Roanoke, VA - Thursday, Virginia Western Community College hosted more than 150 first responders and another 350 volunteers to create a real time drill where the school was attacked by gunmen.
In a scene that seems to be growing increasingly common, law enforcement from around the region descended on the college for the drill as a gunman attacked the campus leaving people wounded, cowering in fear and running for their lives.
"There's nothing but lessons out of this. The planning process right from the get go is a learning process for everybody," said Chief Craig Harris with the VWCC police department.
The day started early for more than 500 people taking part in the mass casualty exercise.
Virginia Western employee Reggie Walker played an injured victim.
"For the responders to be drilled in being able to respond and help people in that situation, you've just gotta do it in this day and time," said Walker.
The drill is important for area first responders because the lessons learned here can be applied, generically, to many situations from tornadoes to the unthinkable.
"How agencies work together on the ground is sometimes different so after the fact this is an opportunity for improvement," said Mike Guzo, Roanoke Emergency Management Director.
The unthinkable stroke close to home in 2007 at Virginia Tech, where many of these officers learned difficult lessons similar to these. They say those lessons seem to change with each incident.
"There are bad people out there. We're never going to stop those bad people, but we can prepare for them to come and meet them at the door should it happen and that's all part of this process," said Harris.
First responders aren't the only ones benefiting from the training. College officials say they are also able to use Thursday's event to ensure their emergency plans are working the way they want them to as well. The event also included setting up working administrative services at a nearby elementary school.