Department of Correction meets with National Guard to discuss ‘emergency preparedness’

 

DOVER — To survey what the Delaware National Guard may have to offer in the event of an emergency, the Delaware Department of Correction recently held an emergency preparedness meeting, said Lt. Col. Len Gratteri.

Lt. Col. Gratteri, a National Guard spokesman who attended the meeting himself, said that it’s not unusual for state agencies to meet with the National Guard and review its resources.

“We have conversations like this all the time, we talk on a weekly basis with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency to stay prepared for snow storms, floods and things like that,” he said. “The DOC wanted to see what we had, and we wanted to let them know and, if needed, find out how we could help them.”

Jayme Gravell, a DOC spokeswoman, also noted that the meeting was routine.

“The DOC regularly assesses ways to prepare for a variety of situations,” she said. “Our conversations with the National Guard have focused on safe and efficient ways to respond in the event of an emergency.”

Having a plan in place for “just about anything you can think of,” Lt. Col. Gratteri said the most valuable resources the National Guard has to offer state agencies are manpower, vehicles and equipment. If the DOC were to have an emergency at one of their facilities, the National Guard would be available in a support capacity, he said.

“Our director of military support has plans in place for things like riots in one of our cities or nuclear releases — we try to be prepared for anything,” said Lt. Col. Gratteri “The DOC has their own plans for emergencies and we may be one of the resources called upon. What we provide, in general terms, is manpower and equipment.”

Correctional Officers Association of Delaware president Geoff Klopp has been warning, since last year, that a DOC “staffing crisis” may make a call to the National Guard inevitable.

“We’ve got over 200 people set to start retiring next year,” he said in a December interview “By next summer, I’d be amazed if we don’t have to call the National Guard in. I have been talking about this for five years and no one has done a thing.”

In the wake of the Feb. 1 uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd dead, the staffing woes have only increased, said Mr. Klopp.

“I think we’ve hired about 42 correctional officers so far this year, but we’ve lost between 75 and 80 since the beginning of the year,” Mr. Klopp said on Thursday. “By the end of July we will have hired about 90, but lost somewhere in the vicinity of 150. These are conservative numbers. Everyone is going to start taking vacation time too. It’s going to be a very difficult summer.”

According to DOC spokeswoman Kate Weber, their agency has had 29 correctional officers leave since Feb. 1.

“It is important to keep in mind that many of the officers provided notice prior to the hostage incident in order to move into different career fields or to gain employment with outside police agencies,” she said. “This number does not reflect the vacancies, as many of the correctional officer positions have been filled. Additionally, not every officer who chose to separate from the DOC has served their last day.”

Ms. Weber also noted that there are 24 cadets currently enrolled in Correctional Employee Initial Training and their graduation is scheduled for June 9.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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