Hallways of the vacant schoolhouse rang with gunfire as Effingham County sheriff's deputies practiced how they would find and subdue a shooter in a crowded place and protect victims as well.
All the while, trained evaluators in fluorescent vests took notes on each sequence and technique used. Organizers hoped to prepare deputies for what they hope they never face - a violent shooter in a school, office, store, or area crowded with innocent targets.
"It could happen anywhere these days," admitted Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. "We tried to overwhelm our people with the absolute worst possible scenario."
Deputies found several "victims" wounded by the shooters. They also found frantic bystanders trying to hide from the attackers.
When deputies subdued the shooters, medical personnel rushed in to evaluate and treat the wounded and get them further medical attention. Then, others were tested with role players as panicked "family members", demanding information and access to their loved ones.
The simulation came just two days after a shooting in Savannah at the Coastal Empire Fair. The already scheduled drill hit home in nearby Effingham.
"We just wrapped up our fair here," McDuffie said. "We didn't have anything happen. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't. We have to be ready for something just like that."