Weapons of mass destruction exercise underway

Horry County SWAT, fire rescue, emergency management

, law enforcement and emergency responder departments from around the county are conducting a final weapons of mass destruction exercise Friday.

Contractors with Red Tail Tactical have spent the week training officers and officials in urban search and rescue, target shooting and medical response operations.

Friday morning, Red Tail Tactical put trainees to the test with a final evaluation at Aynor High School that included a hostage scenario, disposal of explosive devices and dealing with hazardous materials.

"We put them in stressful situations," said Red Tail Tactical President Don Hollenbaugh. "We put a little bit of pressure on them to make them move fast. These guys are working hard, long hours. They're drench with sweat at the end of the day, and it's pretty brutal."

The training is funded by a grant from SLED through the Department of Homeland Security.

"We are extremely fortunate to have obtained the funding to host such a large scale event," said Horry County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Matthew Smith. "We are preparing for worse-case scenarios, with the hope of never having to utilize these skills."

"We'd rather experience a failure in what people do in a training scenario when the cost isn't between life and death," Smith added. "We'd rather do it when a mistake can be acceptable and that's why we train this way."

Red Tail Tactical will send its final evaluation of the scenario to each department within the next ten days.