It's a sad state when school shootings are so common in this country that law enforcement agencies have to practice how to handle them.

"Tragically, active shooters have become a part of society," said Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers said. "We're concerned about when, where it will happen and are we prepared."

Hyers help organized the massive drill held Friday at Central York High School, where more than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officers, as well as 40 firefighters and ambulance crews, practiced how they would respond if two gunman attacked the building.

Students and parents also participated, helping emergency responders visualize how best to reunite families as children escape a shooting scene.

The good news is the drill was "outstanding," according Hyers.

It wasn't flawless, but that was the point: to highlight areas where coordination can be improved in the event -- God forbid -- emergency responders ever face a similar, real-life situation.

In the practiced scenario, two gunmen entered Central York High School around 8:30 a.m. A male shooter was identified first with a handgun, and a female shooter was reported minutes later. One of the gunmen "died" during the course of the drill, and the other surrendered to police.

Students evacuated the high school building with their hands up, fingers spread wide, which one staff member described as eerily similar to Columbine.


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Debbie Rutter, who participated with her son Adam, said she was impressed with the levels of security surrounding the middle school where reunifications were made.

"I'm just amazed at the number of people dedicating their time today to prepare the community for a tragic event," she said.

The students made an effort to honor the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a community that faced just such a tragedy Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman entered the school and killed 20 children and six educators.

At the suggestion of a teacher, Kyla Caruso and Breana Couch took to social media to urge their classmates to wear green and white, the school colors of Sandy Hook, for the drill.

Couch said she saw the results of her efforts from the upper deck of the gym when she was evacuated there during the drill. She saw many of her classmates and teachers in some form of green or white clothing.

"It was really moving," Couch said.

Although the drill lasted only hours, Hyers and others spent six months planning it. A report will be presented to the district in two to three months, Hyers said, and the information also could be used to help local businesses and shopping areas develop procedures for response to mass shootings.

The chief said his long-term goal is to continue similar drills in different situations and locations around the county.

Unfortunately, that's probably a good idea.

As Hyers noted, "We have a duty and a responsibility to prepare" for the next tragedy.