Kalamazoo Regional Police and Fire Training Center


On August 28, 2008, just 14 days short of the seventh year anniversary of the 9/11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil, the first phase of the Kalamazoo Regional Police and Fire Training Center was dedicated at 911 Training Center Boulevard in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During the attacks in 2001, first responders—represented by law enforcement, fire, military, rescue, private citizens and K-9 units—arose to selflessly and heroically risk and sacrifice their lives to help their fellow citizens.

This same year, 2001, the City and County of Kalamazoo, City of Portage, City of Oshtemo, Kalamazoo Township, Western Michigan University, and the Kalamazoo Community College came together to investigate the need, potential location and cost to build and operate a regional public-safety training academy. Their vision was to provide men and women in uniform with the best training concepts and practices possible in order to confront violence, crime and tragedy with skill and courage, often in the face of great personal danger. They recognized that a first responder’s skill, sensitivity and ethics depend in large part on the quality of their training and the depth of their leadership skills. And they asked the Interact Business Group to develop the project’s strategic business plan. The Interact Business Group is no new comer to the public safety training center arena.  The company brought to the table years of experience in writing public safety training center plans from all agencies—large, small, metropolitan, rural and volunteer.   Their Business Plan Process© seven-step method provided the critical steps necessary for success.  Each Partner was assessed for current and future needs for both training facilities and equipment and their specific requirements determined. A detailed analysis regarding the efficiency of co-location of the facilities was thoroughly investigated.  And on August 28, the vision of these communities became a reality. Many individuals and agencies collectively donated more than 1.9 million dollars to complete the construction of this first phase of the Kalamazoo Regional Training Center campus. Per Kalamazoo’s Fire Marshall (Department of Public Safety) Marty Myers, the proposed $10 million center would be constructed in the following phases:

Phase One

  • Live Fire Training
  • Ice/Water Rescue Pond
  • Tanker Fire Training
  • Car Fire Training
  • Modular Classroom
  • Indoor Training Building
  • Police, Fire and K-9 Agility Course

Phase Two

  • Driving Track
  • (Used for police, fire medical and school/Metro bus training)

Phase Three

  • Indoor Fire Arms Range


(Photo taken by Technician David Thomas)

Marshall Myers was honored at the event for his 12 years of unflagging commitment to the creation of the facility. Celebrating with him was a large crowd and many public officials, including Kalamazoo’s County Sheriff Mike Anderson and Mayor Bobby Hopewell, Department of Public Safety Chief Jeffrey Hadley, and U.S. Representative Fred Upton. Marshall Myers assisted with extinguishing the first fire initiated in the new WHP fire-training tower. The training tower is designed to simulate life-like fires for state-of-the-art training for the firefighters and public safety officers of Kalamazoo. The tower’s many adjustable mazes and rooms, elevator, and high-rise building provide opportunity for first responders and SWAT teams to practice rescues and rappelling procedures. With a vision of working toward completion, Marshall Myers announced at the dedication that the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority provided a $25,000 grant toward finishing the project and that Federal funds had been secured for the construction of the 6,000sf Indoor Training Building. Other components of the facility will be built as funds become available. With his vision finally becoming reality, Marty Myers retired a week following the celebratory event. (Photo taken by Technician David Thomas)

The Interact Business Group is honored to have participated in the success of the KRTC project. IBG’s future goal is to continue to assist public safety agencies create the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art training center plans possible, so that first responders will be best prepared to protect the people, property and borders of our Homeland, the United States of America.














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The Public Safety Training Center at Luzerne County Community College, PA

In May, 2007 the Interact Business Group brought you the story of the eventful groundbreaking of the Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) Regional Public Safety Training Institute (PSTI).  Now, less than one year later, this dream became reality on Friday, April 25, 2008, at the ribbon-cutting dedication of Phase One of the training institute. 

The facility is situated on 34-acres at the Nanticoke, PA campus. It will serve a 10-county region and is located at Luzerne, the largest college in Northeast Pennsylvania.

A proud Scranton Firefighters Honor Guard, IAFF Local 60, and the Ceol Mor Pipe and Drum Band led the opening procession along with cheers from the hundreds in attendance as the Public Safety Training Institute was dedicated. The Fire Arch was compliments of the Nanticoke City Fire Department’s ladder trucks from Luzerne and Columbia counties, along with the Reliance Fire Company #1 from Berwick. Firefighters from neighboring states marched alongside.

The welcome was given by President Thomas P. Leary, president of LCCC. Other officials in attendance were Luzerne County Commissioner, Gregory A. Skrepenak (who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the College, and chair of the LCCC Foundation Capital Campaign); House Representative (D-Nanticoke), the Honorable John T. Yudichak (119th Legislative District); James Wills, president of the Luzerne County Fire & Rescue Training Association; Dr. Karen Flannery, dean of Public Safety Training and Special Initiatives; and James Ellis, LCCC Fire Science student and PSTI volunteer. The crowd swelled to include faculty, staff, administration, first responders from near and far, as well as regional residents.

Also there to enjoy the dedication and to realize the dream was President and CEO Bill Booth, of the Interact Business Group.  The Interact Business Group (IBG) was responsible for the business plan or blueprint for the project’s success.  Interact’s Plan included the long-term needs assessment, facility plan, daily operations plan and funding strategies. 

luzerne

One component IBG utilized was to survey regional police, fire and EMS departments from nine counties in order to ascertain their interest in use of the new facility. Fire and EMS departments, and law enforcement, responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” when questioned whether they would send students to the new training center (97.5% and 100%, respectively). They also listed classes they would be interested in attending, and LCCC listened.

Acknowledgements went to Architects A+E Group, Inc., and Edmeades & Stromdahl, Ltd.; General Contractor, Magnotta Construction Co., Inc.; with Food Service recognition to LCCC’s Operation’s Manager, Raymond Vendor.

Just one year earlier on March 30, 2007, Commissioner Skrepenak remarked at the ground breaking ceremony for the facility, “The LCCC Public Safety Training Institute will be a beacon promoting safer communities all across Northeastern Pennsylvania… I’d like to thank the college officials, the members of the Institute Planning Task Force, members of area law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical responders who took time, brought their expertise to people who live in our ten-county area.”

This similar sentiment was echoed by Bill Booth of IBG, “From our very first meeting in the spring of 2004 at Luzerne I knew that we would be working with a special group of dedicated people that always kept community first, in order to provide a unique training center for those that daily dedicate their lives to protecting and keeping us safe.”

Now, said Karen Flannery, dean of Public Safety Training and Special Initiatives, “With Phase One of construction complete and four phases to go, the training center will provide state-of-the-art equipment not only for firefighters but also police officers, emergency medical technicians and students at LCCC.”  Phase One included development of the entire site with utilities, a 9,000 square-foot building that houses a three-bay apparatus space, maintenance shop, classrooms, storage areas, and a parking lot.  The newly completed five-story tactical burn building/tower by WHP is equipped with a gas simulator and Class A fire capability.

The facility will have the capability of training more than 4,000 fire fighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians. The courses will provide the necessary hands-on training needed to handle emergency situations, technical field training, search and rescue, lethal weapons training, and emergency vehicle maneuvers. Students will work to develop the physical and mental skills that are necessary to make split-minute decisions and ultimately save lives.

Additional Phases will include:

  • Phase Two—Driving Training Pad, Skid Pad, more specialized training areas
  • Phase Three—Outdoor Training Areas and Police Shooting Range
  • Phase Four—Permanent Administration and Classroom Building(s)
  • Phase Five—Hogan’s Alley, K-9 Area, Smoke House, Forcible Entry, other props

No longer will firefighters be sent as far away as Maryland to train. Per firefighter Jim Wills, “We’re finally going to have a place where we can train properly. We’re going to have lives and property saved.”

“After attending the dedication ceremony on Friday, April 25, 2008 at the Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) Regional Public Safety Training Institute, I know that their dream has become a reality, and they should be very proud of their training center, as it is a crown jewel of the northeast U.S,” said Mr. Booth.

Learn Key Issues For Planning A Police or Firefighter Training Center

The how-to’s of formulating a comprehensive plan for training facilities

The Interact Business Group provides expertise in writing business plans for public safety training facilities. Their well-recognized plan is being used all over the country. In this article, company president Bill Booth outlines his approach to strategic plans for funding and operations of training centers. David Schoonover, who is battalion chief and manager of training for San Jose (CA) Fire Department, shares his first-hand experience in planning his department’s new $25 million-plus facility. Interact Business Group didn’t write the plan for the San Jose Fire department, but much of what the department learned through their three-year planning process is the same service the Interact Group provides to public safety agencies around the country.

Start With the End In Mind

That is a key point to keep in mind when planning for a new training facility. Focus not just on what you need today, but also on your future needs.  Because of the costs involved, a new facility will likely have to service your department for twenty, thirty or even fifty years down the road.
In the fast-changing world of public safety, more and more fire departments are finding that their current training facilities are outdated and sorely lacking in the equipment and props to adequately train their growing numbers of personnel. Both within departments themselves and within the communities they serve, most people recognize the need for highly trained professionals to serve in the fire department. But while the need is easily acknowledged, figuring out how to plan and ultimately finding funding for a new or refurbished facility is often daunting for departments.

Planning is essential

Any new business venture is enhanced by a straightforward, well-researched plan, and training centers are no exception. In developing a strategic plan for the development of a training center, it is imperative to fully assess the needs of the department and other involved entities, as well as the cost of building and maintaining the facility. Departments also need to look to the future, mapping out their expected growth and the training requirements that will accompany that expansion.
The Interact Business Group specializes in delivering the “full equation” through comprehensive business plans. A solid business plan assesses current and future needs, identifies costs and synergies and culminates with a clear funding objective. Without a doubt, obtaining funding is a business problem. Engineering and architectural firms are on the front lines and can provide valuable input into the process, but they can contribute only part of the equation. A business plan delivers the full equation: everything that is needed to move a project forward.

In essence, a business plan should answer every question that elected officials or grant providers are likely to ask. Likely questions include: Who will use the training facility? What training will the facility provide? What will it cost to operate the facility annually? In the case of multiple partners, how will the center be managed? What are the training facility’s costs and practical benefits? Should the facility be open to outside users in order to generate revenues? What private, local, state or federal funds are available? What is your funding strategy?

A comprehensive business plan can facilitate a broad range of goals in building a training center. But most importantly, a plan is crucial for obtaining the necessary funding to move a project forward. Ultimately, without a comprehensive cost analysis, elected officials and grant providers are reluctant to open the coffers for development. There is competition for that dollar, and a business plan gives departments an extra edge when applying for limited funding.

A Plan for the Future

The Interact Business Group advocates a seven-step approach to planning for a new training facility, culminating with the most crucial step – the funding strategy. In fact, the previous steps become obsolete unless the department can convince those holding the purse strings to support their cause. The cost of new training facilities run the gamut depending on the size and requirements of individual departments, but can run from $500, 000 to as high as $50 million or even more. San Jose’s initial planning process concluded with a $48 million price tag – about double the amount it has received through a bond issue.

Obtaining funding is a business problem. In San Jose, the department has benefited from the passage of a public safety bond issue that allowed the city to earmark about $20 million of the $189 million total for a fire department training center. Other departments may not be so fortunate and instead will have to lobby for funds and/or grants from local and state elected officials as well as from national governmental entities.

Because of that, a comprehensive business plan is crucial. The following summarizes each step, putting forth the Interact Group strategy first and then relating the first-hand experience of the San Jose Fire Department.

1.) Needs Assessment. This first step identifies exactly what the department or departments using the facility will need to ensure proper training, both for the immediate future and for several years down the road. How many classrooms are needed? How much office space? What about a tower, or Hazmat training equipment, EMS or special operations training? These and myriad other training requirements could figure into a needs assessment, based on the specific needs and desires of the individual department or departments involved. The needs assessment may also assess the feasibility of sharing facilities with other public safety organizations or with community colleges, and evaluate the possibility of charging tuition for training outside agencies.

San Jose’s experience: For San Jose, figuring out what was needed required seeing what others were doing. Trips to state-of-the-art training facilities in other states helped identify the right approach for San Jose. We advocate talking to others who have been through the process, finding out what worked and what didn’t, what they’d do differently if they had the chance. We also benefited from having spent four years researching and completing a Training Master Plan. By going through a “forecasting” process (see number 3 below), we identified the types of training we wanted to do, and how frequently we planned to provide it. We projected number of students per day times the hours of training to identify size and number of classrooms. By listening to department personnel involved in specialized training (Haz Mat, USAR, ARFF, EMS) we were able to identify special props and classroom needs.

2.) Operations Plan. Outlining the day-to-day management and operations of the training center. It is essential to map out details such as class scheduling, operational procedures, safety issues and procedures to delivering training courses that meet national standards and unique local requirements. The operations plan may include logistic and managerial scenarios for possible joint partnerships with other agencies or the local community college.

San Jose’s experience: We knew that our new training center would not be a collaborative effort with other public service agencies. Except for a driver training course, police and fire departments each would build new and separate facilities. Still, to assess all our training needs, we came up with a year-round training calendar that has eight concurrent, parallel, training tracks. Then when trying to pare our budget, we needed to juggle some scheduling to maximize use of such basics as classroom space and parking facilities. We also plan to open the facility for outside use where warranted. For example, our three Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) companies need classrooms, a specific site layout and specific training props. They may only use the dedicated facilities 15 weeks of the year, so we’ll offer our facilities to others. There are nine other agencies in the county, and several of them have rescue squads. We can share resources.

3.) Facility Assessment. Expanding on the needs assessment, the facilities assessment identifies the scope and magnitude of the training facility, zeroing in on the number of classrooms and offices, as well as types of specialized training equipment. The assessment also identifies the most cost-effective and advanced specialty training equipment available. The evaluation should take into account future needs as well as current requirements. One of the biggest regrets voiced by many departments is that they didn’t look into the future and assess their needs 20 or 30 years down the line.

San Jose’s experience: We recognized that we needed to forecast where the fire department and the fire service were going to be 30 years from now. By graphing the growth history of both the department and the city over the past 30 years, then working with city planners to assess where the city will be 30 years from now, we came up with a plan that projects the department will grow by at least 25% during that period. That means 25% more turnover, 25% more people hired and promoted, and 25% more training needs (classroom space, parking, training officers). Put into play in our planning process, it made us realize that while our current recruit academies average 25 people, designing a classroom for 30 isn’t the best course of action. In the future, recruit academies are probably going to be averaging 35 or so people, so now we’re designing classrooms for 40. The crystal ball approach was also necessary in anticipating training that we aren’t currently offering but would like to in the future, and planning for that expansion.  We had to develop a vision of the future, a vision of what fire training was going to be like for the San Jose Fire Department 30 years down the road.

4.) Site Requirements. If a specific site exists, the business plan reviews potential infrastructure costs, permits and neighborhood issues. If no site has been identified, the business plan establishes the minimum size required, identifies potential environmental issues and creates a budget for land acquisition.

San Jose’s experience: We knew from our initial facility needs study that an ideal location addressed environmental concerns (smoke, noise, night lighting, water runoff) and “NIMBY” issues. Ideally, it would be central to most stations to reduce travel time, and in an industrial area away from residential development. The $20 million in bond money doesn’t have any funds earmarked for site acquisition. We are currently negotiating with the city to find a suitable site on city-owned land. But compromise is essential. Our original study identified 18 acres as “ideal” to accommodate all our training needs. Instead, if financial negotiations are successful, we’ll probably end up with about 10 acres. Everyone we talked to identified the need for space as critical, including space to expand for unforeseen future needs.

5.) Financial Assessment. A crucial question, of course, is how much everything is going to cost. A financial assessment outlines the cost of building the facility (based on the needs assessment), taking into account local construction costs. It also provides estimated values for all aspects of the training facility’s design, construction, operation and maintenance, as well as revenue potential. It also must include an estimate of annual operations expenses.

San Jose’s experience: We started with a grant from the city council earmarked to conduct a training center facilities study. This followed a Santa Clara County grand jury report issued in 1998 that said our training center was outdated and inadequate, and the city needed to build us a new one. The result of that study was a plan for a $48 million facility. Our plan was nearly finished when the public safety bond became a reality, which was providential since we had discussed such an approach within the department. The bond resulted in $20 million earmarked for a fire department training facility. Since we received the bond money, we’ve been trying to whittle away at what was “ideal”, getting down to the need to have items, while leaving space for expansion in the future.

6.) Cost-Benefit Analysis. This step is crucial when pitching your project to elected officials and other sources of funding. The analysis outlines the benefits of a training center, documenting as much as possible the tangible and intangible advantages to building the facility. It answers such questions as: Why is the training center a good use of capital funds? Who benefits and why? What legal requirements does the training center serve? What is the revenue potential for the training center?  Does joining with other departments or jurisdictions provide benefits? How much should each partnering agency contribute to the project and why? The cost benefit analysis should clearly define all these questions.

San Jose’s experience: We learned early in the process that a joint police-fire training facility wasn’t feasible. The cost benefits weren’t significant, and the amount of land required for a joint facility would be extremely difficult to find in the city. But the biggest problem we anticipated was explaining to the political powers why we needed the new facility. The big question — Will this help the fires go out faster? – is difficult to answer, to say the least.

7.) Funding Strategy. Exploring all funding outlets is the final step in building a business plan. The strategy should review all possible funding outlets, such as local, state or federal grant opportunities. It’s unlikely that you’ll receive all the funding at once; instead be prepared to accept phased-in funding that allows you to meet immediate needs, but requires you to postpone some of your long-term desires. Also, pay attention to budget cycles and filing deadlines. Most grants are offered only once a year – miss the filing date and you’ll wait another year.

San Jose’s experience: The $20 million in bond money doesn’t come close to meeting the financial requirements of our original plan, which had a $48 million price tag. We are now designing a training center that costs $20 million dollars, meets most of our immediate needs and as much of our future needs as we can squeeze in. It is designed to be able to expand to meet those future needs as they arise. Success requires a clear vision and being able to articulate your needs in a manner that your governing body is going to buy. This has been a failure of fire services over the years. We’re very good at fighting fires but we’re very bad at political-speak. You have to be able to speak to the decision makers with data and clear numbers, which means getting rid of the emotional arguments. It also means recognizing that there is competition for that dollar, and you are competing with interests who may be better at articulating their need than you are. Part of it is simply letting go of ego. Everybody wants the biggest, the best, the most. That stuff doesn’t work in public governments anymore. We are identifying what things we can outsource, where we can share resources. It’s not just what we want, but how it all fits in with the community we’re serving, in terms of location, cost, political realities and the realistic needs of the fire service. But, we haven’t given up the dream of eventually having a training facility that has all the things we identified that we wanted.

A comprehensive business plan considers all these seven building blocks and presents them in a clear, concise manner. As a result, haphazard and un-researched ideas about what is needed are avoided, and the department comes together with a cohesive plan for the future. The planning process is critical. Starting from the very beginning, everything should be pointed in that direction.


About the Authors:

 Bill Booth is the president of the Interact Business Group, which specializes in training center business plans for public safety agencies and industry. The Interact Business Group successfully uses its seven-step Business Plan Process, a business-plan development tool that assists public safety agencies in the planning and funding of their training center requirements. You can reach Booth at 949/588-1346 or via the company’s web site at www.InteractBusinessGroup.com.

David Schoonover is the Manager of Training for the San Jose Fire Department. The department has 725 uniformed personnel serving a population of 980,000 (11th largest city in the country) and an area of 200 square miles out of 31 fire stations. Schoonover is a state of California certified Master Fire Instructor, as well as the Vice President of the Santa Clara Country Fire Training Officers and TRADE Region IX Metro Co-Chair.


 

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A Fire and Law Enforcement Training Partnership With Community Colleges

Fire and law enforcement training centers increasingly are becoming an integral part of a community’s fire and law enforcement preparedness. Training center managers are under pressure to turn out highly skilled, well-trained firefighters and police officers.

These departments thrive in a focused, well-run, high-tech facility. However, many departments lack the necessary skills or desire to embark on complex and sometimes unwieldy educational administration and facility management.

Community colleges can play an integral role — after all, their goal is to excel at education. Depending on the partnership structure, community colleges can provide something as simple as a steady stream of students or as complex as full management of training center operations. Increasingly, departments are partnering with community colleges. The result is that each benefits exponentially from the skills of the others.

Both Sides Benefit

Partnerships with colleges enhance both the numbers and the diversity of the student population. Some may be full-time college students, others working firefighters or law enforcement officers.

Community College Training Center draws from regional fire and police departments, recruits and enrolled college students.

“It’s really a win-win situation”

“Community colleges are traditionally focused on vocational education, and obviously public safety falls under that umbrella. The students get college credit for their training that they can apply toward a degree down the line, but it also enhances the college program. The college, through its partnership, now has access to a public safety training center with many skills training amenities that enhance the college curriculum.”

Some states have guidelines for partnerships in place. In California, for example, there are 107 community colleges, 39 of which are state-certified presenters of basic law enforcement training programs. Other community colleges are linked to fire training programs. To help alleviate confusion and disputes, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office has issued a contract guide for institutional service agreements between college districts and public agencies.

In other states or communities, departments are embarking on relatively new terrain when they partner with the local college. The biggest question is: Which entity will control, manage, staff and maintain the training center?

Community Colleges Bring Diversity to the Learning Environment

“We’ve got a lot of people who are in a credit, associate’s degree — type program in fire technology,” Ted Phillips a Community College Director says. “Most of those happen to be firefighters who are seeking a degree. But then we have our in-service training, which is a non-credit, block-hour instruction program where we might offer a seminar or a 40-hour class. The populations tend to go back and forth — they may be in our degree program but they also may take in-service training for their departments.”

Structuring a Partnership

There are many ways to structure public safety and community college partnerships, depending on the mission of the training center and the climate for cooperation. The Interact Group, which specializes in business plans for public safety training centers, has developed many different partnership arrangements. The following describes three approaches that are currently being used today involving agencies and community colleges to manage and administrate public safety training facilities.

1. College Ownership

In Fort Worth, Texas, the Tarrant County College District owns and operates the training facility, relying on public service agencies as a source of students and instructors but not for facility management. Although the facility currently is operating, it’s being revamped and expanded with expected completion by August 2002.

The new facility will feature a five-building cityscape to be used as burn buildings. It will also have swift-water rescue, confined-space rescue and trench rescue capabilities, as well as hazmat props that include on-site rail cars. In addition, the training center will have a nonfunctioning fire station for storing apparatus and for training students to work with the apparatus.

The college is looking into a partnership with the local police academy. The two facilities already have connected the existing driving pads, and the cityscape buildings could be used to simulate hostage or other law enforcement situations.

The college runs the training facility independently, but it does rely on an advisory committee made up of chiefs, administrators and training officers for the fire academy and the fire technology degree program.

“We basically market our courses to the local fire departments,” says Phillips. “The advisory committee provides a lot of input on curriculum issues and training issues in general. We have contracts with several different departments. We provide in-service training to their officers or firefighters, and we train a lot of their recruits.”

The college takes on all of the administrative tasks associated with the facility, including general management, scheduling, hiring and maintenance. Fire departments are charged for the training, either through a per-head tuition charge or, if a department wants to train a large number of its people, through a contract cost. The college receives state funding for each contact hour it generates.

2. Public Agency facilities

A second way to approach a partnership is for a community college to affiliate with an existing law enforcement or fire skills training center. That’s the case in San Bernardino, Calif., where the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office runs the county-owned public safety training center. The center, which boasts 65 full-time staff and 100 part-time instructors, partners with San Bernardino Valley College, part of the county’s community college district.

The training facility primarily offers law enforcement programs, but it also has classes in corrections and firefighting, as well as civilian programs. The academy facilities encompass 650 acres, including an 80-acre, fully dedicated driver training facility. It also features 25 acres of shooting ranges, 20 classrooms, a live-fire shooting facility, a number of skills structures and a mounted-enforcement training arena using horses.

Many of the courses offered at the San Bernardino facility are college affiliated. The exceptions are usually specialized courses limited to active peace officers. Academy recruits and in-service officers register as college students and earn college credits, which can be applied to various degree programs.

The college contracts with the training center to provide the various affiliated programs. Captain Kyritsis says the partnership allows the academy to enhance its educational offerings. “Since this is a contract agreement, the partnership allows us to be reimbursed for the courses,” he says. “That helps us pay for additional things that we normally wouldn’t be able to offer, like additional instructors and programs.” For example, the agreement allows the academy to afford an athletic trainer for its basic academy program, as well as a computer lab and related items that help enhance simulations training.

The training center schedules the classes and selects the instructors. However, the college must certify college-level course instructors. “They’re basically blessed by the college as having met the minimum requirements to be instructors,” says Kyritsis. “They’re approved by the college board, and they have the right to teach in the program because the college is funding the program. That person actually is being paid by the college to teach that class.”

In return for the affiliation, the college receives allocated funding from the state and a greatly enhanced educational environment. The sheriff’s department receives a broad pool of students, access to college-level classes and a vehicle to allow its members to achieve a college degree.

Kyritsis warns that communities planning to forge an alliance between departments and community colleges should have strict guidelines in place. “There were some problems a few years back — some legal issues,” he says. “Some contracts just weren’t put together properly, and there were some issues that jeopardized the whole program. The state chancellor has put together a program that helps alleviate those problems. As long as you follow that guide you’re ok.”

3. A Combined Approach

A third approach combines the agency and the college in a dual-management role. For instance, the Regional Public Safety Training Center in Washoe County, Nev., is owned by the county. Plans call for Truckee Meadows Community College to manage the facility, although final contracts haven’t been signed yet.

Three committees oversee the operation of the center: an operations committee composed of training officers from each of the seven partnering agencies; an executive board consisting of the chief officers for each of the partnering agencies; and the manager’s board, which includes the city and county managers and the president of tmcc.

The training facility encompasses 60 usable acres with facilities for both fire and police training. There are 18 classrooms, as well as a separate armory building that includes a classroom and offices for the range masters. The center features a shooting range; an emergency vehicle operations course; an 8,000-square-foot burn building; and a city grid that includes hazmat props, burn props, confined-space props, a trench rescue prop and room for future expansion.

While the college handles the day-to-day management and administration of the facility, it’s not the sole education provider. “Training is provided by three primary methods,” says Brent Harper, director of the Regional Public Safety Training Center in Washoe County, Nev. “First, the agencies can provide their own training, using their own instructors. Second, a class can be provided for credit by the tmcc. Third, a class can be provided by the center, or it can be a combination of each.”

Harper says the agencies provide their own instructors and college-credit courses use college-paid instructors. The center also has the ability to hire course instructors or speakers. Both the college and the center often hire local fire and police personnel as instructors, he says.

The structure of the tmcc’s partnership with local departments is such that the college only gets full-time equivalents for the credit-given courses offered by tmcc. “The Board of Regents and the college administration are not in favor of simply turning agency training into full-time equivalency,” Harper says. “On the other hand, the college is in the business of being a community college and supporting the local fire and police agencies.”

Community colleges add educational and administrative expertise, along with a steady stream of students and opportunities for working firefighters and members of law enforcement to gain college credit for their training. They also benefit from an enhanced curriculum and the added numbers of students in their systems. Whatever approach is used, fire departments and law enforcement agencies stand to benefit from partnering with a community college for the operation of a training center. Working together, the two entities can greatly enhance the training opportunities available to their students.

Bill Booth is the president of The INTERact Group, which specializes in business development planning of public safety training centers. The INTERact Group has successfully used their business plan development process that assists agencies in the planning and funding of their training center requirements.

Partnership Rules

* Who will oversee daily operations?
* How will training be scheduled at the training center?
* How will the curriculum be determined?
* Who will supply the instructors?
* What will it cost to annually operate the center?
* What is the cost benefit of the training center?

 


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A Business Plan Can Help Your Police or Fire Acquire Training Facility Funds

Due to the emergence of terrorist-related emergencies, higher state and federal standards, an increase in the number of firefighter and police recruits and the increasing threat of lawsuits, many public safety, both police and fire, departments around the country have considered building new training facilities. Many others want to replace or enhance their aging facilities with safer, more efficient training centers.

Unfortunately, a well-equipped training facility does not come cheap-construction costs can range anywhere from $500,000 to $50 million. For example, Washoe County, Nev., spent $ 16,000,000 to build a state-of-the-art facility that includes a burn structure, classrooms, locker rooms and showers, a driver’s track, outdoor shooting range and a hazmat training area. Departments typically can’t raise this kind of money through the traditional fundraising efforts, such as bake sales, bingo or direct-mail campaigns.

To request and obtain the money necessary to build top-notch training facilities, a department must know the answers to a number of questions: What type of training will take place? Who will use the facility and why? What will the facility cost to build, and what are the reoccurring annual operation costs? A department must thoroughly examine these questions before it makes funding requests.

Annual fire department budgets account for personnel, administration, and equipment but often overlook a capital-budget line item for a training facility.

Comment: “Just like the planning and justification for new apparatus may require several years and countless budget reviews,”  “The planning process for capital training facilities must take on similarly detailed research and planning.”

Elected officials, city and county executives, and anybody else considering the project for possible funding must know how much the facility will cost to build and operate, as well as the cost benefits. Therefore, the department must consider the early-stage training-facility planning a business problem. The Dragonfly Communication Network specializes in grant writing and research for the fire service. Dragonfly President Rodney Slaughter, a veteran in fund-raising issues, says, “Preparation is key. Get your requirements and needs organized and in writing. Think of as many possible hurdles, objections and questions as possible and address them in your business plan. Organizations you approach to fund your business plan demand clarity and justification-they do not like surprises midway into the project.”

Any business startup; be it a dry cleaners, an auto parts store or an international corporation needs funding. A business plan delivers the full equation: construction costs, the management plan, facility needs, benefits, legal justification, on-going maintenance and operation costs.

Most public safety departments find themselves hard-pressed to come up with all these facts and figures. They usually know how many hours of training they need in certain areas, but they often find the details perplexing: How many classrooms do they need? How much staff it will take to run the facility? How much will facility maintenance cost, and how can they justify a large capital expenditure, etc.?

A quality business plan outlines all those details. Cost projections are based on a factual assessment of building and operating expenses after careful scrutiny of the needs and desires of those who will use the facility. The business plan author (typically the training or financial chief) should interview all the parties involved to discover their specific needs, then calculate the details.

The business plan also gives public safety departments a means to organize and consider many aspects of the project often overlooked. For example, what are the logistical efficiencies of the training props? How can they be utilized to their maximum potential? Can any of the props be rented to outside agencies as a source of revenue for the department?

Build The Business Plan

The business plan should answer every question elected officials or grant providers will ask. Township of Kalamazoo (Mich.) Fire Department Fire Marshal Many Myers leaded a group planning a regional public-safety training center in western Michigan. Planning off and on for more than six years, seven local agencies came together to develop a business plan. “Regardless of budget constraints, the need for efficient and safe public safety personnel cannot be denied,” Myers says. “Our elected officials strongly support the need for training, but their funding decisions must be fully justified. Our business plan effort is doing just that.”

The Business Plan Process involves seven sequential steps. Each step builds on each other, similar to the chapters in a book The final step, the funding strategy, ties the plan together. The following summarizes each step:

1. Needs Assessment – This step reviews and validates existing training classes and facilities. Increasingly, multiple departments share training facilities, which makes complete needs assessment even more vital to the project’s success. The needs assessment may also evaluate the feasibility of charging tuition for training outside agencies.

Tip: Get as many people from the department involved at this step as possible. Think long term, and consider “what if” scenarios.

2: Operations Plan– This piece outlines the day-to-day management of the training center. It addresses operational procedures, safety issues and training methods. It also out-lines scheduling methods, security and procedures for delivering training courses that meet national standards and unique local requirements. The operations plan may include logistic and managerial scenarios for possible joint partnerships with other agencies or the local community college as well.

Tip. Ask yourself the seemingly simple questions. Who will open the doors in the morning? Who will lock up at night? Who will set the training facility schedule?

3. Facility Assessment – In conjunction with ‘the needs assessment, the facility assessment illuminates the required scope and magnitude of the training facility. For example, it identifies the number of classrooms and the type of specialized training equipment the department needs. The facility assessment also identifies the most cost-effective and advanced specialty training equipment available.

Tip: Time and again I’ve heard department members say their new training facility was too small by the time it opened. Make sure you include your department’s training forecast into the facility assessment.

4. Site, Requirements- If a specific site exists, the business plan reviews potential infrastructure costs, permits and neighborhood issues. If no site exists yet, the business plan establishes the minimum size required, identifies potential environmental issues and creates a bud-get for land acquisition.

Example: In Washoe County, a local land developer offered a favorable land, design and build proposal. This presented the county an excellent turnkey project that benefited all parties.

5. Financial Assessment- The financial assessment, based on the needs assessment and local construction costs, provides financial feasibility for the project’s implementation and direction. It also provides estimated values for all aspects of the training facility’s design, construction, operation, maintenance and revenue potential. The financial assessment should include an estimate of annual operation expenses.

Tip: The project will instantly lose credibility if your projections are not in line with actual costs. Carefully consider all aspects of the project to eliminate surprises.

6. Cost-Benefit Analysis- This step helps clarify and justify the project’s monetary and nonmonetary benefits. Why is the training center a good use of capital funds? Who benefits and why? What legal requirements does the training center serve? What is the revenue potential for the training center? Does joining with other departments or jurisdictions provide benefits? How much should each partnering agency contribute to the project and why? The cost benefit analysis should dearly define all of these questions.

Tip: Current budget stress is causing officials across the country to rethink and reconsider their allocations. When developing the business plan, the writer must continually ask, “What makes my project standout?” or “Why should my project be selected for funding over others?”

7. Funding Strategy- The funding strategy should review all possible funding outlets, such as local, state or federal grant opportunities. Slaughter says, “Having a well-crafted and thorough business plan makes grant applications so much easier to complete. Your business plan can be attached to your grant application proposal.”

Tip: Think long term and remain patient. Prepare to accept phased funding, that is, perhaps this year’s funding will allow the construction of a new tower, but the classroom construction will have to wait until next year. Also, pay attention to budget cycles and filing deadlines. Most grants are offered only once a year-miss the filing date and you’ll wait another year.

Conclusion

Well-trained fire officers are highly skilled in emergency-response management planning, and they should apply this same skill-set to strategic training facility planning. “The same skills being applied to strategic emergency response planning can be applied to training facility planning,” Loraine says. “The same management expertise is already there.”

Clearly, a comprehensive business plan can facilitate a broad range of goals in building a training center. But most importantly, a plan is critical for obtaining the necessary funding to move a project forward. Ultimately, without a comprehensive cost analysis, elected officials and grant providers remain reluctant to open their checkbooks.

Answer This

The business plan, should answer every question elected officials or grant providers will ask. Likely questions include:

  1. Who will use the training facility?
  2. What training will the facility provide?
  3. What it cost to annually operate the facility?
  4. In the case of multiple partners, ‘how will the center be managed.
  5. What are the training facility’s cost and practical benefits?
  6. Should the facility be open to outside users in order to generate, revenues?
  7. What private, local, state or federal funds are available?
  8. What is your funding strategy?

Bill Booth is the president of the Interact Business Group, which specializes in training center business plans for public safety agencies and industry. The Interact Business Group uses its seven step business plan process to assist public-safety agencies in planning and funding their training center requirements. You can reach Booth via the company’s Web site

The Business Blueprint For A Public Safety Training Center

Business Blueprint For A Public Safety Training Center

by: Bill Booth

As the need for high-tech training becomes increasingly necessary, more and more police and fire departments across the United States are looking to state-of-the-art training centers for their staffs. Higher state and federal standards, a general increase in the number of firefighting recruits, and the ever-present and increasing threat of lawsuits have spurred many departments to take a second look at their training facilities, and many are seeing shortfalls there.

Assessing a need is the first and least problematic step toward securing top-notch training facilities. Departments and other public service entities often find that getting from the first step, the needs assessment, to the second step, obtaining funding, is one of the most daunting aspects of moving forward.

A balancing act few question the need for high-tech training facilities. Communities demand and deserve highly trained professionals working in their fire departments, but assessing the cost of building and maintaining a training center is often one of the biggest hurdles faced by departments. Fire chiefs are skilled professionals in their line of work, but often find the minutiae of calculating the exact needs and costs of a training center out of their realm of expertise.

Furthermore, in many instances, two or more fire departments, and sometimes police and public works departments, will jointly use the facility. Each agency has its own needs and desires, and the departments involved may have difficulty balancing the contribution and usage for each entity. In most cases, a business plan can help alleviate such a problem.

Any new business venture is enhanced by a straightforward, well-researched business plan, and training centers are no exception. A business plan for the development of a training center is imperative to fully assess the needs of the fire or police department and other participating agencies, as well as the cost of building and maintaining the facility.

Larry Pitzer, chief of the San Bernardino (Calif.) City Fire Department, found that out firsthand when he and others in his community began laying the groundwork for a training center. In San Bernardino, the community college, the county government and fire department, and the city government and fire department formed a joint powers authority.

“When we got together, we had nothing except a concept and the knowledge that the faa was going to award a grant for a training facility,” Pitzer says. “We had all these questions: How will this work? Will it be financially feasible? What type of facility would we recommend to meet the needs of the fire service and faa? How can we show we have overall management capability? How many students can we run through? Is the land acceptable? All of those questions needed to be addressed.

“What the business plan meant to us was that it gave us the foundation,” Pitzer continues. “It gave us the fundamental information that we could market to our governing bodies.”

Lee Leighton, deputy chief of the Sparks (Nev.) Fire Department, also says that business plans score high marks. The department’s regional project encompassed both police and fire, and involved four jurisdictions. Leighton says the groups dithered around for months before calling in an expert.

“Our local government boards wouldn’t let us get off base until we could give them a formal business plan relative to the cost-effectiveness of the project, and why it would be an advantage,” he says.

The project was complicated by the fact that police and fire departments would share the facility. “When you put police and fire together to use the same facility for their own needs, it gets complicated,” Leighton says. “With that many jurisdictions and police and fire having their own interests, we needed to have an outside facilitator with some knowledge of public safety to bring the groups together. Without that business plan, we would never have gotten to where we are.”

The full equation Obtaining funding is a business problem, not just an engineering, architectural or financial issue. Still, all of those elements are involved.

When a fire department begins planning a new training center, it usually turns to an architectural or engineering firm. These firms can and should be an integral part of the planning process, but the reality is that they can contribute only part of the equation. Meanwhile, a solid business plan delivers the full equation, everything that’s needed to move a project forward.

Architectural or engineering firms provide site plans, layouts and, in some cases, construction costs. While invaluable, those details make up only part of what’s needed to begin the quest for funding. Elected officials, city and county executives, and anybody considering the project for possible funding also must know building and annual operation costs, as well as the cost benefits of such an operation.

Most fire departments are hard-pressed to come up with those figures. They know how many hours of training they need, but they’re often perplexed by the details, such as how many classrooms are needed, how much staff it will take to run the facility and how much facility maintenance will cost.

With a quality business plan, all those details are outlined in advance. Cost projections are based on a factual assessment of building and operation expenses after a careful look at the needs and desires of those who will use the facility. The plan’s author will interview all the parties involved to find out their specific needs, then calculate the number of classrooms needed, how many students the facility can handle on a daily or yearly basis, and how much users can expect to pay for maintenance and operations.

Partnership perks The high cost of training forces many agencies to join with other public service organizations or departments from other jurisdictions. Often, it also makes sense to have the local community college or another educational facility join the process.

Community colleges are logical partners. They’re in the business of running schools and can facilitate the scheduling and operations at a training center. Since they aren’t affiliated with public safety organizations, they’re often viewed as a trusted third party. Furthermore, many community colleges have fire science or police science programs already in place, and they can become essential partners in both the operations and funding of a training facility.

As the cost of training continues to rise, departments may find that the training facility they want is out of their reach. A business plan can also facilitate phased funding plans in the case of multi-year or multi-grant efforts. So while your dream center may not be viable in the short term, a business plan can help stagger the costs and make the long term a reality. In some cases, however, a business plan may indicate that a training facility isn’t justifiable.

Detail oriented A business plan should be all-encompassing, answering every question that elected officials or grant providers are likely to have. A business plan should answer seven key questions.

  1. 1) What are the preliminary site plans and equipment requirements? Most departments already have an idea of the land that will be used before a business plan is considered. If not, that must be assessed. Also, equipment requirements, such as drill towers, burn rooms, classrooms and field drill grounds, should be included.
  2. 2) Who will use the training facility? Obviously, firefighters from the participating departments will be the users, but a business plan should also consider other agencies. Involvement by other departments may be important because of the potential shared operation costs or revenue through tuition charges.
  3. 3) What training will be provided at the facility? This often is directly linked to the design, size and scope of the project. Departments can opt for a more basic training facility that provides essential classroom courses and live fire burns, or they can go further with advanced options, such as trench rescue or high-angle rescue. The options are as broad as the agency’s imagination and resources.
  4. 4) What will it cost to build the facility? This includes estimates from architects and engineers, based on the needs outlined by the department. There are several architectural and engineering firms that specialize in training center construction, and they often work hand-in-hand with the business plan developer in assessing building costs.
  5. 5) What will it cost to operate the facility each year? A business plan should assess the estimated yearly expenses for necessities, including staffing, electricity, water, janitorial services and maintenance.
  6. 6) How will the training center operate on a daily and yearly basis? Particularly in multi-department facilities, assessing which entity is best equipped to run the day-to-day operations at a training facility is essential. Everything from hours of operation to scheduling of classrooms or equipment use must be taken into account.
  7. 7) What is the cost benefit of the training facility? People or entities providing money for a training center want to know how much revenue the facility is expected to generate, whether joining with other departments or jurisdictions provides cost benefits, how much each user will be expected to pay in tuition, and so forth. A business plan clearly defines all the expectations, operational and financial.

A comprehensive solution A business plan gives the user a full understanding of the project’s overall scope. All the elements needed to make the project come to fruition, as well as run smoothly once the facility is completed, are included in a comprehensive business plan.

There should be no major questions left unanswered. That’s particularly important when dealing with elected officials and grant providers. Elected boards are regularly inundated with requests for project funding. A business plan shows that those involved have thoroughly thought through the process and can provide well-researched, fact-based cost analysis that creates confidence. Elected officials don’t like surprises, particularly when they pertain to costs. A straightforward approach is often the best way to convince them that a training facility meets community and agency needs.

A business plan also has polish. “The faa certainly does not want an amateurish, hen-scratched plan put before them,” Pitzer points out. “If they are looking at a $5- to $6 million grant, they don’t just hand those out on something that is unprofessional.”

Once the business plan is complete, the plan’s author might be in a position to take the process to the next step, which is convincing the grant and funding providers of the benefit and value of the project. The author knows the ins and outs of the plan, is familiar with the needs of each department involved, and is well-versed in the nuances of the plan’s economic requirements. He or she is often in the best position to represent the agencies involved in their quest for funding.

Once funding is established and a training center is built, a business plan is the operational blueprint and can be invaluable in the daily operations of a training facility. The community college or other operating body can use it as a guideline to facilitate meeting each party’s needs.

“The business plan was the cornerstone for us to convince our governing boards and the faa,” Pitzer says. “It’s the springboard for us in the construction of the site and managing it once it is operational.”

Clearly, a comprehensive business plan can facilitate a broad range of goals in building a training center. But most importantly, a plan is necessary for obtaining the necessary funding for a project. Ultimately, without a comprehensive cost analysis, elected officials and grant providers are reluctant to open the coffers for development. A business plan is crucial to success, providing all the details that are needed to move a project forward.