There were dozens of armed police and emergency medical personnel at Frontier High School in Hamburg Thursday, moving in to end a shooting situation and get students out to safety. But it was all just a drill.
The simulated live shooter incident was conducted to give numerous police agencies and first responders valuable practice for what officials hope is a situation they never really have to face.
"That's an effort not just here in Western New York, but this is something the FBI is doing throughout the entire country," said FBI Special Agent In Charge Adam Cohen after the drill. "We feel that it's very important to work with our partners, to make sure we all understand what everyone is going to do in the worst-case scenario if something were to happen."
Cohen said many drills are held after hours, but officials wanted to hold this practice at a time when citizens were out, to give participants a better feel for an actual scenario. The simulated rescue took place in the morning, while classes were in session.
Several students participated in the drill, playing the role of "victims" who were retrieved, carried out of the school and treated at a set station outside the building.
Officials met in the afternoon to review what they thought went well and what they thought could use improvement. Among the topics discussed was the use of social media as a live situation is unfolding.
"We instruct the students to please refrain from using their cell phones and we explain to them why," said Frontier High School principal Jeff Sortisio. "They could be drawing attention to where they are in the building. They could be inadvertently communicating with someone who means to do them harm."
But Sortisio added that it is easier said than done.
"While we ask them not to use their cell phones, not to contact their parents, not to tweet about what is going on, we're also cognizant that it may be happening."
The Frontier School District volunteered to host this exercise so that they, too, may improve their response plan.
"Our routines are only as good as when they need to be used in real life," said superintendent Dr. Bret Apthorpe.