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Crisis situation a training tool

August 24, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A simulated hostage situation will be held Monday morning at Bedington Elementary School to hone the skills of a team formed to react to such a crisis.

"Our goal is to be prepared," said James Holland, principal at Bedington Elementary and chairman of the Community Crisis Response Team. The scenario for the exercise is that an armed intruder, the older brother of a student, enters the school and takes hostages.

Holland, who said the CCRT was formed two years ago, explained that participants in the drill will include fire and ambulance personnel from the Bedington Volunteer Fire Co., the SWAT team from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, school counselors and psychologists. The exercise is scheduled to run from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

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School faculty and staff will also participate and Holland said 10 or more middle and high school students will portray the victims. He expects 30 to 35 participants and hopes there will be as many or more observers from the school system and emergency agencies.

After the exercise Holland said the counselors and psychologists will conduct a "mock debriefing of the students involved in the crisis." He explained that, in the event of a real crisis, students would need counseling to deal with the event.

While he chairs the CCRT for the county, Holland said there is a separate crisis response team to deal with the emotional trauma of any incident within the school system.

The county CCRT team is prepared for a wide range of incidents outside of the scenario it will practice on Monday. "We have other teams that perhaps work with hazardous spills and other emergencies, " he said.

One aspect of the drill will involve working with the media to provide necessary information while maintaining the security at the scene and protecting the victims' needs.

Holland said 911 dispatchers have been briefed and signs will be posted near the school to ensure the public is aware that it is a drill.

Holland said the CCRT will be videotaping the exercise for training purposes.

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