VIA hosts talk on active-shooter prep 

Jenny Ketchepaw, Vice President Talent Engagement, Citizens Business Bank speaks during an Active Shooter Preparedness presentation for the Valley Industry Association luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Tuesday, 022024. Dan Watson/The Signal

Jenny Ketchepaw, vice president of talent engagement at Citizens Business Bank, recalled Tuesday when the reality of an active-shooter situation first hit home for her. 

It was about nine years ago, she told the crowd gathered at the Hyatt Regency Valencia ballroom for the Valley Industry Association’s talk on the topic.  

She was at a business awards luncheon in San Bernardino where her coworker received some extremely disturbing news: the woman’s son-in-law had been shot by an active shooter. 

“My boss and I looked at each other and said, ‘We have to do something,’” she said. 

At that point, she says, she invested herself in the topic, seeking expertise through what materials were available at the time, including from organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she shared with attendees Tuesday. 

“We started putting a plan together, we started putting training together and we started having conversations,” she added.  

She said the main three tenets have not changed much between the time she started her research and now, when such preparation in the workplace is now mandatory, as the result of Senate Bill 553, which was signed into law last year and requires employers to develop their own workplace violence-prevention plans by July 1. 

But people’s connections to such events have changed, she said, with more and more people having experience with such tragedies in the years since the 2015 incident that impacted her.  

“It’s really important to inform our community and guests about this,” said Selina Thomas, who runs a human resource consulting firm and serves as chair of VIA, recalling the local tragedy that still resonates with the community. At Saugus High School, a November 2019 shooting left five students shot and three dead. 

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez was there as part of his fourth talk on the subject since a departmentwide training in January at Castaic High School. He also gave a talk recently at College of the Canyons, and the previous week, he met with local congregations. 

In an interview prior to his presentation, he said, “Run, hide, fight” is still the mantra. These talks hopefully serve as reminders and starters for important conversations that leaders at each business, campus or congregation need to have in the coming months to stay safe — and stay in compliance with the law, he added.  

“They’ve got to have a plan,” Diez said before the presentation, “and we certainly can’t go out to each business in Santa Clarita, so each business in Santa Clarita is going to have to make a plan based on the information that’s provided, and it’ll be unique to every business.” 

Father Dominic Radecki of the Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newhall attended Tuesday’s presentation and the previous week’s meeting with clergy. 

The talks are helpful, he said, and he appreciated how there have been many local events around the topic. He’s been able to receive new information and hear what security plans work best based on what others have tried.  

“I think the topics discussed today are very important,” Radecki said Tuesday. “So many tragedies have occurred through mental illness and other issues, people’s rage or anger or whatever hatred … and really this community has to be prepared to recognize the signs, individuals who need help and then also to protect the community.” 

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