How to say Welcome aboard
FMCSA encourages operators to adopt an onboard pre-trip
safety announcement; Terrapin Blue shows how
By Bob Copestake
A cordial and informative Welcome Aboard is one of the most important elements to a safe motorcoach trip. Following several serious motorcoach accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed a basic safety plan for motorcoach companies. Drawing on recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it includes a safety awareness program for passengers.
FMCSA is offering this guidance to encourage operators to adopt an onboard pre-trip safety announcement for their passengers similar to what the airlines provide on every flight (refer to FMCSA Federal Docket No. FMCSA–2005–21324).
The thought is that every passenger deserves a safe trip and needs to know what to do if a problem develops along the way. Find the Bus and Motorcoach Safety Information Plan for Passengers on the FMCSA website: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/outreach/bus/bus.htm.
In addition to its safety aspects, a Welcome Aboard safety announcement also presents coach operators with an excellent opportunity to reinforce the special values and services the company can provide for its onboard guests. When properly produced and executed, it can set a tone that will make the company the carrier of choice for future trips.
A customized announcement can provide information about the unique services the operator provides, as well as the unique passenger comfort and safety features of the vehicle.
The Welcome Aboard safety announcement helps create a positive relationship between the operator and passengers, providing the perfect opportunity for a formal introduction and to impress upon the passengers that safety is the primary concern.
This announcement establishes the driver as the “Captain of the Ship,” whom the passengers can look to for leadership and basic instructions in matters pertaining to the trip that must include all safety precautions in case of an emergency.
The company can present its Welcome Aboard safety announcement in various formats: verbally by the driver, with written brochures, through a recorded audio format, or over the television monitors in a DVD/video format.
A company can create a professionally customized DVD format with a small investment that will clearly provide the critical safety information, as well as explain the essential safety measures and emergency exits on their specific vehicle(s). Additionally, the message can also include a customized segment promoting the company and its unique transportation services.
Tips for a successful
1. Begin with a cordial welcome that thanks the passengers for choosing the company for their coach travel and assures them that their safety is absolutely the top priority for a comfortable and enjoyable trip.
2. Clearly point out and explain each of the various safety features on the vehicle or motorcoach such as emergency exits, all signage, release handles and safety mechanisms, handrails, lighting, fire extinguishers, seat belts where applicable and first aid kits and medical equipment. Repeat the information for each safety feature if warranted.
3. Point out some basic vehicle controls in the driver compartment, such as how to operate the emergency parking brake and how to open the front door. This may be important information if the driver becomes incapacitated.
4. It may be reasonable to take the time to demonstrate some of the safety features on the motorcoach. Many survivors of serious bus and coach accidents have stated they did not know how to get out of the vehicle or how to release the emergency exit hatches.
Regardless of how it is delivered, the Welcome Aboard announcement must address the passengers’ basic safety principles that the company requires them to observe and practice while onboard, such as staying seated while the bus is moving, wearing the seatbelt if available and how to safely move about in a moving bus. Discuss some basic emergency procedures.
Remind them to remain calm in all circumstances and to look to the driver for leadership in an emergency. Make it clear to passengers how to evacuate the bus in an orderly manner and what they should do once they exit the bus. Give them appropriate emergency numbers and remind them to call 911 to report an emergency or to call the home office if they have onboard safety concerns.
For school-aged groups or boisterous partying groups, the safety announcement can also provide a way to establish reasonable onboard noise levels, appropriate forms of conduct and acceptable onboard activities. Remind everyone to be respectful of all passengers and help them to think about the needs of others while onboard during a normal trip as well as in case of emergency.
As a closing note, the Welcome Aboard announcement can point out the convenience features and special amenities on the coach that reinforce the company’s wish for a safe and enjoyable trip. End by thanking the customers for their business. BR
Veteran safety professional Bob Copestake serves as director of safety for Terrapin Blue, Athens, GA, and previously was vice president for safety at Coach America, overseeing 30 locations in four regions.