Cedar Rapids police train public on active threat situations, warning signs

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Less than two weeks after deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, local law enforcement made sure Iowans know what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department held a free training for the public on “Active Threat Awareness and Preparation” on Aug. 14, 2019 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. (Mary Green/KCRG)

The Cedar Rapids Police Department held a free training for the public on “Active Threat Awareness and Preparation” on Wednesday night at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

About 50 people came out for the presentation, which was given by Lt. Charlie Fields, the head of CRPD’s special operations unit.

Fields emphasized to the group that they need to be aware of their surroundings wherever they go and that they need to take responsibility for their own safety.

“Nobody’s going to make that decision for you but you, because you have to make your decisions based on what’s going on you at that time,” Fields said.

In an active threat or active shooter situations, police said there’s not much time, so being prepared for these scenarios with an action plan is critical.

Among the dozens of people who showed up Wednesday was Eric Wienola, who was representing his church in Cedar Rapids.

“Even though we’re in God’s hands in all things and he has a plan for us, that we can have a plan that puts forth what we’re going to do in the event that there’s an incident at our church,” Wienola said.

Fields noted several warning signs that may indicate that someone could be a threat to themselves or others, including social media posts with alarming content, escalating anger or aggressive behavior, and acting paranoid.

He said if people notice these signs in someone, they should inform law enforcement or another appropriate group, such as the human resources department in their workplace.

“The first things we always hear about is the signs we missed, and why didn’t somebody bring that forward?” Fields said.

But if people do find themselves in an active threat or active shooter situation, Fields said they need to evacuate, evade and then engage. He said these are all steps that anyone can do and everyone should know.

“That’s the whole key here,” Fields said. “We all have these basic instincts already. It’s just bringing awareness level and making us realize that we have the ability to save ourselves when these things happen and the ability to react.”

Fields also noted that in some cases, people caught in active threat situations are unable to call 911 and talk on the phone, so he said many cell phone networks allow users to text 911 to ask for help.