Our View: Preparing for the worst

Nobody plans tragedy or terrorism. There is no crystal ball by which to determine what the final straw will be for the gunman who takes hostages within one of our schools. But there is a way to determine how fast and efficient the response will be should such an event happen. This month, Moffat County will conduct a mass casualty training at the middle school that will be based on an armed gunman shooting children and teachers and taking a hostage. Although it's hard to imagine that such an event would happen in our sleepy town, it is probably just as unimaginable at Columbine or Red Lake, Minn. -- nonetheless, tragedy struck and towns were paralyzed.

Although it is difficult and frightening to embrace the concept of "not if, but when," it will be more difficult to understand the mass chaos and confusion that will result from an unplanned disaster in our community -- Columbine parents wrestle with the whys and hows of that situation daily. The power of preparedness is immeasurable and we, as community members, should take pride in the aggressive and proactive approach our emergency management officials.

Moffat County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Dalton, as well as local law enforcement agencies, victims' assistance programs, the fire department, emergency medical services, media, school administration, hospital and others have worked tirelessly to develop a training exercise that will help all agencies to work together in a unified command situation and to use resources to meet the immediate needs of those involved in such an emergency situation.

Because the event will be held during school hours, in the school building, children who are at school that day inevitably will be involved in the drill and will witness simulated gunfire, chaos, evacuation and emergency personnel briefings. School personnel will take great care to provide adequate instruction and explanation to students about the drill and the aftermath, and school resources will be available to students who suffer from side effects of the drill. The good news is that parents all have a choice -- their children can participate in the drill or be absent from school that day. Although we respect the decision of each parent to determine what is best for his or her child, we also think that parents should support the drill and the valuable lessons it will teach. If parents choose not to allow their children to participate, we hope that they will not stand in the way of school administrators who are trying to be prepared for this situation.

Allowing this trial to happen will ultimately make our children safer, and our emergency response better in a worst case scenario. It also will provide a better sense of the security that we all expect to find in our community.

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