KMS has bomb drill |

KMS has bomb drill

by Timothy Bowman

A Kingsbury Middle School student handed a note he found on a black backpack in the school library to a substitute teacher.

It stated there was a bomb in the building and students were in danger. The teacher became the first link in the chain of response to evacuate the school and contact emergency personnel.

KMS and Zephyr Cove Elementary School conducted drills to deal with real-life disasters Friday.

Tahoe-Douglas Fire Department, Tahoe-Douglas Bomb Squad, and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department participated in the simulated exercises to determine the readiness of KMS and Zephyr Cove Elementary to handle an emergency situation.

Medical emergencies, angry parents and missing students were all part of the emergency school evacuation drill at Kingsbury Middle School Friday. The drill at KMS was especially unique because it simulated a situation involving a weapon of mass destruction.

“We are going farther than we ever have before with the middle school in testing their ability to move their students from one building to another,” said Tahoe-Douglas Fire Chief Tim Smith.

Bomb Squad Technicians and trainees located the suspicious black backpack in the library. A Bomb Squad member in a bomb blast suit used an x-ray device to determine that it contained a pipe bomb. He then rendered the dummy bomb ineffective with the use of a device called a disrupter. A disrupter is positioned and the bomb squad uses it to disarm the device from a safe distance.

“The bomb suit would absorb some of the blast,” Smith said. “You still don’t want to be at ground zero or it is going to ruin your day. If you can set the disrupter at the proper angle you can blow the end of the pipe bomb off faster than it can detonate.”

Smith said the KMS drill benefits the bomb squad as well as the school.

“This is an excellent training exercise for us,” Smith said. “The guy in the bomb blast suit is not a certified bomb technician. He is on the bomb squad and is in training. These opportunities don’t present themselves all the time.”

Tahoe-Douglas Fire also conducted a real-life drill at Zephyr Cove Elementary School Friday. The usual ringing fire alarm was accompanied by a smoke machine placed at an exit in the building.

“What we do is we generate a non-toxic smoke to go beyond simulation at one of the points of egress to see if they would use alternate routes like they would in a normal fire situation,” Smith said.

Part of both simulations was to move the students to Whittell High School, a location where food and restrooms would be available. Smith said in a bomb situation it is especially important to have a place to take the students after they are evacuated from the building.

“In a weather situation it compounds the problem,” Smith said. “We don’t know how long (a bomb) situation can take. We need to have made arrangements to get the kids from here to somewhere else.”

About 80 students from KMS were transported by bus to WHS. Zephyr Cove Elementary students walked to the high school.

While there were some minor problems that the schools identified in their emergency response procedure, Smith said he thought the schools did a good job.

“They are very cognizant of being aware of how to deal with problems like this,” Smith said. “They see how important it is to be prepared. When you practice you identify pitfalls.”

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