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Old 24th June 2013, 19:10   #1
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Default Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Volvos have pretty much become the preferred mode of transportation for long haul intercity travels in India. So much so, that operators have routes such as Bangalore - Jaipur or Bangalore - Ahmedabad which takes well over 24 hours. We all prefer Volvos for the overall experience - speed, comfort, connectivity etc.

But a recent incident on an SRS Volvo from Bangalore to Trivandrum makes me feel how do these buses land up on the roads, when there appears to be a very basic safety issue. The journey was on 19 Jun from Bangalore to Trivandrum - we left Madiwala ~9PM and the bus was driven at pretty decent speeds throughout. We were on the bye pass road in Dindigul when the driver suddenly applied the brakes, let out a scream of despair and the next thing that we could make out was a loud sound and a jerk. The bus had rammed a truck at a fairly high speed. Immediately upon impact, all lights went out as the electric system had been affected. The windscreen had cracked and the front of the bus bore the impact resulting in the driver getting caught between the steering wheel and his seat. He was unable to come out as he had also suffered injuries (fracture on the hip, as we later learnt). Due to the impact, both the driver door and passenger doors were jammed. ~30 passengers were stuck inside the bus and it was pitch dark. The crew tried to force-open the doors but failed, and they kept saying that in a Volvo, when there is frontal impact, doors get jammed and cannot be opened.

The only way out of the bus is to use the hammers and break open the emergency window. We did this, in the pitch dark, and took well over 10-15 mins to break the glass. Another 20-30 mins before all the passengers could come out of the bus using the ladder which was stowed in the luggage section. Thankfully, this incident was with a normal cargo laden truck and not with a vehicle carrying explosive materials, which would not have given us this precious window of 30 mins to get out !

How do these buses get the permit to ply, when there is no emergency door? Shouldn't this be a basic criteria? When all office buildings have emergency doors to use in case of a fire, and aircrafts have them too, why not buses?

I remember a lot of articles in the media on emergency doors being made mandatory, after a couple of accidents where unlucky passengers were charred due to collision with trucks carrying explosive material (chemicals, LPG, other fuels). Something as recent as 2-3 weeks back when an APSRTC Volvo bound for Tirupati from Bangalore collided with a truck and a few unlucky passengers lost their lives. Another couple of incidents I recall are a KPN coach on the Chennai - Pollachi sector and one on the Mumbai - Ahmedabad sector where a lot of people lost their lives.

KaSRTC did introduce emergency exits on some of their new B9Rs (right side, middle of the bus) but none of the new buses have it. Their old B7Rs have am emergency exit on the right side towards the end of the bus. Again, some Prakash built Ashley AC coaches have Emergency exits on the rear glass. But most of the Volvos dont ! Post this incident, and on my way back yesterday, I observed over 20-25 Volvos / Mercs of different operators (SRS, KPN, SRM, Kallada, Universel, KaSRTC to name a few) but not one had an emergency exit !

So much so for passenger safety which is compromised because the operators want to load the extra 2 seats which would otherwise have to be removed to fit the emergency exit !

Keen to hear to the views of fellow BHPians on this matter !

Last edited by Mpower : 24th June 2013 at 19:35.
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Old 24th June 2013, 19:32   #2
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

I think Volvos have emergency windows rather than doors. The first two windows and sometimes more than two windows are generally marked as emergency windows. Internationally too, having a 2nd door is not always mandatory. I feel the emergency windows are more than good enough.

Even with an emergency door, you cannot skip on emergency windows. Just like a frontal collision blocks the front doors, if the bus rolls over to one side, the door can become blocked. In fact, a roll after a frontal collision may mean both doors are blocked.

But there is an issue with the emergency windows. Volvo does provide a special glass breaking hammer which is generally placed right beside the emergency window. This is a special hammer with an extremely sharp point, which can shatter the glass with one hit. But I have seen this hammer missing from its holder many a times.

As for deaths occurring, that is part of the entire safety issue on our highways rather than an issue specific to Volvo/Merc buses. And buses are still nowhere near as safe as cars.

I think the major issue regarding safety of these buses is not the machine, but the men who operate them. And not just drivers, owners too have to share the blame.

Last edited by julupani : 24th June 2013 at 19:35.
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Old 24th June 2013, 19:38   #3
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

A very close call indeed.

If a fire had started inside the bus, then there would've been many fatalities....like we have seen in the recent car-fire incidents.


Its high time the ARAI get involved in these matters and enforce safety regulations.
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Old 24th June 2013, 19:54   #4
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Quote:
Originally Posted by aroonanand View Post
Due to the impact, both the driver door and passenger doors were jammed. ~30 passengers were stuck inside the bus and it was pitch dark. The crew tried to force-open the doors but failed, and they kept saying that in a Volvo, when there is frontal impact, doors get jammed and cannot be opened.
SRS B9Rs do not have a driver door. Not only SRS, but a lot of operators save on that money too by avoiding having a driver door. KaSRTC, VRL, Kallada (suresh), National are few notable operators who retain the driver door in their buses - so incase of a frontal crash, you have an additional door to your rescue. The driver door doesn't get jammed that quickly because of its design. Even in case of a frontal impact, the doors can be opened - I am not sure of the exact switch to use, but its possible.

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Originally Posted by aroonanand View Post
The only way out of the bus is to use the hammers and break open the emergency window. We did this, in the pitch dark, and took well over 10-15 mins to break the glass. Another 20-30 mins before all the passengers could come out of the bus using the ladder which was stowed in the luggage section.
Actually, if you are targetting the correct glass, all you need to do is kick the glass or hit it with baggage. The emergency exit windows are the second from the front and second from the back. Like in aircrafts, its important to play a safety video in these buses too.

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Originally Posted by aroonanand View Post
... Another couple of incidents I recall are a KPN coach on the Chennai - Pollachi sector and one on the Mumbai - Ahmedabad sector where a lot of people lost their lives.
A small correction, the KPN coach involved in the Chennai-Pollachi bus accident was an AC sleeper, not a Volvo.
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Old 24th June 2013, 21:16   #5
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Quote:
Originally Posted by binaiks View Post
SRS B9Rs do not have a driver door. Not only SRS, but a lot of operators save on that money too by avoiding having a driver door. KaSRTC, VRL, Kallada (suresh), National are few notable operators who retain the driver door in their buses - so incase of a frontal crash, you have an additional door to your rescue. The driver door doesn't get jammed that quickly because of its design. Even in case of a frontal impact, the doors can be opened - I am not sure of the exact switch to use, but its possible.
Actually, if you are targetting the correct glass, all you need to do is kick the glass or hit it with baggage. The emergency exit windows are the second from the front and second from the back. Like in aircrafts, its important to play a safety video in these buses too.
As per ECR regulations, the Doors of a Bus/Truck should be open able from outside of the vehicle without considerable effort. Also in some European countries, its mandatory to have a middle door on the side other that the driver side, similar to the ones on the Volvo B11R trial bus. Its is however sad that majority of Indian operators (other than Kasrtc B9r's) opt for the middle door and not even the driver side door, to save money.
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Old 25th June 2013, 07:40   #6
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Why add only VOLVO's to the list ? None of the regular buses have a conventional emergency exit. From what I have seen, most of these buses have " Emergency Exit" stickered on the rear windshield . I dont understand how the RTO approves of such buses where there is zilch concern for safety in case of an accident. Take a look at this bus

Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?-20120527-13.57.32-large.jpg

In case of an emergency, I wonder how people are expected to disembark from that height and it gets even worse when they have 2 ladders at the back.
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Old 25th June 2013, 09:33   #7
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

A very valid point.

I remember seeing a lot of the non-a/c coaches of KaSRTC being retrofitted with an emergency exit; you could see the metal being cut and re-welded. I think this was in response to the Volvo which was charred.

I guess only a fraction of the Volvos were retrofitted.

There are hundreds of private Volvos which lack the emergency doors as well.

This issue needs a very resolved approach from authorities and operators; unless there's regulation, I doubt anyone's going to budge.

On the same note, aren't there 1-2 vents on the roof that can be used as emergency exits? I know there are 2 on the intra-city Volvos; I think the inter-city ones have only 1.
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Old 25th June 2013, 09:58   #8
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Honestly, I have never thought of opening the emergency window and I have never been in a situation. But breaking the window should not be that big a problem.

As pointed out, in case of a roll-over the doors will get jammed. I wonder the emergency windows are on both the sides of a bus (left & right)? And yes, I have seen in a lot many buses that "hammer" thing missing.

Those emergency exits at the back are dangerous. What if someone falls from that? The drop would be about 10 feet (?). How are women, children and elderly expected to behave? The ladder should ideally be long enough (the gap between the ground and the ladder IMO should not be more than 2-3 feet).

But in general, my feel is that travelling in a bus is much more safer than your car.
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Old 25th June 2013, 10:21   #9
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

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Originally Posted by pratyush6 View Post
Those emergency exits at the back are dangerous. What if someone falls from that? The drop would be about 10 feet (?). How are women, children and elderly expected to behave? The ladder should ideally be long enough (the gap between the ground and the ladder IMO should not be more than 2-3 feet).
The side emergency exits in Volvos are about 5-5.5feet off the ground. I think it is a reasonable height from where most people will be able to jump from. The small percentage who will find it difficult can easily be helped by other people. Remember, this is an "emergency exit", where comfort is not a priority at all. The idea is to be able to get out.

Just as an example, if you see the emergency windows on trains are more the 5-6feet off the ground level too, and you dont expect the railway staff to turn up with ladders so that you can get out.

Long distance Volvo's have roof top emergency exits too, though I cant seem to remember if its one or two in number. But I guess the roof top exit will only be useful if the bus is on its side, rather than standing up.
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Old 25th June 2013, 10:42   #10
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
...On the same note, aren't there 1-2 vents on the roof that can be used as emergency exits? I know there are 2 on the intra-city Volvos; I think the inter-city ones have only 1.
They have two emergency exits at the roof.
Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?-emergency-exits.jpg
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Old 25th June 2013, 10:57   #11
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Above all, matters could get worse when people doesn't know that there are emergency features like breaking window with a sharp hammer or emergency exits. I guess people should be made aware of the reaction steps to be taken during an emergency before every trip.

Frankly I never knew about a safety door on top of the roof, which I think has high potential in saving lives during an emergency.
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:06   #12
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

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Originally Posted by Ashley2 View Post
They have two emergency exits at the roof.
Attachment 1101983
Aren't these meant for getting fresh air inside the bus. They can double up as emergency exits if the bus topples on one side but they are not primarily meant to be emergency exits in the first place.

Please correct me if I am wrong.
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:23   #13
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

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Originally Posted by pratyush6 View Post
Those emergency exits at the back are dangerous. What if someone falls from that? The drop would be about 10 feet (?). How are women, children and elderly expected to behave? The ladder should ideally be long enough (the gap between the ground and the ladder IMO should not be more than 2-3 feet).
Quote:
Originally Posted by julupani View Post
...remember, this is an "emergency exit", where comfort is not a priority at all. The idea is to be able to get out
The first priority is to get out of danger. The drop is not 10 feet, but probably 5-6 feet, which is not too high to cause more damage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by salilpawar1 View Post
Aren't these meant for getting fresh air inside the bus. They can double up as emergency exits if the bus topples on one side but they are not primarily meant to be emergency exits in the first place.
They are emergency exits. Those ports are almost always sealed with a glass, which has to be broken in case of emergency. In rare cases, I see them fitted with a proper emergency-openable hatch door, like this:
Name:  Emergency2BExit.JPG
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:24   #14
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

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Originally Posted by salilpawar1 View Post
Aren't these meant for getting fresh air inside the bus. They can double up as emergency exits if the bus topples on one side but they are not primarily meant to be emergency exits in the first place.

Please correct me if I am wrong.
Actually its the other way round. Their primary purpose is emergency exit, and you will find them marked as such.

An auxiliary purpose is to allow for ventilation in case of AC failure.
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:28   #15
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Default re: Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?

Quote:
Originally Posted by salilpawar1 View Post
Aren't these meant for getting fresh air inside the bus. They can double up as emergency exits if the bus topples on one side but they are not primarily meant to be emergency exits in the first place.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
In city bus, roof ventilators act as emergency exit. They are very easy to remove with just a flip of the lever.
In case of coaches there are no ventilators but only emergency exit.
But I understand there is also an option of having ventilators but have'nt come across though.
Volov 9100
Buses in India: Lack of Emergency Exits, a recipe for disaster?-5th-july-12-116.jpg

Last edited by Ashley2 : 25th June 2013 at 11:34.
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