By Craig Bennett
Iron County Today
History has shown that the number of school shootings in the state of Utah has been very low, but will it stay that way? Hopefully so, but could it happen in our schools here?
Police did confirm that a device was recently planted that caused the evacuation of Pine View High School. Authorities confirmed that a “homemade explosive device” was left inside a blue backpack. The juvenile arrested in the incident has been charged with a first-degree felony related to the manufacture, possession or use of a “weapon of mass destruction” along with other charges.
On February 15, there was a criminal mischief incident at Hurricane High School involving ISIS graffiti and an ISIS flag. The Hurricane Police Department was not able to determine a suspect from that incident. During the follow up investigation and interviews from the attempted bombing, police learned that the person arrested for this incident at Pine View High is also the person responsible for the incident at Hurricane High School. That information has been relayed to the Hurricane City detectives.
How does local law enforcement and other first responders prepare for situations like this?
Sgt. Mike Berg, Parowan High and middle school resource officer, said, “Law enforcement trains constantly with different scenarios. We train with other agencies in tactics, special equipment and lock down and lock out scenarios. The schools rely heavily on the Resource Officer to train teachers regularly in faculty meetings, monthly emails, ideas, policies and building security procedures.” Berg went on to say, “We also train outside of school such as seminaries. It is a joint effort in protecting our school students.
“The state of Utah requires us to have at least four fire drills per year. We also teach students and drill the students with different scenarios, such as what to do and where to go. Also, we deal with scenarios involving the students’ cell phones, Twitter accounts and the danger in students letting others know what is going on inside or outside of the school. To cause the parents to panic and come to the school adds to the threat. We ask parents to wait until authorities communicate with them. We are preparing all of the time, (and) the more we talk about it and train on it the more we will be prepared.”
Lt. Del Schlosser with the Iron County Sheriff’s office said, “There is a county wide effort to train for an active shooter situation. We want all of the officers on the same page.”
Local law enforcement will respond in their respective areas, but the Student Resource Officer will most likely be the first responder to a school shooting. The Iron County Sheriff’s Department will also respond to any situations in Cedar City schools, Parowan schools, Beryl Junction schools and also Three Peaks Elementary.
“All agencies will be working together. In the case of an explosive device the Bomb Squad will be called out of Washington County or the State Bomb Squad from up north,” said Schlosser.
In relation to what the parents should do, he said, “The last thing we want the students to do, especially in the case of an explosive device is to be using a cell phone, which is an electronic device and could trigger the explosive. We ask that the parents stay out of the area until we can set up a ‘rally point’ for reunification with their students.
“I know it is going to be difficult for the parents to wait,” he continued, “but the last thing we need is to have the parents and others entering the schools or school property.”
Parents, students, teachers and others are encouraged to notify authorities in the event they see or hear anything suspicious.