ALBERTVILLE, Alabama — Albertville High School juniors Kimberly Bennett and Morgan Floyd knew to expect the sound of gunfire. But as shots rang out in the school halls, it scared them both.
That made the chaos they were supposed to help create during a mock shooting easy.
"We were running through the halls, screaming," Bennett said. "I almost jumped in Morgan's arms. It was very scary."
But the training at the high school held Monday served its purpose. It helped give people a little bit of an idea what to expect should an actual incident happen.
It also was good training for the faculty and students at the high school, as well as the Albertville police and fire departments. Classes begin Wednesday.
It's not the first time there has been a training scenario at the school, Albertville High Principal Paul McAbee said, but this was the most extensive.
Also, for the first time parents and the community were invited to observe.
More than 20 students were involved in the drill, as were teachers who have classrooms on the second floor.
"We don't do this to think we will be ready, but we do it to prepare as much as we can," McAbee said. "I think we all got something out of it. Hopefully we're training for something that will never happen."
The scenario involved two students who brought guns to school and planned a shooting.
School Resource Officer Robert Bethune had simulated gunshot wounds, along with three teachers and five students.
One teacher and the two students who portrayed suspects were killed.
Bennett and Floyd, two members of Albertville High's Junior ROTC, were role players.
Bennett's mother, Tabatha Thacker, watched with a group of observers outside the high school.
"I'm glad my daughter got to be a part of it so she will know what to do if something did happen," Thacker said.
As a parent, Thacker said, she has more confidence after watching the drill.
"It does make me feel a little bit better," she said. "It does not ease your mind completely, but I think this helps the faculty and staff and the police officers be more prepared if this really happened."
Annsonnetta Golden teaches ninth- and 10th-grade English and Ashby Frazier teaches 10th- through 12th-grade art. Both were covered in fake blood when they walked back inside the high school after the drill.
Faculty and staff already have training in knowing how to deal with this type situation.
"I think it was very effective and I think it will prepare us even more," Frazier said.
Teachers were able to practice what to do in their classrooms and the student role players provided the chaos.
"If this really happened, there would mass chaos and hysteria inside," Albertville Deputy Chief Jamie Smith said.
He said there are between 1,200 and 1,500 students in four grades at the high school. In reality, parents would try to get to the school and it would be chaotic outside as well.
Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea watched the scenario and said he is glad public safety and school officials are being proactive in preparing for a possible shooting.
"I hope nothing like this happens, but I think they will be prepared if it does," he said. "All our public safety folks do an excellent job."
Police Chief Doug Pollard said the drill helps the police department train, but he hopes it also helps the public better understand what goes on.
He frequently updated observers during the drill to inform them what was taking place.
"It's hard for police officers to walk by an injured child, but our priority has to be to 'stop the suspects,'" Pollard said. "We want the parents to understand that we know what we're doing and we have their children's safety at the forefront."
Students who had simulated injuries were able to walk outside and were treated by Albertville Fire Department medics.
Medics went inside to treat the school resource officer, who was taken out on a stretcher.
Pollard said in a situation where a suspect has barricaded himself or herself in a house, there is more time to respond and plan entry, often using a SWAT team.
A school situation, however, is different. "In a situation like this, every second counts," he said.
Pollard said there is a school resource officer in every school in Albertville and those law enforcement positions are funded by the Albertville City Schools.
The SROs are trained for these type situations and having an officer based at each school all the time is an important safety factor.
"We've got 100 percent backing from the school board, superintendent, City Council and mayor," Pollard said. "We're blessed to have that kind of support."
Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com