PEA RIDGE -- As cries of "Help" echoed through the halls, police officers, guns drawn, entered the hallways at Pea Ridge Junior High School.
Shouts of "help me" were punctuated with screams, gunshots and "Go, go, go" as volunteers played their part as victims of an active shooter drill.
"Shots right here" shouted an officer. Bullet casings littered the floor.
"They're all down ... Go!" said an officer as it was apparent the shooter was down.
"Get these kids back to CCP," an officer said.
More shots rang out.
Officers headed toward the shooting while others dragged victims out of the hallways into a room assigned as a CCP, a casualty collection point where victims are taken for safety until they can be removed from the building.
"Send in another RTF," an officer said over a radio to the dispatcher.
Lt. Rich Fordham, in charge of the training this past week, said an RTF is a rescue task force comprised of medics protected by police officers.
"Those two police officers' primary job is to protect those medics and the casualties on the way out. They are not to engage," Fordham said.
Training personnel from the fire and ambulance department includes teaching them to stay with officers who are to protect their life, Pea Ridge Lt. John Langham said.
Patients are wheeled on chairs, carried over shoulders, assisted to walk.
"Can you walk?" an officer asks a victim.
"I'm getting the firearms secure."
"The bleeding is stopped; we're going to get you up and out of the hallway."
Screams continue to echo through the hallways.
"All available units down to the CCP!"
"Medics coming out!"
Hysterical screams and sounds of vomiting from victims add to the stress.
"Pressure, pressure ... we need you to stand up!"
"High-stress situations ... if I see another gun, I don't want to shoot an officer," Fordham said.
"We have a downed suspect!"
Adrenaline coursed through victims and officers alike as the situation was made as real as possible to train police and emergency personnel in an event all hope will never happen.
Trying to create a situation as real as possible is important. The officers participating do not know in advance what they're facing, Langham said. He worked as dispatcher communicating via radio with the command center and officers.
"Attention Pea Ridge units. We have a report of a suspect armed with a handgun entering the Pea Ridge Junior High," the dispatcher says.
"One shooter down. Multiple casualties," a voice says anxiously over the radio.
"That's why we have them screaming ... to try to increase the stress," Pea Ridge Police Chief Lynn Hahn said. "We could never make it as stressful as a real situation.
"Even from the point of dispatch ... I'm trying to give them a point of hype," Langham said.
"There's so much information coming in from so many different directions and they have to figure out what to do with it," he said.
As more officers arrive, a command center is established to provide organization, sending in officers and medics as needed.
"Somebody has to be the command outside as more officers show up," Langham said. "We need resources placed strategically. You become the organizing ... the only person to talk to dispatch is command."
"Command on the scene is very important," Langham said.
Stop the killing before you stop the dying is the protocol, said Langham, explaining that the current training focuses on stopping the shooter to lessen the number of victims. He said the "old school" method of training was more SWAT-like which was the only training available at the time. He said police were taught to wait for back up, but that method, which maybe effective in large cities, is not a good protocol in small-town and rural America.
"We realized SWAT wasn't designed for mass shootings but for a more directed tactical response," Langham said.
Three different drills were held over two days with several training officers joined by nurses and emergency medical personnel. Nurses worked with police on medical procedures as in stopping the bleeding with pressure and tourniquets.
The scenario lasted anywhere from three to six minutes, but to those involved, it seems longer. The stress lessened. Hallways were silent.
Trainers and officers began exchanging observations of the drill. All officers were directed to the library for debriefing.
Langham said the last full-scale training in Pea Ridge was in 2018.
He said with training for active shooters in schools, there is a layered response, sending in more officers at different times as the situation is assessed.
Throughout the training, training officers note strengths displayed and weaknesses revealed.
Langham said access to the buildings is essential for police and emergency personnel as it is more restricted to the public.
Cooperation between different agencies provides more personnel for small communities than is ordinarily on staff.
Command staff organized a location for media personnel and for parents of students, situations that would be necessary in a real-life situation.
"As the command post, you have to deal with so much information coming from so many different places," Langham said, stressing the need for an officer to take the command post.
"I think it was very successful and that all of the officers are more prepared to deal with an active shooter situation regardless whether it's a school, business or a church," Hahn said.
"It clarified things we had goals for from the last time we did it," Langham said. "It went really well, very smoothly."
"Everybody at least learned something, and we were able to identify goals to work toward in the future," Langham said.
"We pray nothing like this ever happens in our area, but we must ensure we are prepared should it occur," Hahn said. "We have outstanding officers who are dedicated to this community and to the safety of our children. After watching our officers' performance in this training, I am confident in our preparedness and abilities."