Viewing the school bus security camera and listening to the audio one can only be deeply impressed by the performance of Angel Perry. A school bus driver in Henryville, Indiana, Angel Perry is a true American hero.
Like many people, I am continually inspired by heroes. While we often think of our military personnel, law enforcement officers, fire service professionals, brilliant researchers and outstanding government leaders when the word hero is mentioned, most people realize that there are many who are not recognized as household names who clearly fit the bill as heroes. Angel Perry is one such individual. Angel Perry’s fast thinking, clear directions to her students and counting of her students as they evacuated her school bus as a rapidly approaching tornado threatened the safety of all aboard is a testament to how well our nation’s school bus drivers have often been to respond to truly terrifying crisis situations.
This incredible person once again demonstrated the amazing power of a school bus driver’s brain to think of and to execute appropriate action steps when the chips are down. You see, like other people, school bus drivers are equipped with one of the world’s most amazing life saving tools – the human brain. Researchers like Dr. Gary Klein and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman have provided convincing evidence that the human brain in some situations can think faster and resolve life and death situations more effectively than the computer I am using to write this article. In fact, as Dr. Klein points out, there are examples of situations where using computers to try to make life and death decisions have been proven to degrade human performance.
However, as Klein and Grossman point out, our performance can be improved dramatically when our brains have been properly prepared through such things as training, life experience, drills and other activities which provide us with what Klein refers to as a base of experience. Col. Grossman uses the analogy of a mental library that our properly prepared brain can instantly access when we have been properly trained and practiced. School bus security experts often utilize these research based approaches to train school bus drivers.
Providing training and practice in such research based concepts as pattern matching and recognition and mental simulation are both relatively simple and inexpensive approaches with a low relative investment of time to introduce to drivers and other school employees. Both techniques have been used by law enforcement officers, medical personnel and elite military teams for many years.
Fortunately, thousands of school bus drivers are now also being provided with these valuable survival tools every year. As Angel Perry has demonstrated, investing the time and energy to train and drill our school bus drivers in emergency procedures can result in superb human performance under incredibly adverse conditions. Her life saving efforts that day reflect with great honor her dedication to school bus safety as well as the efforts by her organization to prepare her to succeed on that fateful and nearly fatal day. Because she was prepared to think and act under pressure, tragedy was averted.