Fla. responders used SWAT vehicle for Hurricane Irma rescues
The vehicle has two spotlights on top with a thermal-imager in the middle that allows the driver to navigate the roads safely, even with heavy rain or fog
By Sarah Peters
Palm Beach Post
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — During Hurricane Irma, Palm Beach Gardens police converted a 20,000-pound vehicle they normally use to approach bad guys into a roving rescue vehicle.
The police department bought the SWAT vehicle with about $180,000 in money seized from drug crimes a few years ago to safely approach armed suspects or other dangerous situations, Chief Stephen Stepp said.
Then they realized its size, equipment and run-flat tires make it great for getting around in a hurricane, when ambulances and fire trucks normally can't operate safely in tropical storm—or hurricane-force winds. This vehicle enables them to correct dangerous situations and reach someone having a massive heart attack.
Its weight prevents the wind from knocking over the six-wheel-drive vehicle. The tires will hold up so the driver can keep going even after their punctured by a bullet or, in this case, debris, Stepp said.
"You can pretty much get through anything," he said.
The vehicle has two spotlights on top with a thermal-imager in the middle that allows the driver to navigate the roads safely, even with heavy rain or fog, Stepp said.
Patrol officers and SWAT firefighter-paramedics were able to ride in it. There's a ledge for them to rest a stretcher on the back.
Some police departments acquire surplus military-grade vehicles. They're designed for bomb blasts coming up the ground and don't mix well with sidewalks and driveways, Stepp said. This department worked with the manufacturer to set it up for police.
On non-hurricane deployments, police have been able to use it to deescalate situations and not use deadly force because they can talk to people without being exposed, he said.
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