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New Hanover Co. holds active shooter drill (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Las Vegas, Orlando and San Bernardino, those are just three cities touched by the violence of a mass shooting. Being prepared to respond to something like that is why New Hanover County held an active shooter drill Thursday night.

From victims, to law enforcement, to emergency responders, hundreds of people joined forces to practice for a worst case scenario.

“It’s one thing to talk and plan it on paper, it’s another thing to actually get out here and to start counting heads as to how many people are here, and where they’re not in some places,” New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple said.

The county held the active shooter drill at the New Hanover County Government Center from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

“All of our training we try to make as realistic as we possibly can. Because if we can get that heart rate going up and it’s real, loud bangs. You know, it better trains you for reality,” New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer said.

The drill even had it’s own scenario, a man was fired from the county and got upset. After being fired, he came back to the center with a gun and began shooting. It’s a terrifying incident that sheds light on what the county can handle.

“We really start examining those details,” Zapple said. “What we would need to do and where we would need to operate from. And I know there’s a plan there but this will help in real time, you know, flush that out.”

From tracking down the shooter, to helping the victims, examining the crime, and even a mock press conference, it was a night full of learning opportunities.

“From the beginning, we said ok I see where we made a mistake here,” Lt. Brewer said. “We should have had better coordination here. We should have had a description for what each armband is, what does that do. And that slows things up and that’s where you learn from it. Communications, so many different people coming together. There were some communications issues, so we learned from that.”

The victims were taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for the staff there to train on how they would respond to a mass shooting.

“Hopefully you take away knowledge, that’s what we really want to instill in everyone here is how to do this better. How can we train better and have a better response and save lives,” Lt. Brewer said.

The drill took more than a year to plan, but officials say every minute was worth it. Lt. Brewer said they try to complete at least two active exercises every year to stay prepared.

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