Smoke and screams filled the air as sirens blared. Tragedy had struck the Piedmont campus, and it was all for education.

“It’s practice for a real-life event,” said Karen Greilich, a Piedmont nursing professor who worked to organize the 2018 Piedmont disaster drill. “In a disaster, things aren’t really planned, and so you may be called to step up.”

At the Piedmont College Swanson Center, 70 senior nursing and health science students were treating the 97 junior students, who acted as victims of the fabricated disaster.

“Everybody has a role to play,” Greilich said, explaining the importance of working together with local rescue personnel during a disaster.

The annual disaster drill at Piedmont College is an important event that brings together many community members, allowing them to share this learning experience together as a team. From senior nursing students to local emergency medical services (EMS), fire services and police, everyone had a part in Wednesday’s training.

“You got to train like your life depends on it,” said Mackenzie Appleton, local Firefighter and First Responder. “You got to train like it’s the real deal every time you train.”

With students in the action from the moment the staged explosions took place, it was a very involved experience for students and the community.

“Definitely a hands-on learning experience,” said Katie Woodward, a senior athletic training major. “It was really a new experience that I had a lot of energy for.”

Piedmont has hosted disaster drills for about 10 years, but recent years have brought more people together to improve the quality of learning for the students involved.

“From where they started out, these disaster drills now are just absolutely fantastic,” said Antoinette Willsea, who has been a nursing professor at Piedmont for 16 years. “They’re much more realistic than they used to be, and the students are doing and extremely great job.”

With triage came training for the 2018 Piedmont disaster drill, providing another senior nursing class the chance to practice their skills.

“It’s very realistic,” Said Greilich. “I think this is our biggest and most grand disaster drill yet.”