LYNCHBURG, Va. -

Swat teams surrounded Sandusky Middle School Wednesday morning.

Armed with heavy weapons, officers carefully surveyed the campus before making their way in through a back door.

The exercise was only a drill, but it gave police a chance to put their emergency plans into action.

"Drills such as this always reveal flaws in your system, because no system is perfect," said Lt. Dave Gearhart, public information officer for the Lynchburg Police Department.

Wednesday was the first day of a regional emergency drill.  Police and rescue workers from Lynchburg and surrounding counties tested their ability to handle a major crisis.

The scenario involved a mass shooting and hostage situation at a public school.  Organizers used details from incidents that have happened around the country to give participants a realistic experience.

"This has been good practice," said Steve Smallshaw, broadcast services coordinator for Lynchburg's city government.  "It has almost been too real."

Actors played the part of shooting victims, who were taken to Lynchburg General Hospital.

Doctors, nurses, and EMT's learned how to treat a large number of injured people at one time.

The drill also tested the city's communication skills.  Public relations workers from local governments and private agencies practiced methods of sharing information.

"A lot of these folks have done this for many years, but even still this practice can be very invaluable," said Smallshaw.

Computer simulations gave city workers a taste of what they might see on social media.  A mock Twitter post showed a victim pleading for help inside the school, while a fake YouTube video showed a person being held at gunpoint.

"These are the kinds of situations that we're going to face, if this kind of incident does come up," Smallshaw said.

While they hope this kind of situation never happens, organizers of the drill say Lynchburg would be well prepared.

"Lynchburg really has a great group of people here working together," said Gene Stewart, Region III Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

The drill wraps up Thursday with meetings to discuss lessons learned and ways to improve for the future.