Thursday was no normal night in the area around the New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Police were out in force on the streets around the medical complex controlling traffic, while the Special Response Team staged in a nearby parking lot. They were in full gear, preparing to respond to a mock hostage situation. This was all part of an elaborate training drill that was about to unfold. "Training with the hospital, security, communications; just coordinating," Sgt. Mike Fanta with the Wilmington Police said. Coordination was crucial. That was evident inside the hostage drill. The voice of the hostage was loud and clear as he shouted, "He cut the phone lines! Get something! Do something in here". It sounded like a real hostage situation and it looked like one too. The joint drill with New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the WPD is more timely than ever. "What we're seeing both the hospital and the police is a bunch of emotionally disturbed people that are being released and they're causing a lot more problems. What we're doing is trying to prepare in case an incident happens like this, "Pat Pridgen with the Wilmington Police said. In a real life scenario hospital police are the first responders. Together with Wilmington Police they secure the scene. When emergency response teams arrive, they take over, just like in the drill. "The biggest thing we want to see is how well we work together and how our policies blend together and find areas where we can find more and better training," Pat Pridgen said. One of those areas may be how long it took for negotiators to arrive and make contact. But negotiators eventually get to the drill and set up a phone that will be run into the building. The ultimate goal is to talk out the gunman without the loss of life. WPD says it performs exercises like this four times a year. Officers are evaluated on their performance. Then they make adjustments and improvements for the next scenario.
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