BCSO ready for weather emergencies

Published 8:16 pm Friday, August 4, 2017


In the midst of hurricane season, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has taken precautions to protect the citizens of this area.

Those precautions include updating the office’s military truck fleet, according to Capt. Jeremy Hewitt. The fleet features a pair of 2.5-ton cargo trucks.

“The sheriff’s office was awarded two Stewart and Stevenson trucks that are capable of traversing high water and can evacuate up to 20 people per truck at a time,” Hewitt said. “These vehicles were awarded through participation in the Law Enforcement Support Office/1033 Program, which provides equipment to law enforcement agencies at no cost.”

The only requirements are that the sheriff’s office register the vehicles and maintain them, according to Lt. Kelly Cox.

SAFETY FIRST: Sheriff’s office personnel (from left) Capt. Jeremy Hewitt, Lt. Kelly Cox and 1st Sgt. Leonard Hudson are pictured in the roomy passenger compartment of one of the trucks.

While the use of such trucks is not new to the county — the sheriff’s office received similar vehicles in 1997 and 1999 — the fleet is now outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment that kicks rescue operations up a notch.

Extra lighting, including search lights, and a public-address system have been added as have digital radios, sirens and chargers for phones, radios and flashlights, Hewitt pointed out.

“This will aid in rescue operations, making communication possible as well as improving visibility in areas where power is out and roads are flooded,” Hewitt said. “Most of the lighting, radios and sirens were recycled from other sheriff’s office vehicles, which saves taxpayers’ money.”

One of the current trucks was used in October 2016 during Hurricane Matthew, according to Cox. At that time, more than 75 residents were rescued from flooded areas in the City of Washington and the River Road area of Beaufort County.

“The truck was safely operated in areas with water over waist deep, making it the only vehicle able to traverse those areas,” Hewitt said.

The trucks allow for easier access to stranded citizens in low-lying areas throughout Beaufort County, along with providing transport to area hospitals and other medical facilities, Cox added.

With the later addition of a second military vehicle, BCSO was able to replace a 1968 2.5-ton truck and a 1986 Humvee; the latter was turned back over to the Law Enforcement Support Office, which in turn awarded it to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. The 1968 truck, with permission from LESO, was donated to the Clark’s Neck Fire Department in Beaufort County.

Each truck is set up for a three-member crew in the cab, one of which moves to the back of the vehicle once people are placed inside during an evacuation.

The sheriff’s office is in the process of training its deputies to ensure adequate coverage in the event of a weather emergency.

“That training consists of classroom time, vehicle familiarization and a driving performance test,” Hewitt explained. “The operators drive the trucks at least bimonthly to insure they maintain their skills and working knowledge of the vehicles.”

EMERGENCY VEHICLE: Capt. Jeremy Hewitt maneuvers a 2.5-ton cargo truck, part of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office military truck fleet.