Collegedale Police Prepared For Natural Disaster

  • Saturday, June 3, 2023

Tornados, floods, and severe weather; over the past 12 years, Hamilton County has dealt with natural disasters that left their own varying levels of devastation across the area. 

On April 27, 2011, Apison was hit by a massive tornado, and again the following year, on March 2, 2012, Ooltewah was struck. The unfortunately-named Easter Tornado of 2020 left a path of destruction through the Summit and East Brainerd areas and is still being felt today. 

Approximately 37 people died during these events, and roughly 729 injuries were reported. 

During each of these disasters, as well as the floods and severe weather that have impacted our city and surrounding communities, the Collegedale Police Department has been heavily involved in every response. 

“Our officers were the first on scene in many areas where these disasters struck,” said Chief Jack Sapp. “Crawling through debris, destroyed homes, and fallen trees, we worked with our law enforcement partners from the surrounding area to find who needed help the most, and we worked tirelessly to save as many lives as we could reach.” 

Being a first responder for nearly three decades and standing in the storms with the men and women he has continued to lead, Chief Sapp wanted his officers to have the best tools at their disposal to get his emergency personnel through the worst and to the areas in desperate need for rescue. 

“The police department had a military vehicle that we had been awarded through a Federal grant a few years back that was built to withstand attacks on the battlefield, and I made the decision to transition it into a rescue vehicle specifically for severe weather events such as these,” said Chief Sapp. “We essentially turned a war machine into a tool that is solely used to save lives.” 

The former military vehicle can be driven through flooded areas and rescue approximately 10 people at a time. 

Another recent addition to the Collegedale Police Department’s disaster plan is the Disaster Response truck. This vehicle is equipped with generators, outdoor flood lighting, chainsaws, bolt cutters, chains and ropes; and is stocked with the rescue tools that first responders need to cut through and get to a wide range of catastrophic devastation. 

The total cost to modify and equip the Disaster Response truck was approximately $9,000.00. 

The department has also been changing its patrol fleet to 4x4 vehicles to provide better service and faster response during severe weather. According to Chief Sapp, the department will continue to phase out the agency’s all-wheel drive Dodge Chargers in the patrol division in favor of the more versatile Dodge Durango. 

From the agency’s all-terrain Polaris to the heavily equipped Disaster Response truck to the primarily indestructible rescue vehicle, the officers of the Collegedale Police Department are better prepared to respond to a natural disaster if it were to hit this community again. 

“We can never predict exactly how much devastation Mother Nature is going to throw at us or where,” said Chief Sapp. “But I can ensure that our police department has every available tool at its disposal to save as many lives as possible.” 

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