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The ‘What If?’ Action Plan: Here’s What Lawmakers Learned in Case of Active Shooter Inside Iowa Statehouse

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Ten Iowa senators and some staff sat behind a closed door inside a room behind the Senate on Monday morning for about 90 minutes to learn about what to do if an active shooter threatened harm at the Statehouse.

The media were not allowed inside to observe the training, but afterwards, senators shared what they learned from a state trooper.

"Some of it's just common sense, but it's also making you sit down and think through, 'if I'm in that situation in this room, what would I do?'" said Senator Pam Jochum, a Dubuque Democrat.

Last year, the Republican-led legislature approved a change that lets people carry concealed weapons inside the Statehouse if they have a permit. That, along with recent mass shootings across the country, has heightened awareness of the presence of guns and the need for additional training for emergency situations with active shooters.

Training involved three main points:

  1. Run. Don't hide under a desk, because it makes it too easy for a shooter to eventually do harm. Run in a zig-zag manner, which makes it more difficult to get struck by a bullet.
  2. Seek shelter if running out of the building isn't possible. Look for a room with a thick, sturdy door, preferably a room with no windows and something that can be used to barricade the door from the inside.
  3. Defend yourself. Throw whatever is available at the shooter.

Sergeant Steve Lawrence, who led the training for lawmakers, said he believes the volunteer session made participants pay attention. "I think their eyes have been opened a little bit and were willing to accept and prepare themselves for something like this," Lawrence said.

Lawrence estimates he has trained about 2,000 employees who work in the State Capitol complex buildings. Training for House lawmakers and staff is planned for March 5th.