It’s intensity times 10. You’re one of four police officers in tactical gear standing at the end of a long school hallway on one side of a solid metal door.
Echoes of gunfire suddenly resonate, followed by blood-curdling cries of uncontrolled anguish.
You have no clue what awaits you on the other side of that door. Your heart is pumping 90 miles an hour, your head is pounding and your nerves are jangled.
You have precious seconds to find out where the gunfire is coming from. You nod as the officer to your left swings the door open and you rush through it, with two officers at your hips.
Another burst of gunfire rings out and a stampeding herd of panicked students is now running in your direction as you keep your head on swivel to find out where this hell on earth is coming from.
You pivot into a classroom to find someone pointing a gun at you. Without hesitation, you neutralize that threat, never taking your eyes off the target.
Behind you, two officers with rifles leveled face in opposite directions in the hallway to back you up.
A second covey of officers in a single line are headed your way, escorting paramedics who dash through the doorway to treat the wounded.
But you never look away from the threat, concentrating on your role.
The above description is fiction, but it’s that kind of real-life scenario that the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and local emergency agencies participated in during active shooter training July 26 and 28 at Indian Land High School.
“We’re trying to prepare for something we hope never happens in Lancaster County,” said Sheriff Barry Faile.
“We want to make it as realistic as we can to put these officers under stress, so when the real thing happens, we have the basic fundamentals down and respond in the correct way,” Faile said.
The training included simulated gunfire and volunteers playing the roles of civilians to make it realistic.
More than 250 people from eight county and city agencies participated in the exercises, including the volunteers who served as victims.
This week’s hard-boiled active shooter training included local county law enforcement and first responders, along with Lancaster County EMS, County Fire-Rescue and emergency management, the city fire department, the coroner’s office, public safety communications, the Lancaster County School District and the Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department.
Local media outlets were given a brief and very limited peek at an exercise Thursday.
The goal, Faile said, is to make sure that all the agencies work together on their respective roles in case an active shooter comes to a county school.
The scenario-based training is a follow up to a three-day Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM) course the same participants took in May.
“When people bring their kids to school, they are expecting their kids to come back home in the evening. It’s our responsibility to make sure those kids are safe, those teachers are safe and that’s what we intend on doing,” Faile said.
Lancaster County EMS Director Clay Catoe said getting all the agencies together at one time for the scenario-based training is quite an undertaking.
But the realistic drills were nothing new for the agencies, which train together several times a year.
“The way we respond today is the same way we would’ve responded a year ago,” Catoe said. “We just have a little bit more equipment and more staff available.”
Catoe admitted that this training had a different feel because of the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
That one tragedy ramped up the need to be ready for the unexpected, he said.
“It was horrible,” Catoe said of the Uvalde incident, where gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 students and two teachers.
Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.