Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hangin' With the SWAT Team


Okay, so we authors don't always live in our caves. Here's a recent story from the life of novelist Rene Gutteridge, a terrific writer. She's the author of fifteen novels, writing in the genres of comedy and suspense. Her thriller Listen will release in January 2010, and her newest romantic comedy, Never the Bride, comes out June 2nd of this year. (Story taken from an e-mail, run by permission.)
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Author perk day for me! I got to go with the SWAT team during a training exercise, and volunteered to be part of the scenario. At first I was supposed to be a hostage in a HUGE warehouse. Once we got inside, the guy with me, who used to be SWAT with them, said he wanted to change the scenario and wanted me to be the bad guy! He said that would throw them, and it did :) So, if you can imagine little Rene with a gun, a bomb and a 6 foot 4 hostage...well, I played the role, let me tell you, like a crazy woman! I was making demands for the governor, a plane, cash...and a warm cup of coffee.

Sean, my husband, was in the bus parked outside, that was also in the scenario, so they had bad guys in two places. Poor Sean (who played a good guy) ended up with a bomb strapped to him. The "bad guys" made him go outside and tape up the bomb robot "eye", which is the camera, so they couldn't get any live feed back.

Today was a training exercise for the bomb squad and SWAT (we actually just call it Tactical Team here), to see how they could coordinate a double hostage situation in two locations with multiple bombs.

I was inside the warehouse in this office-type place that was off the ground looking over the floor area for three hours. It was like a mouse maze, and it was PITCH BLACK! I ended up letting my hostage go with the bomb strapped to him, and then I was toast, so I ended up surrendering after about thirty minutes because I didn't want to be thrown to the ground. It was super creepy, though. I was in total darkness. The only thing glowing was part of my gun. And I had about 2,000 square feet I could roam around in, so I'd go to these various windows and peek out. I talked with the hostage negotiator for about an hour. The scenario was that we were on the way to blow up the court house because my brother was about to be executed at 6 p.m. Things went wrong and we ended up hijacking a city bus, and then I escaped into the building with an off duty police officer as my hostage. It was interesting listening to the tactics of the negotiator. He really played on my female side...kids, husband, reputation. What will your kids think if they see you do this stuff? Etc.

It was so weird and soooo informative to play the bad guy! I was up in those offices that look down on the warehouse and I couldn't see ANYBODY! Never saw the negotiator or a single SWAT team guy (there were about fifteen of them, plus two snipers). I did see the bomb robot moving around, but that's it. My heart was really beating fast because it felt so real, but it gave me a perspective I couldn't have gotten any other way.

They take it all the way, too. I got arrested and then questioned by the SWAT team while they tried to get Sean off the bus with the bomb. Finally we had to go...Sean had a meeting at one.

They told me they like to use civilians on these things because we aren't familiar with all the operations like the SWAT guys are, so we're more like the real thing. So if you're interested, you might contact your local police department and see if they use civilians for their training. It was really a lot of fun!

In the down time, sitting in pitch black with my hostage, my bomb and my gun, the hostage told me about a novel he's been wanting to write. He actually wanted to do a scenario where I was a disgruntled novelist and I wanted the hostage negotiator to get my publisher on the line. Isn't that hilarious?? I told him that was really too close to home for me...


9 comments:

raspberrygirl said...

Wow! This was very interesting to read. I must admit I laughed when I read about the "hostage's" book scenario. Thanks for sharing this, and giving us an inside peak into SWAT.

Nicole said...

Let all publishers take notice! ;)

Karen Barnett said...

That's hilarious. I want to do that someday. I remember sitting with agent Wendy Lawton at lunch during Mount Hermon and she had said something security and about people sneaking in and not paying for the conference. I joked that maybe some of the publishers were worried about disgruntled authors. She shot me a very disturbed look. Note to self -- don't make sinister jokes around potential agents or publishers.

Pam Halter said...

That is so totally cool, Brandilyn! Who says writers don't have fun? :D

Dineen A. Miller said...

LOL! Rene, now I know why you write comedy so well. :-)

Rene said...

I can't tell you all how fun this was. Dineen knows me. I'm so short! The mental image of me with a gun and a bomb and this super buff hostage was just ridiculous! He could've knocked me over with a good sneeze. But it was really fun. I learned so much about how negotiators work. He kept saying, "Come on, girl, let's talk. Just you and me. Girl, it's okay." In this real southern voice. Had I been a real bad guy, I would've probably fallen for it. I genuinely thought he was interested in my well being!

Lisa Buffaloe said...

This was great, Rene! Thank you Brandilyn for sharing. Love, love, love this!

D. Gudger said...

I want to play. That would be so awesome.

Sharon Ball said...

Oh that would have been so fun! I hope I get a chance to do something like that one day.