Over four days in October, senior service drivers serving 14 Southeast Alaska communities participated in an intensive, professional training workshop at the Catholic Community Service (CCS) Training Center in Juneau. Participants included drivers from the Aangoon Shu Senior Center, Craig/Klawock Senior Center, Haines/Klukwan Senior Center, Hoonah Senior Center, Juneau Care-A-Van, Kake Senior Center, Ketchikan/Saxman Senior Center, Swan Lake Senior Center/Sitka Care-A-Van, Skagway Senior Center, Wrangell Senior Center and Yakutat Senior Center.
The Southeast Senior Services (SESS) Drivers Workshop was kicked off by Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) transit coordinator Debbi Howard. Howard explained the importance of the drivers in the lives of senior citizens and their role in helping seniors stay healthy and connected to their communities. SESS program director Marianne Mills distributed transportation policies and procedures binders to each driver and reviewed the most essential parts.
Certified trainers Doug Bridges and Robert Milton provided the vast majority of the professional training. On days one and two of training, they used various methods, including video, classroom and hands-on instruction, to teach about Passenger Assistance, Service and Safety (PASS). PASS, a course recommended by the Community Transportation Association of America, includes disability awareness and sensitivity, an overview of assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.), and the proper ways to use wheelchair lifts and to tie down wheelchairs. The importance of offering door-to-door assistance to ensure passenger safety was emphasized.
On day three of the training, CCS human resource manager Carleen Mitchell covered the CCS Code of Ethics, confidentiality of personal information and personnel policies, including those that address harassment, drugs and alcohol use. She explained that all employees receive background checks prior to hire. NTS coordinators Bridges, Caroline Frengle and Marsha Partlow also provided training on vehicle inspections and maintenance, reporting paperwork and grant record keeping requirements.
On day four, Bridges and Milton offered the Smith System Defensive Driving Course. Each driver was required to apply the classroom instruction to actual on-the-road driving and evaluation, with all drivers passing the certification tests. One of the most valuable aspects of the training was giving the participants a rare chance to meet each other, to bring up particular situations they've encountered on the job and to ask their peers and the instructors for ideas on how to handle such challenges.
The drivers workshop was made possible through grants from the DOTPF and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. Everyone age 60 and over is eligible to use the door-to-door transportation services provided by SESS. In selected communities, accessible transportation is also offered to persons with disabilities who are under the age of 60. For further information, call SESS, toll-free in Alaska at (866) 746-6177 or 463-6177 from Juneau.
Marianne Mills is the program director for Southeast Senior Services, which offers home and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the Southeast region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service, which assists all persons regardless of their faith.