Sumter, SC (WLTX) - Senseless tragedies like the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown shootings are a solemn reminder that in an instant life can change.
The recent Sandy Hook incident has sparked a lot of debate in Congress and while lawmakers battle it out over mental health and gun control, schools are taking steps to make sure they're prepared for the worst.
On Thursday, the Sumter County Sheriff's Office and educators at Hillcrest Middle School organized a shooting simulation complete with deputies, guns that fired blanks, and a lockdown mode.
"One of the things that I just want our teachers to know," explained assistant principal Neil Baldwin, "is that if they hear those sounds in the hallway, I want them to go ahead and contact the office. It is better for them to react and their not be a problem then for them not to react and then we have a real issue up here."
Cpt. Terrance Colclough led a team of deputies.
While one of the acting shooters, Sr. Cpl. Fred Moore, walked the halls, fired his weapon and tried to get into classrooms, teachers were in lockdown mode. During lockdown teachers ensure the lights are out, secure the doors, make sure students are not visible, call the office and cover any windows facing out to the hallway.
"Response is the key," said Colclough. "Everyone knows that you must react quickly. We take this situation personally. All of us are parents. All of us have kids who attend these schools so we want to make sure that we pretty much communicate with the school district constantly."
Although chances are slim there will ever be a shooting at Hillcrest Middle School, in wake of recent tragedies educators want to make sure they're prepared for the worst.
"Anytime something like that happens," explained Baldwin, "it just brings it to the front of your mind that we're responsible for a lot of people's children. We're charged with the safety of these kids everyday that they're here. So we just want to make sure that everybody who's on this campus knows that, we're all familiar with the procedures, and we're all doing what we're supposed to do to keep them safe every moment that they're here."
Because Thursday was a service day no students were present during the simulation.