SURRY COUNTY, N.C. -- In the wake of multiple school shootings, schools and authorities in the Piedmont are stepping up their preparations for emergency situations.
In Surry County, they're doing school lockdown drills; but in a way Sheriff Graham Atkinson says is as realistic as possible, without traumatizing the students.
"What we've done over the last several years is incrementally made the drills more realistic, more intense and change them up every year," said Sheriff Atkinson.
The sheriff's office sends a "bad guy" into the schools, in order to test the response by teachers, administrators and staff.
"They've risen to the level now that we're comfortable and the students are comfortable with sending in an intruder, that the people will not know, and see how they react," said Sheriff Atkinson.
It is up to the staff inside the school to initiate the lockdown and alert the authorities.
On Thursday, they sent a "bad guy" into Meadowview Magnet Middle School in Mount Airy. The "bad guy" handed a card to the first staff member he encountered, identifying himself, and notifying them that it was a lockdown drill. Moments later, the call went over the intercom saying that the school was in lockdown.
"Within two seconds the kids that were in the hallway with us, they were in classrooms and we were straight into the office," said Meadowview Magnet Middle School Assistant Principal Shelley Bryant.
The call immediately went out to deputies alerting them of the lockdown.
The "bad guy" roamed the halls, going door-to-door, trying to open them. Video footage shows that all he found were locked doors with no students or staff in sight; they were huddled in corners with the lights off.
Minutes later deputies arrived, and took the "bad guy" into custody.
Deputies then scoured the school looking for other threats and notifying students and staff that it was simply a drill.
"A lot of the teachers know us, so sometimes it's 'oh I figured it was you,' and everything from that to 'I didn't have any idea this was coming, I was scared to death,'" said Sheriff Atkinson.
"You always are nervous because you want to make sure in the back of your mind you're in a room and you want to know that your students are safe," said Bryant. "Our teachers, they hit the nail on the head. I feel confident with our teachers here."
Sheriff Atkinson concurred; saying the actions of the staff in the school was perfect.
"If we have a crisis at this school, or any other school in Surry County today, they're as prepared as they can possibly be," said Sheriff Atkinson.
Yet, the sheriff says the drills must continue to evolve. Surry County schools have implemented new safety measures, including cameras and new locks.
"To see how it can be done. Because if we can get through them, then somebody else can, too," said Sheriff Atkinson.