Drill simulates explosion at Idaho schoolUnder evaluators' watch, administrators evacuated about 300 students for the school and firefighters searched for victims
By Rachel Cook
The Idaho Falls Post Register
BLACKFOOT, Idaho — Helicopters, ambulances and police vehicles descended on Snake River Junior High School on Thursday morning.
The school was immersed in an entirely artificial state of emergency as law enforcement officers and medical personnel swarmed the building during a disaster drill.
The crisis scenario radiated from an "explosion" in the building's maintenance room that injured more than a dozen people. About 40 people, including emergency medical technicians, police officers and firefighters, responded to the "accident."
"We had overall, I think, a successful response to a realistic event," said Steve Hayward, regional exercise coordinator for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. "What better way to really put our responders in a stressful situation where life and limb (are not at risk)?"
Under evaluators' watch, administrators evacuated about 300 students for the school and firefighters searched for victims. Two helicopters landed on an adjacent soccer field, and four ambulances, a fire engine and police cars parked near the building's main entrance.
High school drama students speckled with burns and wounds created with makeup served as victims. Kase McBride's and Casey Haag's good grades earned them the most graphic injuries. A saw blade protruded from McBride's chest, and second- and third-degree burns covered Haag's body.
"I thought they were actually going to give me a ride in the helicopter," McBride said. "I was excited."
He and Haag were strapped to stretchers and lifted into the helicopters but were unloaded before takeoff.
Police briefly closed off state Highway 39 for the drill. Evacuated students were bused to a movie and taken to Snake River High School in the afternoon for an assembly. Students designated as smoke-inhalation and burn victims rode to Bingham Memorial Hospital in ambulances and a bus.
Though officers anticipated the drill would continue into the afternoon, it wrapped up in a little more than an hour.
Bingham County Sheriff Dave Johnson and Snake River Superintendent Russell Hammond said the drill provided valuable training for emergency responders and school workers.
"In today's world, you can never be too safe or practice too much," Hammond said.
They said the faux crisis wasn't expensive. Most of the police officers were on the clock and Homeland Security paid for those working overtime, the sheriff said. Hayward said he didn't know the drill's exact price but estimated it cost between $1,000 and $2,000. He said Homeland Security grants will cover the expense.
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