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Great Idaho Shakeout earthquake drill tests educators

On Thursday, business owners and educators statewide participated in the Great Idaho Shakeout earthquake simulation exercise.

Participating school principals received an envelope with a scenario inside. Some had it worse than others.

At Mountain Valley Elementary School in Ammon, there was a pretty stressful surprise scenario in store for principal Brian Armes.

“If at all possible, try to keep him alive,” Armes said into his radio as the drill began. “He was a pretty good teacher.”

Armes was talking about Bill Stewart. The 6th grade teacher had been gravely injured in a 90-second fake earthquake that rocked the Ammon school at 10:18 a.m. on Thursday.

“Remain in classrooms until further instructions,” said Armes, over the school’s public address system.

As a fictional earthquake slams his school, Armes has to figure out what to do with the classroom full of kids without a teacher.

“Everyone evacuate except for Mr. Stewart’s class, you guys are trapped.”

It’s among the worst case scenarios, but Armes offers some more reassurance for students over the P.A.

“Assistance is heading your way,” he said into the microphone.

In under 5 minutes, Stweart’s 6th graders are safely evacuated by a counselo,r despite losing their teacher. It’s a success under pressure for Armes.

“You have to solve and resolve with that additional adrenaline that’s going through your system,” he said.

For Armes, the opportunity to test his staff’s reaction to disaster is a valuable thing.Even though Thursday’s “quake” was just a drill, staff members said the experience and preparation are priceless.

“I learn something each time I do it,” said Armes.

Over the next few days principals district-wide and state-wide will meet together to talk about how they reacted to their scenarios.

22 schools participated in the Great Idaho Shakeout in Bonneville District 93 alone. Hundreds of schools participated statewide.

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