School administrators act out emergency scenario, find some glitches

Credit: Eric Turner / KTVB

Governor Otter attends emergency scenario played out at Burley HS

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 21 at 6:20 PM

BURLEY, Idaho -- Just one day after shots were fired inside a Georgia elementary school, an emergency evacuation exercise played out inside Burley High School.

First responders were on scene, treating a drill involving a dangerous parent as an authentic emergency on Wednesday morning.

Our KTVB crew went along with Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna as they took their preparedness plan for a school emergency to the next level.

The scenario began when the Burley High School principal pretended to discover a hypothetical, disgruntled parent, threatening to take down the school.

EMS crews and firefighters responded as if it were a real emergency, then found out as they arrived that it was actually a drill. For Principal Carolyn Hondo, it seemed more real than a drill.

"We talk about these things, we go over them but when the actual event happens, I can't believe how real it felt," said Hondo.

In the drill, Hondo found an angry acting parent, pretending to be burned and spilling chemicals inside a lab at the school.

"Not able to talk her down at all, so I made a decision to call 911 and turn it over to law enforcement for help," said Hondo.

First responders said they too, treated the exercise seriously, and even carried the pretending parent out on a stretcher.

"Isolated hazardous materials and packaged the patient to bring her out to a safer environment," said Rod Behr, a local paramedic-firefighter.

Even Otter and Luna were there on-hand to go over the response. They said these drills are needed to keep Idaho schools ready for any emergency.

"It's where they learn, not to make mistakes, and I think they did a great job," said Otter.

After the scenario was over and done, the agencies described their strengths and also ways they could improve, just in case of an actual emergency at school.

One point of improvement was making sure every agency knew where each schools' "safe place" would be during an evacuation.

Drill participants also discovered a major delay in the school's new, electronic system used to alert parents.

"We has some glitches getting it initiated this morning, so it will be interesting at the end of the day to see how that worked," said Cassia County Superintendent Gaylen Smyer.

Glitches in Burley had the governor thinking about the rest of the schools around the state.

"It gives us an opportunity, that if we find any problems in Burley, we need to check that all over Idaho," said Otter.

Burley High School has not started their school year yet, so only a few administrators at the school were inside the building during the drill.

Organizers of the scenario said the event was important, not just to prepare the school and staff, but also to build relationships between the agencies that were responding to the emergency.

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