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Right Equipment for the Right Environment

STL Joseph Garcia

There are many teams that have spent money blindly or ignorantly, and teams that purchase equipment based on find-the-cheapest mentality. These teams do not do service to their responsibility. I have also seen professional teams like MN DOC SOG, CT DOC SOG, San Joaquin SO, Solano CSO, who make the correct decisions, even when difficult, regarding staffing and equipment.

These units use the CTNCERT Tactical Network and Operator Approved standards—bar none the hardest standard for any product to meet in the corrections community. Any vendor that carries the Operator Approved Logo can be trusted and their products have been tested, and can be used in 4 areas of operations and 4 classes of Operations:

4 Level of Operations – Tier 1 – Tier 4 Operations

4 Levels of Classification – Direct Supervision, Traditional, Linear and Military Classifications

Quick reference note:

Facilities are run very differently; some have an open campus, others have closed environments, some facilities have confined-space operations, and some are run in a tent environment or open campus operations.

All equipment tested undergoes testing in the types of facilities/locations in which it will be used. This is not a scientific test; it is a comprehensive tactical operator user test. The scientific tests are done in certified labs and testing centers. The CTN Operator Test is a corrections-combat test program that places a product under a battery of corrections combat procedures developed by senior operators, trainers and evaluators. Vendors or agencies can request that a product be tested by such a procedure.

Special note: the CTN test is not done by untrained evaluators or given to an operator for their personal opinion. Seven senior operators, part of an anonymous panel, conduct tests. This ensures that no conflict of interest or sharing of opinions takes place. Evaluators are invited to participate and are selected for expertise.

The products are rated without bias. Before an evaluation takes place, the evaluators are trained in the appropriate technical aspects of the product individually. Our standards are strict to ensure the best testing results, set after a series of events in 1997, where I became aware of products, promised by manufacturers to perform a specific way, were failing the operators. There were no groups evaluating the claims of manufacturers, so we formed a council with twelve senior CERT Commanders from around the US, called the CERT Council to review products to help improve the quality of equipment used in the field.

I caution teams to be careful concerning training firms that push a product as part of their training. At US C-SOG, there is a policy that ALL of our team leaders, chiefs and personnel must adhere to: As a group we cannot accept compensation directly or indirectly by any sponsor under any conditions.

In other words, if our team uses a piece of equipment we must disclose to the agency that the company sponsors us and our relationship must be disclosed immediately and without fail. We inform all of our sponsors that we cannot accept any compensation, trips, or gifts under any circumstances.

We agree to use only the best equipment and to tell teams why we use each piece of equipment, and how to get a hold of it. Each year US C-SOG opens the sponsorship list to any potential sponsor to submit their product for review and use. Only after the product has undergone the CERT Approved process will a product be considered for that year, and then only for that year. Each year the sponsor must resubmit applications, unless they are invited based on product performance standards maintained.

US C-SOG operators are outfitted with only the best equipment, and as a result have a solid reputation within the community as model operators with quality equipment to match our technical standards.

Why so much on this subject? Because having a CHRSOU is something that every administrator should understand. When it comes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 operations, failure is not an option; short cuts can get teams injured and compromise missions.

Measure Twice Cut Once

This philosophy is translated in the CERT terms to mean that when you are selecting your equipment, procurement personnel and CERT logistics officers should be working as one.

Lets look at budget issues first:

Understand that cheaper is not always better and more expensive is not always the best. Equipment should be purchased based on the following components:

Company provider status and reputation within the community

Customer service

Product certification

Product reliability

Product warranty

Product user friendliness

Product cost

The right partner, not just provider

Recently I heard what would be music to anyone’s ears. A company had an issue with a piece of equipment that a vendor CERT Distributor provided, and within a very short period of time that product was not only replaced, but a loaner was sent out while the broken products were being worked on. At no cost! The company, ALD Company has a solid reputation within the industry as having a 1st Class customer service oriented and knowledge based service center.

This is an example of what a company partner does. A provider is the type of company that you haggle with, that you have horror stories about, long waits for products, bad customer service, etc. A partner understands that service is the number one priority!

Please ask your self this question:

Who would you rather have on your side, a partner that stays in contact with you on a regular basis and sends you any information on product changes, updates, information and resources etc., or a provider who will tell you what you want to hear, only to drop off the face of the earth when you need something and won’t be found if there is a problem? That is a long-worded question, but understand, I am as passionate about working with the best companies as you should be. We all want the best service from our equipment partners, not anything less.

A provider should treat you, the Corrections Special Operations Community, as a separate entity from other teams, and requiring special attention and service. Remember, the company is working for you, as you both work together to serve your community.

Being un-PC for a moment

Operators, please note this: I am not liked in some circles of the vendor world, but in other parts of the vendor world, I am cheered. Why? Simply because I fight for you, and I fight for this community. This community is here because of public funding and your commitment to your responsibilities! If it were not for you, the CERT Community, these vendors (General Community) would be selling inmate beds, food, medicine and toiletries. CERT operations has become a multi-billion dollar community—yes that’s right—a multi-billion dollar community in the US, while in some parts of the world, CERT operations are still not respected as a separate arena of operations.

It is important that we, as a community, demand and work with the best for our equipment needs. The 21st century CERT warrior is not a gladiator; he is an operator and should carry 21st century equipment. In the past weeks, I spoke to a commander who told me of a vendor who told him that CERT guys would buy anything painted black and dummy proof. We are not what that vendor thinks, and we will certainly not purchase his products in the future.

Ok, that is off my chest.

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