Experts from across state work on plans for response to potential mass violence incidents in Alaska

Multi-day conference includes stops in Anchorage, Fairbanks
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 1:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A mass violence incident can happen anywhere, anytime, but preparation can help save lives.

That was the message from hosts and attendees of the Alaska Victim Assistance Partnership Conference, all of whom were taking part in a multi-day event working toward preparedness in the event of a mass violence incident in Alaska.

Experts from across the state descended upon the Dena’ina Center in Downtown Anchorage this week as part of the 2023 conference, which also includes a day of discussions in Fairbanks.

Hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Anchorage office, the AVAP gathering is meant in large part as a catalyst for communication – to help keep an open dialogue and foster brainstorming and cross-agency discussions, in preparation for any potential MVI – but also serves as an opportunity to better inform the public about crisis prevention and response.

“We’re listening to each other, cross-training, learning each others’ lanes, and really formulating a solid plan for how our community will respond,” said Anchorage FBI Victim Specialist Erin Terry. “We are a community with a lot of unique needs, and the farther out you go from Anchorage, those unique needs become more intense. And so, we need to be thinking about those more, directly, and having more thoughtful solutions, more creative solutions.”

Another goal of the efforts this week are to ensure the public knows that there are resources available to those who have been through any sort of violent incident themselves, and not only in the immediate aftermath, but in the long-term, too.

“I would love to see this never have to have a need, is what I would really love to see,” said Erik Ross, who survived the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 and now advocates for victim and survivor rights and needs. “But preparation is key; you never know what’s going to happen.

“You know, it’s something that lives with you,” Ross continued, speaking on his own experience as a mass violence incident survivor. “And trauma is kind of like, whenever anyone has a traumatic event, it creates this kind of area of your life. And in the immediate aftermath of it, that area is huge. And as you go on – you get therapy, you get things for your trauma toolkit – the hope is that, even though that ball kind of stays the same size, your life kind of expands around that. And it doesn’t affect you so much. "

You can access the online toolkit from the Alaska Victim Assistance Partnership by clicking here. For specifics on resources and support, visit this section of the AVAP website.