It is imperative to acknowledge that active shooter events can occur in various locations, even within the rural regions of Southeast Utah. A cursory glance at the headlines from various news sources underscores the urgent need for preparedness. Unfortunately, these distressing incidents are growing more common, with some rural areas particularly susceptible due to various factors.
One of the primary risks associated with active shooter events in Southeast Utah is the potential for delayed responses from law enforcement agencies. Rural areas grapple with limited law enforcement resources, resulting in extended response times during emergencies. This delay can provide the assailant with additional time to inflict harm before professional assistance arrives. Covering a vast expanse of over 18,000 square miles, including Carbon, Emery, Grand, and San Juan counties, with a population of just 55,000 people exacerbates this geographical challenge.
Another significant concern is the scarcity of medical resources in this expansive area. In the event of an active shooter incident, medical personnel may be required to traverse longer distances to reach the scene, and there are fewer medical facilities equipped to provide trauma care in the region. These factors can lead to critical delays in administering life-saving medical treatment to victims. Although air transportation is typically available, it may face delays due to resource limitations or adverse weather conditions. It is worth noting that the recent designation of Castleview Hospital as a Trauma IV rated center is a welcome development, as it enhances their ability to provide advanced care in the emergency department.
Additionally, the limited access to behavioral health resources in our rural communities poses a distinct risk. Many active shooters exhibit a history of legal issues, struggles in coping with significant life stressors, and a combination of negative emotions, including pessimism, emptiness, and anger. It is also suggested that most active shooters in schools tend to be socially isolated or outcasts, often described as socially awkward individuals with very few friends. While some attribute blame to firearm ownership, it is crucial to recognize that owning firearms in and of itself is not necessarily a risk factor. However, the presence of unsecured firearms within a community can heighten the potential for an active shooter incident through theft, burglary, or tragic accidents. Responsible gun ownership and proper storage practices can mitigate this risk. Additionally, it is vital to acknowledge that many active shooters legally obtain their firearms after passing state and federal background checks. A lesser-known aspect of preventing active shooter events involves well-armed and trained citizens who intervene and save lives, underscoring the importance of responsible gun ownership.
To mitigate the risks associated with active shooter events in Southeast Utah, a comprehensive emergency response plan is essential. This plan should encompass training for law enforcement and medical personnel, as well as conducting active shooter drills in schools and other public facilities. The "run, hide, fight" approach has proven effective in both residential and business settings. Furthermore, fostering social cohesion and a sense of community within our rural areas can aid in identifying and intervening in potentially violent situations.
I strongly encourage folks to participate in “run, hide, fight” training or at least watch the training video. I also recommend folks research and prepare by looking at FEMA’s active shooter resources found here: https://community.fema.gov/ProtectiveActions/s/article/Active-Shooter. FEMA recommends that we as citizens remember the critical steps: run, hide, and fight. It starts with awareness—see something, say something. Before acting, familiarize yourself with the available exits. If running is a safe option, do so immediately. Find a secure place to hide and stay concealed. Being prepared means having first aid skills to aid others when needed. Collaborate with law enforcement and provide any information that could help them respond effectively. Finally, seek support to cope with the trauma that may follow. These FEMA guidelines are helpful in promoting safety and resilience in the event of an active shooter incident.
While the risks of an active shooter event in Southeast Utah are still considered low, the stark reality is that proactive steps can be taken to mitigate these risks and enhance the safety and security of our rural communities.