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WITH VIDEO: Automated system developed to efficiently disinfect school buses

  • Ted Toothaker of BETE Fog Nozzle starts the compressor on the BETE Fast Pass spray system at a demonstration at the F.M. Kuzmeskus bus company in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Jonathan Harris of the F.M. Kuzmeskus bus company of Gill demonstrates the portable version of the BETE Fast Pass spray system on a small bus. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A full-size bus is immersed in a fine mist by sprayers installed for the BETE Fast Pass spray system for disinfecting school buses at a demonstration at F.M. Kuzmeskus in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2020 4:04:07 PM

GILL — F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc., a local bus company that works with multiple districts in Franklin County to provide school bus transportation, teamed up this summer with another local business to develop a more efficient, safer method for disinfecting its buses this year.

The product, an automated bus disinfecting system, is called the BETE Fast Past, and it’s made by BETE Fog Nozzle of Greenfield, according to Pam Reipold, executive vice president of operations at F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc. The disinfectant is dispersed throughout the bus via sprayers that have been installed inside it.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when manual fogger machines for disinfecting were near impossible to find, the company used a handheld sprayer — similar to what one might use to kill weeds in a garden, she said — with a bleach and water solution.

“It was incredibly time-consuming,” she said.

Even the manual fogger method can take upwards of 30 minutes per bus, she added, and requires a person inside the bus to use it.

With the automated BETE Fast Past, the company can disinfect two buses in three to five minutes, Reipold said.

“It’s much more efficient and effective,” she said. “It gets rid of the human error factor. You don’t have to worry about missing spots.”

It’s also safer for her employees.

“There’s no (chemical) exposure to our staff, or possible viral exposure because they don’t enter the bus,” she said. “It’s all done externally.”

The bus company has a total of 86 school bus routes in Franklin County, Reipold said. Currently, Gill-Montague Regional School District, Pioneer Valley Regional School District, Franklin County Technical School, Erving Elementary School and Swift River School in New Salem are participating in the use of the BETE Fast Past.

“The districts were able to secure money from the state to fund this, so that’s been great,” she said.

Reipold said the company plans to disinfect twice per day throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and moving forward, plans to use it as well for cold and flu season.

“We feel at this point it’s really important to do everything we can to keep our passengers and our staff healthy,” she said.

Currently, the BETE Fast Past is approved for use in Massachusetts and Vermont.

“That’s next on our list,” she said, “to get it approved in other parts of the country.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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