COLD SPRINGS -- Although the gas leak near Cold Springs schools was just hot air, the scenario used during a mock emergency drill Monday made sure students and school officials were ready for the real deal.
Officials said students, teacher and administrators were able to rise to the occasion, evacuating the school quickly.
"They evacuated both buildings in under two minutes," said Hank Allen, superintendent of Cullman County Schools.
After students were moved a safe distance from the facility, school buses took them to Ryan Street Baptist Church, the meeting place designated for emergency evacuations.
"I guess we're the largest facility in the neighborhood," said church pastor Keith Gambill, who added, "We have the facilities to be able to provide a place for them, so we're willing to do that."
Gambill added the church serves as the "Red Cross station for emergencies in this neck of the woods."
Once the evacuation was completed, Cold Springs High School Principal William Calvert congratulated the student body and said getting out of school early that day was a reward for their effort.
"This is a necessary thing," Calvert said. "We never know when a disaster is going to hit our school, and now we have an idea of what we will do."
This was not the first time the school system has had an emergency drill. Last year, schools at Hanceville practiced for the event of a gunman going onto campus.
Allen said this time the school system wanted to practice a scenario in which students had to be evacuated from school.
"We found we had deficits in our plan and we wanted to address that," Allen said. "We just needed to practice."
To pull off the practice run, the school system partnered with several county agencies including the Sheriff's Department, roads department, area fire departments, Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross.
Officials with these agencies will meet in the near future to discuss what can be done to improve the evacuation process.
"We'll sit down and do a debriefing with all the agencies that were involved just like we did at Hanceville," Allen said. "That's when we'll find out where we made mistakes."
Allen said he is not certain when the meeting to be held at the board of education's central office will take place.
"We'll take about a week to digest it, then we'll set a date," he said.
During Monday's drill, Cold Springs teachers kept with them emergency backpacks made available to all county classrooms this year. Allen said the gear was paid for with grant money.
"We were able to write a grant to supply all the county schools with those," Allen said.
Cantrice Voce, a Cold Springs High School English teacher, said the packs contain items such as flashlights, rain coats and first aid kits.
"We also added to the emergency kit a diabetic kit for all our students who have diabetes just in case they were to have an episode," Voce said.
Ginger Hogeland, a CCS spokesperson, said the school system informed parents about the mock disaster plan to make sure the drill didn't alarm them unnecessarily.
In addition to letters mailed to students' homes, she said the school system implemented it's School Reach program, an automated telephone system primarily used for school emergencies.
"We sent out messages with our School Reach program Saturday," Hogeland said. "When we sounded the alarm, we made another phone call to remind everyone it's only a drill and to remind them of what was going to take place so all parents should be 100 percent informed."
Although students knew about the drill, Voce said they didn't know what time it would take place.
"You consistently want to prepare the kids for any kind of situation," Voce said.
Another teacher, Tim Burleson, who teaches ninth grade history, said he thought the drill went "as smoothly as possible."
Calvert agreed. He said if a similar event ever happens, "We'll be somewhat prepared in where to go and where to meet and how to make arrangements."