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Monongalia County Authorities Use Mock Drills to Prepare for Potential Disasters

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On paper, an active shooter drill at a local elementary school could be described as "practice" or a "test." But to Monongalia County law enforcement officers, an operation like this is the real deal.

"Trust me, as soon as the officers enter that building, and they hear blank guns shooting off, they immediately get tight in their throats, and they go into a mode that I can't even describe," said Captain Danny Camden of West Virginia University Police Department.

It all started with a single call to Mylan Park Elementary School. Within moments, 24 officers from six agencies entered the school and acted out several different scenarios, as if there were a gunman inside.

"We have a pretty good emergency plan already set, but it's no good unless you practice. And that's what this is all about," said Irv Schetzner, director of ancillary services for Monongalia County schools.

School officials said they've been continuously working to improve security for many years, but after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut last year, they decided to collaborate with law enforcement to make sure they'd all be better prepared.

"It comes close to home. Anytime something happens, you always think about the schools and the children that are involved, and as more things happen, in any type of homeland security or terrorism, it brings it a little bit closer to home," said Michael Wolfe, director of homeland security, MECCA 911. "You're glad you're doing what you're doing."

Those who ran into the school said drills are extremely beneficial for a number of reasons. Authorities use simulation equipment to prepare themselves for real-life action, all while improving the system.

"It gives them some good hands-on and clearing malfunctions," said Camden. "It's the best training next to the real thing."

"[It makes you see] the things that you really need to consider otherwise...maybe not just bullet-proof glass, but show some of the vulnerabilities we may need to look at," Wolfe said.

Authorities already have a plan in the works for a second drill in the fall, and they plan on asking the public to participate.