Realistic shooter drills help Hamilton students and police prepare for the worst-case scenario

'We wanted stress'

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Face and hands streaked with red, junior Meghan Garry braced herself against a row of lockers and cried Wednesday as armed SWAT officers ran through the halls of Hamilton High School. Some of her classmates lay nearby, red pooling beneath them and staining their clothing.

The blood was fake. None of them were hurt. Instead, they were helping first responders rehearse for the hypothetical day when they might be -- when a person with a gun might enter their school, as one had entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and Sandy Hook Preschool, and vent their misplaced anger on teachers and students. 

"We wanted stress," Hamilton Police officer Brian Robinson said. "That's how we learn, that's how we can train the best, is under that stress."

Grisly tableaux like the one Garry and her friends created certainly engender that stress. Training officer Brian Buchanan reminded his officers to remain calm and stick to their training as they searched for the shooter, evacuated students and provided emergency first-aid to those who, like Garry, had been "shot."

"Don't wing it," he said. "You know what to do. Take some deep breaths, calm, think it through."

Drills like this, Robinson explained, help emergency responders learn where their weaknesses are before it becomes a matter of real life or death. By studying their behavior during a simulated shooting, they can better prepare for a real one.

The drills also help students and teachers, Hamilton City Schools superintendent Larry Knapp said. 

"Emotions come out of people when they hear the gunshots and those types of things," Knapp said. "We're doing the very best that we can to prepare folks."

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