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Shooting Staged at Parkland High School

Parkland High School in South Whitehall held a massive "active shooter" drill Wednesday along with local law enforcement to practice the response to a Columbine-like shooting tragedy.

officials and local law enforcement are now better prepared for a mass shooting event after holding an hours-long "active shooter drill" Wednesday morning.

The drill was a simulation of how law enforcement and school officials would react in the event of mass shooting at the high school.

Bob Werts, program manager of the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Counter Terrorism Task Force, said the drill was important for several reasons.

"What I feel is important is how tax dollars are being spent. They're being spent here for a very good reason," Werts said."This is the largest drill in our region. The second largest was at Jim Thorpe."

Werts said the drill cost $16,000 through a state-funded grant.

The drill started at 9 a.m. with a report of a shooting in the high school auditorium. Local law enforcement officals, 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. School children, 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 website and emergency call systems, posting information in "real time."

"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 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 was on hand inside the building to witness the drill.

"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 were utilized in the simulation. Helicopters from Lehigh Valley Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital were landed on the baseball field to accomodate wounded. 

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. 

Among those taking part in the drill were South Whitehall police, emergency management, public works and , and volunteer firefighters; , Salisbury police, Allentown police, state police at Bethlehem and Fogelsville, and .

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