The tragic school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was another terrible moment we've shared as a nation. It comes on the heels of so many other senseless, violent events and we can never let ourselves become numb to the horror.
Nor, as government leaders, can we let ourselves become less vigilant and less proactive to prevent such incidents.
For the past 10 years, the City of Huntsville, with great leadership from the Huntsville Police Department, has worked with Huntsville City Schools to make it harder for something like this to happen here.
Does that mean it can't happen? Sadly, there's no assurance. So often, these incidents have been a lone gunman who is troubled or mentally ill. The warning signs are much more private and hidden.
On the other hand, our security measures and deterrents help minimize that possibility.
If you've been to one of our public schools over the past decade, you've seen those measures in place.
We have put up fencing around our schools that control access points. Visitors must be buzzed into buildings electronically. Identification is presented and there is a computer record of each visit. Stick-on identification badges, with photos, must be worn. Schools have community resources officers on-hand who work with the Huntsville Police.
That may all feel a bit restrictive and uncomfortable for a visitor simply coming to campus to speak to a class or meet with faculty, but it's worth the extra trouble to assure our children's safety. Just like at the airport, when we think it's a nuisance to take off our belts and put all our liquids in a clear plastic bag, it's in the interest of security for all passengers.
We've gotten an education ourselves. We've learned from other tragedies. We've taken lessons from Madison City Schools, which had a shooting many years ago, and first-hand from the UAH shootings eight years ago. We've learned from these incidents all over the nation.
Our Huntsville Police and City Schools officials are constantly networking and learning best practices from other agencies and systems about how to prevent such disasters.
We're implementing some new tactics, becoming even more proactive. We have officers who troll the Web and monitor activity, to see if there is someone who they need to keep an eye on.
We have a new threat assessment unit, with a SWAT person and an Informational technology expert that can look across the Web on Facebook and Twitter and other social media for any potential threats. This is not an invasive measure. This isn't a privacy issue. It's simply a scientific, dedicated approach that could identify a person who has revealed, on public social media, the potential for danger.
But the greatest deterrent could be you, the citizen. This is so often a social problem. The "see something, say something" mantra is important. If you see a potential threat in your community, school, workplace or even family, take steps to get help, or to notify authorities.
Again, can we stop that lone gunman? A determined person is hard to stop.
But we've put a lot of pieces in place over the last decade to make sure this is a safe community, and you can be a major piece of that.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> or by calling 256-427-5000.