Friday morning students at a Campbell County elementary school took part in a deadly explosion and a hostage situation.
Neither situation was real. The school system teamed up with emergency responders from throughout Campbell County to hold mock disaster drills at Elk Valley Elementary.
"We went to the school earlier this week and briefed them [the students] and talked with them about what we're doing," said Campbell County Sheriff Robbie
Goins. "They are excited about it, too. We've made them feel like they are a part of it, which they are."
Drills are a normal routine for individual emergency agencies. Friday's drill provides a more rare opportunity for all of the county's agencies to practice together.
"Our SWAT team does not normally practice with fire departments and ambulance crews. This is really valuable training," said Goins. "We are going to practice an entry into the school. It's like a real situation except we will have no live
ammo and no live weapons in the building."
The rehearsal at Elk Valley Elementary comes as close to real thing
for every Campbell County emergency crew. It also trains the teachers and administrators at the schools how to respond to disasters.
"You think it cannot happen in Campbell County, but it can happen anywhere," said director of schools Donnie Poston. "It has happened here before. God forbid we have another tragedy like we did in 2005. We need to prepare ourselves in case it does happen."
The mock disaster drill takes on added significance for the Campbell County crews in light of the fatal school shooting seven years ago. In November 2005, a 14-year-old Campbell County High School student shot and killed a vice principal and wounded two other administrators.
The county began a routine of practicing disaster response shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The day of the school shooting in November 2005, a disaster drill was coincidentally scheduled.
"It didn't take them long to figure out because they were asking is this the drill," said William Baird, Campbell County Mayor. "They said 'no, this is the real thing. This is not a drill.'"
"Knowing we have had a shooting before, it makes you want to do it [drills] more. It makes you want to be better-trained so in case something does happen, we can respond and we'll know what to do," said Goins.
The Campbell County mayor said emergency crews typically hold two drills per year at a local school. According to Baird, within a couple of years the plan is to have conducted a drill at every school in the county.