FRESNO, Calif. - The largest veterans parade in the U.S. is just 12 hours away. Thousands will be in Downtown Fresno and police are stepping up security for the big event.
The parade route will start on P Street, pass the front of Fresno City Hall and turn on Fresno Street to pass the Veterans Memorial Museum before going south on M Street.
Police say the priority is to be visible to the public and expect 20,000 people to be at the parade. One security expert says citizens need to be on guard at all times.
With the Annual Fresno Veterans Day Parade becoming the largest of its kind in the nation, Fresno Police squads are prepared for the wave of people entering downtown Saturday.
"We can have as many as 45 or 50 officers at any one time working or participating in the event," said Captain Michael Reid.
Two teams of traffic officers and the special response team will patrol the area. Road closures will prevent vehicles from using the parade route.
"We make sure that the perimeter is safe, make sure that traffic flow has stopped in that area," said Reid.
Thousands of people will walk the streets of Downtown, honoring veterans of all military branches. National security expert Mike Spicer says the rise of mass shootings across the country is a reminder to be aware of your surroundings.
"What you're seeing everyday in America now, we're realizing how soft these targets are," said Spicer.
"Soft" because the parade is an event designed to be open and welcoming to the public. Around 20,000 people are expected to show up. Spicer says they can stay safe by going in with a game plan in case violence erupts.
"You got to take on some responsibility. You have to come with a plan," said Spicer.
Spicer says the phrase "run, hide, fight" is one to follow.
"It's very hard to hit a moving target and it's not very accurate fire," said Spicer.
Captain Reid says Fresno's veterans parade has always been safe. Officers will focus on the outside of the perimeter to prevent anything or anyone suspicious from getting into the parade.
"And the public appreciates that. Believe me, they do," said Spicer.
Captain Reid says security planning for this parade started in early September. Communication is key as officers will be checking in with each other on their radio channel all day.