Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Local emergency responders sharpened their skills on Tuesday night during a mock disaster drill at Jordan-Elbridge Middle School.
Crews practiced securing classrooms and rescuing anyone trapped inside.
The mock scenario involved a group of special-needs children, trapped by an explosion on the third floor of their school.
Crews had to rush up three flights of stairs in full gear as the halls filled with smoke.
Though the scene was fake, the drill offered real hands-on lessons including rescues on the ladder truck for several patients with nasty wounds who needed instant treatment at a triage center nearby.
None of the first responders knew what to expect and were dealing with mock emergencies inside and outside of the school.
Elizabeth Jorolemon, a new EMT, says the experience was helpful.
"It was really great to get the practice. It was really well organized. It was so cool to see the unexpected. There were some things as minor as bee stings and allergic reactions, to a woman in labor,” Jorolemon said.
At one point, an actor played an anxious father who wanted to get inside the school. The scenario allowed first responders to practice dealing with emotional bystanders. As crews tried to hold him back, he had a mock heart attack in the parking lot.
"I was a little overwhelmed at the command post initially because of the fact that I didn't have other mutual aid chiefs coming in quite as quickly as I would have liked,” said Jordan Fire Chief Douglas Milton.
The drill is meant to stretch resources a little too far, in order to expose weaknesses for first responders and school staff.
"The Sandy Hooks and Columbines...certainly as a school administrator it is in the back of your mind everyday as you enter the school in the morning," said David Shafer, Principal of Jordan Elbridge Middle School. "The onus is on me to protect the kids."
Chief Milton hopes to involve police in future drills to practice for an active shooter scenario inside a school.
His crew reached their goals on Tuesday. They'll review the training with everyone involved to identify areas of improvement.