BY LAWRENCE HOPPER, UTAH HIGHWAY PATROL ASSOCIATION, PRESIDENT
Two months ago I took my 11 year old daughter to see a movie. We got our tickets, two large sodas, and a big ole tub of popcorn (no extra butter, we wanted to keep it healthy).
We sat down just in time to watch the previews. Towards the end of the movie, right at the suspenseful part, the movie stopped, the house lights came on, and the fire alarm started flashing. An announcement came over the P.A. saying, “An emergency has been reported in the theater. Please proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion.” This announcement continued to play as people stood up and started walking towards the exit. I looked over at my girl and could see a sense of panic in her eyes. I assured her that everything was going to be alright, and we stood up and walked out of the theater. After 30 minutes or so, the area was cleared and we were allowed back into the theater to finish the show. It turns out that water had gotten into the air ducts, which triggered the fire alarm.
After the movie we went to get a couple of shakes (medium shakes, we wanted to keep it healthy) and we started talking. We talked about the fire alarm and I asked her what was going through her head. She told me she thought there was a shooter, which explains the look of panic I saw. My initial thought was, some punk pulled the fire alarm and thinks it’s hilarious. I thought that because that is how it was when I was growing up. Her response made me think about the world we live in today.
We are all familiar with recent shootings across the nation. Whether it is at a school, a movie theater, or a shopping mall, it seems every day the news is reporting on a shooting. We can’t say “that doesn’t happen here in Utah.” It did happen in February of 2007 at the Trolley Square shopping mall. The days of assuming that the fire alarm going off is just another high school prank are over, and that is unfortunate. We’ve lost a sense of security as a society, because now, the first thing people think of when the fire alarm goes off, is that there is an active shooter.
While we can’t change that, we can be prepared, just in case we find ourselves in that situation. It starts with having a plan. What are you going to do if that fire alarm is not a prank, but something very real that could be deadly? If you are alone, what are you going to do? If you are with your family, where do they go? Do you go with them, or do you go toward the threat. Do you carry an off duty weapon? If not, should you start? All these questions need to be answered by each of us, individually. There is no right or wrong answer. With each situation comes multiple solutions. The purpose of my story is to get us to think about it and plan ahead.
I was sitting in a presentation where the speaker talked about playing the “What if” game. We’ve all played it, “if this happens, then I will do this.” He changed it to the “WHEN this happens, I will do this” game. If we play that game instead, we will be better prepared when we are faced with an emergency. The end goal for all of us is to return home safely. That is our goal at all times, whether we are coming home at the end of our shift, or out with family watching a movie. Stay safe, and make sure it happens.