ISU’s Institute of Emergency Management coordinates disaster training for rural hospitals

Imagine this: A school bus collides with a tanker hauling pesticide along a county road in north Idaho, exposing children to the hazardous contents.

A truck hauling an unknown chemical crashes on I-84 near Mountain Home, erupting into flames and emitting toxic fumes.

How do emergency and health-care workers in rural Idaho prepare for such emergencies? How can they care for the injured while protecting themselves and their surroundings from contamination?

These questions will be the focus of five training sessions conducted in Idaho’s rural communities in November by the federal Center for Domestic Preparedness and coordinated by Idaho State University-Boise’s Institute of Emergency Management or IEM.

“Incidents involving hazardous material contamination can happen anywhere – in rural areas as well has urban centers,” says Ellen Jones, the IEM’s training coordinator. “It’s vital that first responders everywhere be trained to provide life-saving help to victims while protecting themselves and health-care providers.”

During the day-long session, first responders—emergency and health-care workers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics—will practice decontamination techniques, patient transport and the use of personal protective equipment. Participants pay no cost.

“We wanted to take advantage of this training opportunity. We are a small critical-access hospital and this type of training doesn’t come to us readily,” says Felice Lampert, a spokeswoman for Benewah Community Hospital, located in the north Idaho community of St. Maries.

<>Officials at Mountain Home’s Elmore Medical Center consider the training a necessity because of the community’s proximity to Interstate 84 which is frequently used by trucks hauling hazardous or flammable materials. <>

“As the only hospital in Elmore County, it’s important for us to be a leader in emergency preparedness. This is a great opportunity for everyone to get on the same page,” says Keri Meis, Elmore’s Center for Community Health planner.

Training dates and participating hospitals are:

•    Nov 10 – Benewah Community Hospital, St. Maries and Shoshone Medical Center, Kellogg.

•    Nov 12 – St. Joseph Regional Medical Center – Lewiston  

•    Nov 14 – Syringa General Hospital – Grangeville  

•    Nov 17 – Elmore Medical Center, Mountain Home

•    Nov 19 – Steele Memorial Hospital – Salmon  

Funding for the sessions is provided by a federal grant administered by the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. The goal is to help state and local agencies enhance their ability to respond to chemical, biological and nuclear incidents— whether accidental or an act of terrorism.

Since the grant’s inception in 2003, ISU-Boise’s Institute of Emergency Management has arranged training for more than 17,000 of the state’s first responders. To find out more about training opportunities, contact IEM training coordinator Ellen Jones at 208-373-1760 or visit