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Mass shooting drill simulates real life frenzy

At first glance Sunday afternoon, Halifax County Middle School appeared to have been the scene of a horrific school shooting.

Firefighters and EMS personnel scurried in and out of the building carrying lifeless bodies, both young and old, large and small, as part of a mock exercise that simulated a mass shooting inside the school.

Casualties mounted into the dozens as Halifax County emergency personnel participated in the mock nightmare exercise that involved personnel from multiple agencies and organizations. 

Participants included volunteers from Clover, Liberty, South Boston, Turbeville and Virgilina Fire Departments, Halifax County Rescue Squad personnel, Halifax County Public Schools representatives, Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, personnel from the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

According to Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders, “The purpose of the exercise was to educate our response personnel and to identify areas for improvement.”

The exercise, held in conjunction with an educational course, focused on the medical response to an incident that involved approximately 40 simulated casualties and took just under three hours to complete.

Regardless of the scenario, our primary goal is to save as many lives as possible”, Saunders said. 

The exercise, one of many planned for the future, was designed as a building block for preparedness. Exercises are critical to emergency preparedness and planning. 

Although he hopes the county will never experience such a horrific event as the simulated school shooting, the emergency services coordinator said recent events in the United States and abroad continue to demonstrate the importance of not only emergency planning but exercising and revising plans prior to an actual event.

 “We are only as prepared as our plans are. Much like an athletic team or theatrical performance, we must rehearse our role in order to perfect it,” Saunders added.

Following the simulation exercise, Saunders extended a special thank you to Halifax County Public Schools for their continued partnership with public safety.