Simulated crisis drill prepares first responders

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RIFLE, Colo. A parent's number one concern while their child is at school is their safety. Lately, more and more schools around the country are staging mock drills to prepare staff and students, incase an intruder or even a student or staff member were to attack with a firearm. This type of scenario was acted out today on the Western Slope to be ready in case the worst happens.

About a dozen different agencies teamed up today at Rifle High School, to practice how they would respond to emergencies such as a mass school shooting. Many kids and parents volunteered, making it very much like a real life situation.

"Knowing the community is prepared really kind of puts me at ease knowing that people will be there for me if anything does come,” said Mina McKenzie, a senior at Rifle High School.

Students like Mina feel safer knowing their local first responders are prepared for any kind of emergency. While it's scary to think about, it could be reality at school. Preparing for violence is becoming a part of student life, much like a fire drill.

"It gives us a real great opportunity to test all our systems in working together to make sure were serving the community the best we can," said John Dyer, the Rifle Police Chief.

While it was just a drill, it was still an emotional day for those involved. About 40 students volunteered to participate in the drill that had a mock shooter come into the school at lunch time. The drill tested the response of the hospital, law enforcement, emergency services and the school, in a time where lives need to be saved.

"We never hope to go through this is real life. The fact that we are able to work with our agencies and have that collaborative relationship, and to have those open lines of communications before we even need them," explained Theresa Hamilton, director for districtwide services for the Garfield School District.

Responding to a school shooting or any other mass emergency involves various teams. Each agency trains individually for these kinds of events all the time, but working together is what they wanted to highlight with this drill.

"Always the first thing to fail in large scale incidents is communications so we really want to test that communication system and that piece," said Chad Harris, Deputy Fire Chief.

Officials also hope this drill puts some ease into the community's mind. Being prepared as a result of this practice, mock session could be the small step between a crisis and quickly saving lives.

"Being able to be prepared for a situation like this and from my perspective this was almost necessary with how the way things have been in the recent years,” McKenzie explained.

Scenarios like this give agencies experience working with their command systems, as well as gaining first-hand knowledge of school facilities.

While this mock drill happened at a school, authorities say what they learned can translate to other public emergencies that could take place at a shopping center, or church, too.

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