The Salisbury Township Police Department participated in a mass shooting drill Wednesday at Parkland High School to better prepare area law enforcement in case of an actual event.
The drill, which began at 9 a.m.and lasted several hours, was the largest in the region, according to Bob Werts, program manager of the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Counter Terrorism Task Force.
Helicopters from Lehigh Valley Hospital and St. Luke’s University Hospital landed on the baseball field to accommodate the wounded.
The drill started at 9 a.m. with a report of a shooting in the high school auditorium. Law enforcement officials, beginning with the South Whitehall and Allentown police departments, rushed to the high school with several ambulances and SWAT teams right behind them.
More law enforcement and ambulances from throughout the area followed. Students, with their hands up in the air, cried out for help.
Radios crackled with reports of victims "shot" inside the high school. Inside the high school, "dead" victims were still on the floor with police officers securing the building.
The building went into lockdown for a time until police were sure that there were no further danger to students.
"The most important thing to me that all of the police were coming in together as a unit," Werts said. "The first thing the kids are going to do to is get on the cell phone and call Mom and Dad. This is something you have train for."
Meanwhile, Nicole McGalla, director of community and public relations for the Parkland School District, was practicing, too. McGalla was updating a test version of the school's Web site and emergency call systems, posting information.
"I'm posting real-time information on to the Web site and using the rapid notification system, asking parents not to flood Parkland High School," McGalla said. "If there were an evacuation, parents would be notified of where they can pick up their children."
One of McGalla's postings said the injured were taken to the Orefield Middle School football stadium where their conditions were not known. Parkland students were also taken to the middle school, where parents could sign them out, according to the site.
School officials from other districts were on hand to observe the proceedings.
Kristen Lewis from the Southern Lehigh School District watched the drill from inside the building.
"We saw a 'shooter' come in and 'shoot' someone and then the police took down the shooter, who was wearing headgear," Lewis said. "We need to be prepared for something like this. It's something not easily rehearsed."
In all, more than 200 people participated in the simulation.
A few years ago the district did a drill simulating a hostage situation but Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak said this drill is more comprehensive. “We’re going to talk about how we block access to the high school, so it’s going to take a coordinated effort from a lot of different jurisdictions to be able to block public access to the high school,” he said.
Werts said the drill cost $16,000 through a state grant.
Participants included police from South Whitehall, Salisbury, Allentown, Berks-Lehigh County Regional and Pennsylvania State Police from Bethlehem and Fogelsville; emergency management, public works and Cetronia, Woodlawn and Greenawalds volunteer firefighters; Parkland School District and Cetronia Ambulance Corps.