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Managing Identities in Corrections

Firemen Don’t Wear Beards: Better Emergency Management Through Biometrics

Policies and procedures govern how COs operate. These touchstones help them navigate difficult situations, especially emergencies. There are standard operating procedures (SOPs) and emergency plans for a variety of scenarios, from fist fights to prison riots. But despite differences in specifics, they all share the same core principles:

  • Stay safe
  • Provide care
  • Maintain custody and control of inmates
  • Prevent escapes

Even if your SOPs are airtight, there’s always room for improvement. Plus, as cagey inmates continue to find new ways to make CO jobs more difficult, it’s important to raise the stakes and keep innovating for the good guys. One potential source of innovation is biometrics. I’m going to share an actual incident report from a correctional institution to illustrate how biometrics can play a role in resolving difficult situations and supporting CO and civilian safety.

emergency management

How Biometrics Helped Resolve a Fiery Fiasco

“I was assigned as Shift Captain on July 12, 2018. At approximately 1400 hours, I was advised by Central Control that an altercation between inmates was taking place in one of the cell blocks, Housing Unit 2 (H2 Unit). I activated Alpha team and headed toward H2 unit.

When I arrived, I observed a plume of smoke exiting a partially opened door. The officers assigned to the unit were already in SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) gear and evacuating inmates to a small recreation field. I advised Central Control to notify the Fire Department and activate our fire evacuation plan for Units 1,2, and 3. I then activated Bravo Team to evacuate the units 1 and 3. The Sgt. assigned to H2 Unit advised me that he noticed inmates setting their mattresses aflame and barricading the entry doors after a lockdown was called due to a rival gang fight. Seeing the flames building up, we used a laundry cart to gain entry, and evacuated the remaining inmates.

Once all of the inmates were in the yard, they were met by medical personnel for treatment. At 1409, the Fire Department and County Sheriff’s arrived and were met by an officer at the rear gate. Using emergency override of the gate control, both gates opened, allowing unimpeded entry for the authorized personnel. The officer counted 10 Firefighters and 4 Sheriff’s Officers (all in our ID system). We gave the count to Central Control.

At 1414, an officer was assigned to the front gates with a biometric ID scanner to document all incoming and outgoing persons. At 1418 hours, the fire was completely extinguished, and the inmates were placed in other housing pods. At 1425 hours, Master Roster Count was called for all staff members, using the biometric identity scanner. At approximately 1426, during the count, Alpha Team was called to the rear gate for an attempted escape.

As we arrived on scene, an officer was on the ground, bleeding, and restraining an unidentified, bearded male wearing firefighter gear. Firefighters are not allowed facial hair. The unknown firefighter attempted to have the officer open the gates in order to gain access to another firetrucks’ equipment. Suspicious, the officer ordered the firefighter to scan his fingerprint. The unknown man then physically assaulted him. Using his training, the officer was able to subdue the assailant and place him in handcuffs. At 1433 hours, we scanned the subject’s fingerprint and identified him as an inmate from the H2 Unit.

At 1438, Central Control radioed me to the front lobby, in response to a body alarm being set off (officer needing assistance). When we arrived, an officer was standing in front of the exit door, arguing with a male in a state-issued correctional officer uniform. Not recognizing him, I instantaneously gave orders to submit to a scan. Immediately, he began attacking the officer! I deployed my MK-9 (not ultra) chemical canister and subdued him. A biometric scan of the unknown officer was taken, and it was, yet again, another inmate from H2 Unit!

At 1449, the Master Roster Count was completed, and a clear count was called. It was noted that one officer and one firefighter were missing. After conducting a search, they were found tied up in a broom closet. They were immediately transported to medical to wait for hospital transport. Neither the firefighter or the officer sustained any life-threatening injuries.

fire fighters

A Win for Correctional Facilities

This report illustrates the immense value of using biometrics in correctional facilities. This facility wove biometrics into their emergency SOPs to great effect. Through the presence of fingerprint scanners and the quick thinking of officers who were keeping their eyes open, two would-be escapees were found out. Ultimately, biometrics made this a win for the COs, rather than a potential liability event. Imagine if the fake fireman had escaped in the truck!

As you’ve seen, the implementation of biometric identification can make a huge difference in emergency management, prison escapes, master roster counts, entry and exit of facilities, and controlled movements with immediate proof of identity, allowing corrections officers to work more efficiently and effectively.

Want to learn more about how biometrics can enhance SOPs at your correctional facility or jail? Visit or get in touch with us at

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