North Carolina Department of Correction News - April 1999

Emergency response teams prepare for action

More than 100 correction employees gathered in the pine breaks and broom straw fields of southern Johnston County March 1 in the department’s first hostage rescue exercise in which all emergency response teams jointly participated.

"I thought our employees did extremely well," said Charles Stewart, chief of security for the Division of Prisons. "This was the first time these teams had worked together, and they really meshed together well."

In recent years, the department’s emergency response has been strengthened. In addition to the Prison Emergency Response Teams, Stewart has organized a Special Operations Response Team, a sniper team and a hostage negotiation team.

PERT Commanders recommended members for SORT, a specialized hostage rescue team that gathers for training one day each month. The sniper team is also part of PERT. The team meets monthly to train in sniping and intelligence gathering.

Last year, the department added a team of hostage negotiators. They were selected from each prison region to go through a two-week training program last year and have continued training one day each month.

As PERT dog teams tracked the pretend fugitive through the woods early in the afternoon, radios crackled in the PERT command bus. Cooks prepared a meal in the mobile kitchen unit. Nearby, a SORT member used a truck’s outside mirror to help as he applied black and green camouflage paint to his face. Other SORT members checked their rifles preparing for action. Hostage negotiators calmly surveyed the surroundings as PERT officers stood at the ready.

The drill continued through the night and into the next morning providing an opportunity for the negotiators and SORT members to take part in the exercise.

"Should these sorts of situations occur, we now know that we have the ability to resolve them peacefully and, if it becomes necessary, tactically," Stewart said.

The two-day exercise was conducted on the Johnston County Community College Annex known as the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center just off Devils Race Track Road. u

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