Kelly Carter says her husband could have been among the dozens of wounded and killed movie fans had it not been for their planned trip to Grand Rapids. Photo courtesy: Associated Press
HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - After a summer of mass shootings, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department is taking a proactive approach to protecting students as school starts this year.
On Monday, a gunman arrested in a Baltimore school capped off a summer of high profile shootings. In many cases, law enforcement says a common phrase would follow.
"People always said, 'Well, it's never going to happen here'," says Lieutenant Lee Hoeksema with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.
As this school year starts, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department is not taking anything for granted.
"We can't take that mind set. We have to be more vigilant and we have to train for whatever may happen," says Lt. Hoeksema.
"That is one of the worst fears for any of us," says Sergeant Valerie Weiss with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.
Sergeant Weiss is in charge of coordinating with schools on active shooting threats and lockdown procedures.
"We do that at least twice a year, with every school building in the county," says Sgt. Weiss.
"You have to assess, is it safer to shelter in place or evacuate? Those are the two big things," says Lt. Hoeksema.
For security reasons, the Sheriff's Department is not disclosing specific tactics. However, Hoeksema says a simple thing schools can do is make sure doors are locked during the day. The Sheriff's Department is also asking parents to be proactive by paying attention to concerning behavior from their child or friends, taking note of violent video games, and monitoring Facebook.
"Paying attention to what they're posting on there is important to us and if they see something that is alarming they should let us know," says Sgt. Weiss.
The Sheriff's Department says it's a process that is constantly improving.
"10 years ago this wasn't a big issue. We've seen too much of it," says Lt. Hoeksema.
The Ottawa County Sheriff's Department also has a deputy at every school district in the county.