The state’s attention was on Burley Wednesday morning. Media agencies from throughout southern Idaho converged on the high school as a disgruntled parent stormed the chemistry lab and caused an incident. Fortunately, this was just a drill.
An unthinkable incident in 2007 changed the way rural states like Idaho prepare for threats to our public schools.
“Right after the tragedy in Pennsylvania where in a small Amish community, a madman massacred innocent little children, I think that’s when many of us in Idaho realized that these types of incidents aren’t just isolated to large cities or urban areas,” said Tom Luna, Superintendent of Schools. “If they can happen in a small, rural, Amish community in Pennsylvania, it can happen anywhere.”
With that in mind, local law enforcement, Idaho State Police, and local EMTs were joined by Homeland Security for a drill at Burley High School. The bulk of the exercise took place in chemistry lab. It’s a location that was chosen by Homeland Security on Monday.
“We could see hazardous materials released that would affect the evacuation of a school,” said Rob Feeley of the Bureau of Homeland Security. “All kind of different things could happen in that school.”
Burley High School was chosen because of their willingness to participate and because as the Governor puts it, Burley kind of represents the Idaho way of life.
“We have a lot of rural communities in Idaho,” said Governor Otter. “In fact the very nature of Idaho is rural but we also have an expectation of performance by EMTs, the fire department, by the sheriff’s office, by our local folks from the highway patrol, by our local folks at Homeland Security. And so it gives us an opportunity to say if we find any problems in Burley, we need to check that all over the state of Idaho.”
The governor also compared training exercises to muscle memory and says Idaho is prepared for the worst.
The training was also a good opportunity for the school district to test out their City Watch program. It works similar to automated emergency phone calls made by law enforcement. The program was installed a year ago and they say it worked perfectly Wednesday morning.