Our View | A False Alarm and a Call for a Sad Preparedness

By The Signal Editorial Board

It was a false alarm, yes, but it was also a stark reminder of the world we live in, and the importance of preparedness:

When the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station received a report Wednesday that a woman was seen pulling a rifle from a bush on the campus of College of the Canyons and walking toward Valencia Boulevard, it was viewed as a potentially credible threat. 

The Valencia campus was immediately locked down, in the midst of classes, a college board of trustees meeting and many other activities that happen every day on the bustling community college campus, whose enrollment tops 20,000 students. 

Faculty, students and staff were instructed to shelter in place, meaning to stay put in the rooms they were in, and to close and lock all doors. 

Dozens of sheriff’s deputies converged upon the college and began the painstaking process of clearing campus buildings, one by one, room by room, to ensure there was no threat. 

It’s a big campus. 

When it seemed to become evident that there was no active shooter threat on campus, the process of clearing the buildings took on the feeling of a potentially valuable training exercise. 

And, for those who thought it was nothing more than a false alarm, their suspicions were confirmed: About two hours after the ordeal began, deputies were able to confirm that the woman who had been seen pulling a “rifle” from a bush was actually collecting sticks, for her child’s art project. 

Thankfully, there was no real threat. But college officials and first responders did the right thing by treating it as if it could have been real — because what if?

There were, surely, lessons to be learned and there will be debriefings to be had, for campus officials and security officers, and for the SCV Sheriff’s Station. It’s normal after such a scenario plays out to revisit it and ask, “What went right? What went wrong? What can we do better? Do we need to change anything?”

Fair questions.

If nothing else, as one speaker pointed out when the COC board meeting resumed after the “all clear” was given, those participating in the meeting can learn from this experience that, when a lockdown order is given, those affected by it should follow directions promptly, without delay. Because, the speaker pointed out, there was in fact a bit of a delay — perhaps only naturally, because it’s an understandable tendency to wonder, “Is this just a drill? A false alarm?”

We are all, of course, thankful that this was just a false alarm. But it served as a reminder that “preparedness” these days means more than just preparing for disasters like the earthquake that struck our community 25 years ago this past Thursday. It also means preparing for active shooter scenarios, and taking reported threats seriously.  

Regardless of one’s personal views on gun control versus gun owners’ rights, this is the world we live in. We all owe it to ourselves, our co-workers and loved ones to become just as familiar with the principles of “run-hide-fight” as we are with “drop, cover and hold on.”

It’s an unfortunate reality that at some point your life could depend on it. Thankfully, this week at COC, it turned out to be sticks, and not a rifle. 

But what if?

Individuals, businesses and human resources professionals can find active shooter response tips and training resources from the Department of Homeland Security at dhs.gov. 

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