluating security and safety preparedness measures for transportation facilities, programs should do the following:

  • Complete a risk assessment of:
    • Facilities, including bus yards, garages, dispatch locations, driver areas
    • All routes and bus stops for security and safety; for example, note stops that are hidden by overgrown bushes where persons could hide
  • Control access to bus parking areas, if possible. Restrict entry to one gate.
  • Install fencing, lights, locking gates, video surveillance, or other security measures as needed.
  • Arrange with local police to include your facility in their regular patrols.
  • Reduce tolerance for "security anomalies" such as overdue or missing vehicles, intrusions into the bus yard, and unverified visitors.


Proper safety equipment protects passengers during all phases of transportation. Head Start programs should consider the following safety equipment to address security and safety risks:

  • Maintain a security storage and management system for bus keys.
  • Equip all buses with two-way communication.
  • Establish an "external trouble indicator" that drivers can use to alert law enforcement, such as all lights flashing. Be sure to discuss the indicator with law enforcement.
  • Install video surveillance, GPS, door locks, and other equipment as needed and permitted by state law.
  • Train employees in proper use of all equipment.


Head Start transportation staff are the frontline of a program’s transportation services. To make sure staff are well-equipped to respond to safety and security risks, programs should:

  • Issue photo IDs to all staff.
  • Complete background checks on all employees.
  • Advise employees to report suspicious incidents or persons at the bus facility or on route. See something, say something.
  • Provide security training to staff and volunteers.
  • Establish crisis codes that drivers can use to alert dispatch that they are in trouble.
  • Train drivers to never to leave buses running, and to turn off the engine and take the keys when leaving the bus at any location.
  • Instruct drivers to check buses for foreign objects inside and outside anytime a bus has been unattended, such as at an activity trip destination and between routes.
  • Establish a method of reporting each personnel’s location during high alerts.