AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Thursday, Richmond County first responders practicing how to keep your child safe if an active shooter situation happened at their school. It’s a simulation that could save lives.

It’s the culmination of three years of work for #StrongAugusta. Today’s drill here at the former Southside Elementary School is a way to train law enforcement agencies how to respond to an active shooter at a school.

Nearly 20 #strongAugusta agencies gathered on Old Louisville Road Thursday morning.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of all the agencies coming together and being a part of one big team,” said Brian Ozden, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent (Augusta) of the FBI. “It’s amazing back in the back seeing the camaraderie.” 

Now working on the response portion of their efforts, they are looking to identify and address gaps in their response strategies adopted from the NFPA 3000. 

“It’s a living document that gets updated every year or two, based on those discussions with colleagues in different cities, different states, different nations that have had to do something like this in the real world,” said John Ryan, emergency manager at Augusta University.

Helen Burton is a Community Emergency Response Team volunteer.

She says she feels her presence as an actor in the drill will benefit everyone. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in my surroundings,” said Burton. “I want to make sure that everybody in my community is prepared.”   

In the wake of recent nearby active shooter events, leaders tell us they want to do everything possible to prepare and protect the community.

“I think the reality is there- it is palpable,” said Alejandro Baez, professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology and vice chair of operational medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. And what we’re doing is creating a community response from community assets- EMS, law enforcement, fire- all the way into our hospital assets. Integrated to actually save lives.”

Leaders of the #StrongAugusta initiative tell us they will lobby in Washington next week and soon, they will head to a conference in Las Vegas as efforts to strengthen the community’s response to active shooter and hostile events continue.