WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Through a Department of Defense loan program, the Wilmington Police Department is now equipped with two high-powered vehicles it can use during severe weather events.
“Hurricane Florence dumped a lot of water into our city, stalling critical rescue efforts,” Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said. “These units will help us to reach our citizens in a timely manner and save thousands of dollars in damages to our fleet.”
The two Oshkosh M-ATV vehicles were formerly used by the United States military.
“These vehicles have what is called TAK-4 suspension on them so they’re designed to go through rough terrain so they can go through the water and debris and it should not be an issue for them,” said Assistant Police Chief Donny Williams.
The two vehicles are valued at a combined $1.3 million. The only cost to the city was transporting the vehicles from New Boston, Texas to Wilmington, which totaled $7,000.
“The main purpose is for rescuing people. This is a rescuing vehicle and that is what we have converted it to. It’s no longer a military vehicle, it’s now a rescue vehicle,” said Williams.
The vehicles are armored, which will allow WPD to make rescues during the height of a storm without having to worry about outdoor hazards.
“During the height of Hurricane Florence, we actually had to respond out in the storm a few times to try to get to people and these vehicles with the hard and armored protection, I mean there’s debris out flying, trees that are falling. So they just give you that extra degree of protection versus a regular truck that does not have the armored protection,” Williams said.
During Hurricane Florence seven patrol cars received heavy water-related storm damage, according to the police department.
“They were damaged due to high flood waters which a patrol car cannot traverse that. These units have run-flat tires which is cool because one of the issues we experienced were shingles and nails blowing off the top of the houses and flat tires on patrol cars,” Williams said.
Each vehicle will have a medical bag and AED inside of it. Williams said when being used for rescues, officers plan to bring an EMT with them.
The new units will be painted black and white to match the standard police fleet with high visibility chevrons installed on the front. The city’s Fleet Management Division will maintain the vehicles.
“They are actually road ready, ready to go now. We are having them painted but we’re going to do them in sequence, we’re not going to send both off at the same time. We will hold one back and reserve and once one comes back from being painted we will send the second one,” Williams said.