Botched safety drill in Columbia County

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Updated: 4/10 8:45 pm

HUDSON, N.Y. – A safety drill gone wrong earlier this week has shaken up some Columbia County Mental Health employees.

The staff and clients say they were never notified that a safety drill would be conducted at their place of work on Tuesday afternoon. The drill turned into a horrifying situation for most.

The employees and their clients say they don't have any problem with security drills, but In this case, they say, it was all about the way in which things were done.

Those inside the building on Tuesday truly believed their lives were in danger, some even making phone calls and sending texts to their family members saying their final goodbyes.

While they are worried about losing their jobs if their identities are released, the therapists who experienced the incident do want people to know about the botched safety drill at work.

One therapist said he was not only protecting himself, but also the clients in his group session.

The drill came only a few days after the deadly shooting at Fort Hood in Texas. The day after the drill, a student was accused of attacking his classmates and educators with a knife inside a Pennsylvania high school.

Zeb Haggerty, who works in information technology for Columbia County thought he might be the next tragic victim in the headlines. He said he locked himself in his office and grabbed a scalpel, the only weapon he could think of.

Haggerty said he experienced 20 minutes of sheer terror and panic, as the staff and clients were told there was never any intruder at all, it was all just a drill. It took place throughout the building with the help of plain-clothes sheriff's deputies.

Staff members say they feel like they were guinea pigs in a bizarre science experiment.

Director of the Human Services Mental Health Center Michael Cole has not returned several messages left by NEWS10 ABC.

The Columbia County Sheriff did say who was in charge of alerting staff members about the drill though. That is coming up on NEWS10 ABC at 6 p.m.

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