Officials focus on prevention, precaution to avert mass shootings
How to prevent tragedy before it happens
The horror of yet another round of mass shootings has left everyone from restaurateurs to educators, moviegoers to shoppers, bewildered about how they go about their lives without succumbing to fear.
Whether they articulate it out loud or not, many are wondering how they might respond if the unthinkable was to happen. Are they prepared to keep themselves, and those they love, safe from harm?
Some might suggest the odds of such a calamity impacting them and their family are so remote they need not worry. Others may decide it is time to buy a weapon.
If you ask Mike Brady, director of security at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an expert in the field, the better question to ponder is how to prevent a tragedy before it occurs.
Brady is a believer that the United States Homeland Security mantra, “See something, Say something,” is anything but trite: it’s smart and it saves lives, he said.
“I want to emphasize that the best way to respond to these situations is to prevent them,” Brady said this past week.
At Embry-Riddle, and other places throughout Yavapai County, there are professionals who are trained to assess risks, and help others assess the people around them as well as their physical surroundings.
If someone is texting or talking on a cellphone, or otherwise distracted, Brady said, “that is not a recipe for success.”
Airplane protocol requires flight attendants to identify to passengers where the oxygen masks, floatation devices and exits are located, he noted. When people attend a concert, go grocery shopping or are worshiping in church, it makes sense to know the quickest route to the outside if the need to depart in a rush exists, Brady and other professionals suggested.
Prescott Police Lt. John Brambila said department training calls for seeking three ways to escape from any venue, and if trapped, considering where one might quickly hide so that there is a barrier they can get behind or pull over as a shield for whoever is with them. The run, hide, fight scenario is one that not only police need to consider and practice, he said.
“We want people to pay attention to what is going on around them; to know these things can happen in any community. Everyone must be vigilant,” said Brambila, a 20-year law enforcement veteran.
In the aftermath of tragedy, Brambila and Brady said it is often determined that someone had an inkling something was awry, be it a vocal threat or something they read on a Facebook page. Anytime someone feels threatened, or sees something that doesn’t fit, they need to share that information, they said. Better to be wrong than lament a tragedy, they agreed.
“If the hair on the back of your neck stands up, that’s a million years of evolution telling you to pay closer attention; something’s wrong … We should pay attention, not ignore it,” Brady said.
“Unfortunately, no one is immune,” Brambila declared.
Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter said school security today is as important a conversation among educators as is considering the best way to teach reading or math.
In this county, Carter said there is a program called Milestones developed after the Columbine High School shooting that has proved effective in identifying students who could potentially pose a threat.
“This is not for a child that’s angry or might have gotten into a fight,” Carter said.
The program — operated by a team of eight professionals representing education, law enforcement, the court system and mental health agencies — is charged with providing interventions and services so an identified child gets help before they can do harm to others, he said. In a given year, the team may receive no referrals, or a handful, he said.
“It’s pretty unique, and it’s been very effective,” Carter said of the program that relies on communication between multi-agencies.
The Yavapai County Education Service Agency, too, conducts school trainings and periodic annual seminars with invitations to all significant community agencies who play a role in safety issues.
He is clear, though, that plans are not one-size, fits all. “In the world of school safety, if you’ve seen one school, you’ve seen one school. One particular technique does not work in every place,” Carter said.
In Prescott, District Superintendent Joe Howard said PUSD has a school safety manual that is updated and distributed to all school administrators. The manual includes everything from law enforcement contacts to how to stage drills, shelter-in-place and secure a building, he said.
One of the district’s focuses this year is single-point entry at all locations, with all visitors to the campus so school officials know who is on their campus at all times, Howard said.
In Chino Valley, Superintendent John Scholl said the district has similar plans, with drills even for the youngest student aimed to offer “repetitive knowledge” on what to do for any type of crisis.
The theory is not to be alarmist “but to be prepared,” Scholl said.
Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Dan Streeter was unavailable for comment; but, has previously emphasized the importance of school security, working with law enforcement and school resource officers, and taking all threats seriously.