Training Facility Planning, Avoid The BIG Mistake

So you want to build a Police or Firefighter Training Facility (maybe even a Combined Regional Partnership). You’ve identified several potential locations. The chief is on board. You have strong support from the fire or police union (or both). The city manager has expressed optimism for the project. Congratulations you’re “almost” there. At this point the usual next step is to call over to the facilities department and purchasing and tell them you need an RFP for architectural master plan design services. BIG Mistake. Let me tell you why.

Architectural and Engineering (A&E) firms can provide the technical data for a master design plan and provide some preliminary construction cost estimates. They may even offer to help with your needs assessment (If you do all the work and tell them what you need.)  All of these are eventually going to be important, however there is still considerable work to be completed before the project gets to this level of detail. The architectural and engineering aspect of the training center project is only part of the equation. Important yes, but secondary to the Strategic Business Plan.

The Full Planning Equation

A fully developed and articulated Strategic Business Plan delivers the full equation: everything that is needed to launch the training center project moving in a focused direction. Prior to the A&E phase the Strategic Business Plan provides answers and establishes the framework for the long-term success of the training center project and its equality important long-term sustainability.

In essence, a Strategic Business Plan should answer every question that elected officials or grant providers are likely to ask. Such as:

  • Who will use the training center?
  • What training will the center 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 the project funding strategy?

Specific Key Objectives

A comprehensive business plan can facilitate a broad range of goals in building a training center. But most importantly, a plan is crucial to achieving the following Specific Key Objectives:

  • What is the training center project’s funding source?
  • What is the plan for the Training Center’s sustainability?
  • How much will it cost to operate annually
    Is there an on-going (sustainable) source of money
  • Why should the Training Center be funded over other projects?
    • Be specific
    • Be measureable
    • Be attainable
    • Be realistic
  • What problem does it solve?
  • Why build it in the first place?
    • Why “Not continue with the way we’ve always trained!”
  • How will the training center enhance operational efficiency?
  • How will the training center improve the ISO rating?
  • Will the training center facilitate mandated training that is currently being performed but at a less and satisfactory level or not being performed at all?

You’re Not There Yet

Congratulations your colleagues would be envious. However, you still may be very far away from turning the training center project into a reality. The project must be well justified, with strong verification by the public safety department. Senior executive staff and elected officials must be in full support of the project. The only way to accomplish full buy-in from all decision makers is to have a well planned, organized and justifiable strategic business plan.

A Seven-Step Process

The Interact Business Group advocates a Strategic Business Plan Seven-Step Process to planning for a new training facility. Ultimately, without a comprehensive cost management analysis, elected officials and grant providers are reluctant to open the money coffers for the project advancement. There is competition for that dollar, and a strategic business plan gives departments an extra edge when applying for limited funding.
Provide The Justification to Say “YES”
Key decision makers seldom ignore or diminish the need for properly trained personnel. Nor do they fail to understand the need for safe and efficient training facilities. In many cases what they need the most is a solid reason to say “YES”

 


Additional Resources On this Topic

Here are several additional ways to stay connected and informed with Public Safety Training:
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Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates.
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Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
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Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

How To Begin Planning For A Police or Firefighter Training Center

Start With The End In Mind

That is a key point to keep in mind when planning for a new police, fire or combined training facility. Focus not just on what you need today, but also on your future needs.  Because of the costs involved, a new police or firefighter facility will likely have to service your department for twenty, thirty or even fifty years down the road. Decisions made in this critical early planning stage will impact the generations that come after you. Sounds a little dramatic, but its so very very true.

Take your time and get the early phase planning right

In the fast-changing world of public safety, more and more public safety departments are finding that their current training facilities are outdated and sorely lacking in the equipment, technology and props needed to adequately train their growing numbers of police and firefighters. Both within departments themselves and within the communities they serve, most people recognize the need for highly trained professionals that serve in their community. 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 most public safety departments.

Early stage planning is essential. Any new business venture is enhanced by a straightforward, well-researched plan — and police and fire training centers are no exception. With any new venture in the private sector, a small business startup, new product release, or facility expansion the approving authority (such as a board of directors or a bank) wants to see a plan. They will,“What are you going to do with the money?”

The common term used in the private sector is “Business Plan.” I think it is equally appropriately used when developing or enhancing a public safety or OSHA training center. Many of the elements of a training center are similar to starting a business or launching a project. Here are some similar questions that pertain to both a public safety department and private industry:

  • What will it cost to build? (Construction costs)
  • What will it cost to operate? (Annual Operations and Maintenance Costs)
  • Who is going to use it? (Needs Assessment)
  • What facilities are needed? (Building type, Classrooms, Props)
  • Why build it? (Cost justification)

Using the private sector analogy again, a strong, well-conceived Business Plan answers the following questions: How, What, Where, When, Why. For the public sector, such as a   police, fire or any public safety department, there are long-term consequences to a safe, secure and accessible training center project. As mentioned above, the project being planned today will have impact for many future generations.   For this reason the word “Strategic” needs to be added. By definition – Strategic means

“Important or essential in relation to a plan of action” and “Highly important to an intended objective.”

Training Center Strategic Business Plan

In developing a Strategic Business Plan for the development of a police, fire or public safety training center, it is imperative to fully assess the needs of the department (needs assessment) and other involved entities (potential partner agencies), cost of building (construction costs) and in the case of maintaining the facility (annual operations costs). Departments also need to look to the future, mapping out their expected growth and the training requirements that will accompany that expansion (this is the “strategic” element).

The Interact Business Group specializes in delivering the “full equation” with its comprehensive Strategic Business Plan. A solid strategic business plan assesses current and future needs, identifies costs and synergies and culminates with a clear funding objective. It becomes the tool that allows stakeholders (key decision makers) to say “YES.” And once your project is underway, it severs as a blueprint for success.

Think Like a Businessman

Early stage planning is absolutely essential. Think of the training center project like a businessman who is starting a new venture. The basic elements are the same: cost to build, cost to operate, who will use it, what facilities are needed, and finally why build it in the first place. Keep these in mind. The future depends on it!


Additional Resources On This Topic

Here are several additional ways to stay connected and informed with Public Safety Training:

LinkedIn Group – Public Safety Training Center Planning
Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates.
Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

Police Training Center Going Regional In The Rockies

Officials are planning the biggest law enforcement training facility in the northern Rockies.

With a growing number of sworn officers on staff, it’s getting more difficult to accommodate training needs. Classroom and gym space is crowded, and they often have to break training up over several days said Meridian Idaho Deputy Chief Tracy Basterrechea .

After 5 months of extensive research, and travel the Interact Business Group completed a Training Center Strategic Business Plan for the City of Meridian Public Safety Training Center . The plan included an in-depth training needs assessment, construction and maintenance  cost estimates, multiple conceptual site layouts. a  regional focus group and web based surveys to measure the most pressing training needs in the region.

  1. Who will use the training center? 
  2. What training will be provided at the center?
  3. What will it cost to build the center? 
  4. What will it cost to annually operate the center? 
  5. What are the preliminary site plans and equipment requirements? 
  6. What is the cost benefit of the training center?
  7. What is the potential of offering training classes to outside public agencies and industries?
Reviewing the police training site layout

Reviewing the police training center site layout

A Regional Training Center Approach

And it won’t just serve Meridian, Police Lt. Jamie Leslie said. With the Idaho State Police and Peace Officer Standards and Training facilities just blocks away, the facility will benefit law enforcement agencies statewide. And with the nearest scenario village in Salt Lake City, the Meridian site could attract officers from throughout the region.

“In a facility like we envision, I can do classroom, I can bring them into the range … and then right into a scenario,” Leslie said. “So they get to try all those disciplines every day we train. I can set up an accident situation that turns into a use-of-force type situation. Get those officers on their toes thinking all the time.”

Interact and Meridian Training Center Planning Team

And it’ll allow multiple agencies to train together, he said, so they can better coordinate when they end up at the same emergency call.

Another advantage? It’ll make training more dynamic. Right now, officers know exactly what kind of training they’re in for based on where they train. If they’re at the shooting range, they’re practicing with firearms. If they’re in the mat room, they’re practicing close-quarters tactics and arrest techniques. In the scenario village, they’ll never know what’s coming.

That will no longer be the case once the proposed $4.5 million facility is built, Basterrechea said. Plans include a shooting range, classroom space and a “scenario village” where officers can practice anything from traffic stops to bank robberies to active shooter scenarios in a realistic simulated environment.

The proposal is still in its very early stages, Meridian Economic Development Director Brenda Sherwood said, but plans call for several expansions to the department’s existing facility, built in 2002 with a much smaller community in mind.

Meanwhile, Sherwood said, the city hopes to attract and involve private industry to meet its growing law enforcement needs. Uniform makers, equipment companies and firearm manufacturers will all find a ready-made market as the Meridian Police Department expands.

 

To read more about similar police and fire department training center projects and more details about Strategic Business Planning Process follow the links below

  • LinkedIn Group – Public Safety Training Center Planning, click here to join
  • Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates.
  • Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
  • Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

Click here to view original web page at www.mymeridianpress.com

Combined Fire and Police Training Center May Cut Costs By $300,000

The combined Fire and Police Training Center in Round Rock Texas (near Austin) may cut current training cost by around $300,000. Earlier this year Interact Business Group completed a strategic business plan for the project that took into account existing training conditions, including travel to out of area training locations, staff overtime and equipment efficiencies. The combined training center project cost estimate is $38.3 million and is being planned for voter approval on November’s ballot as a bond issue.

“This is looking at the future of not only the police officers safety, but the citizens safety,” said Round Rock Police Training Sgt. Sean Johnson. “As we grow (population of more than 100,000), we need a training area to allow our officers to be the best that they can get.”


See the Sgt Sean Johnson interview and XKAN news report

Most, if not all, training would be done right on site, eliminating travel costs and time. It would also cut the cost of officers and firefighters being away from their regular posts.

It’s not just a dollar issue for the city’s emergency responders. “There are (high risk calls) that don’t happen in the real world every day,” Johnson said. “So, if we don’t practice those skills, it’s a perishable skill, then we’ll lose that skill set.”

The strategic plan identified several key factors in the analysis:

  1. What are the current and future training needs? 
  2. What are the training need priorities?
  3. What will it cost to build the facility?   
  4. What are the preliminary site plans and equipment requirements? 
  5. What will it cost to annually operate the facility?
  6. What are the potential revenue opportunities from outside users?
  7. Are there possible partnering arrangements with other area departments?
  8. What is the cost benefit of a facility over existing conditions training?

A key training hurdle facing the departments was finding local public spaces for repetitive training. For example, fire trucks are forbidden from doing repeated driver exercises on open parking lot areas. That’s because the 80,000 pound vehicles tear up the pavement there.

“Having an area that’s designed specifically for that is going to be valuable,” said assistant chief Billy Wusterhausen.

Sandy Hook is an example of a mass casualty incident where first responders would be more effective if they had repeated training with other departments.

 “As we grow out to that 250,000 population and we’re still the second safest city in the United States, we will have done it right,” Sgt. Johnson said.

Fire Chief David Coatney said depending on what Round Rock voters agree to, the build-out could happen in stages to spread out the cost over several years.

Some training elements being considered for the combined fire and police training center include:

  • Firearms Complex
  • Urban Training Area
  • High Speed Driving Center
  • Driver Avoidance Pad
  • Live Fire Burn Training Rooms
  • Multi-Story Tower
  • Outside Training City Grid
  • Technical Rescue Props
  • Swift Water Rescue Prop
  • Wildland Fire Training Area

Local Round Rock firm KAH Architecture and Interior Design assisted Interact Business Group in the development of the training center site layout.

To read more about similar police and fire department training center projects and more details about Strategic Business Planning Process follow the links below

  • Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates.
  • Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
  • Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

Click HERE to read more

Public Safety Departments and College Partnerships

Over the past 15 years collaboration between polLCCC PSTI Dedication-08_021ice, fire departments and community colleges to share or co-locate training centers has had hot and cold periods. In 1998 the Regional Public Safety Training Center Washoe County Nevada was a joint effort between multiple agencies including the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, City of Reno, City of Sparks, and Truckee Meadows Community College. In 2003 Luzerne Community College began work on a multi agency, Public Safety Training Institute. Universities also remain a strong partner with public safety training schools like the University of West Virginia State Fire Academy that was formed in 1974 and in 2003 undated its training facilities at Jackson’s Mill to accommodate increased demand.

Since the economic down turn of 2008 collaboration efforts has turned hot once again. In a recent national bench DSC00042marking survey undertaking by IBG the “trend” of, merging public safety agencies and colleges has yielded significant improvement to training delivery, curriculum development teamwork, and more important open and cooperative communication between all groups.

In February 2012, IBG initiated a benchmarking effort to “validate the possible” by researching and identifying community colleges that excel in providing public safety training programs to not only their students but also provide training and/or training facilities to agencies within their regional. In order for a Community College to be selected for benchmarking it had to meet certain criteria. First, it must serve multiple disciplines within the public safety/public services fields (i.e. not just police and fire). Second, it must provide a wide range of training programs and curriculum that extend beyond the typical (i.e. shooting range, live fire training) public safety offerings.  Third, it must be affiliated with a two-year or four-year college. IBG closely examined the physical attributes, partnerships and affiliations, programs and curriculums, and management practices of these exceptional training centers. Benchmarking Information Sheets were prepared for each one. The sheets provide insight in a quick read format into what is being done well and what could be improved or changed at these facilities. Based on experience and familiarity with training centers across the nation, IBG identified five of them that are nationally-recognized as training centers of excellence:

  1. Luzerne County Community College Public Safety Training Institute
  2. Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy
  3. Tarrant County College Public Safety Institute
  4. Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex
  5. Washoe County Regional Public Safety Training Center

Today many joint training center partnerships are underway or being formed. Most recently reported was the tentative agreement (details still being worked out) between Madison College and the Madison Fire Department in Madison WI. Other very successful partnerships between colleges and public agencies are reported at the Flatrock Training Center near Denver, Rouge Community College near Medford, OR provide both criminal justice and Emergency Fire Services curriculums that local agencies find very beneficial.

Community colleges play an integral role in public safety training – 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. Partnerships also 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.

There are probably as many ways to structure partnerships between community colleges and public agencies as there are training centers in the country. In 2013 and for the foreseeable future partnerships will remain essential and will continue to grow. If a department is considering the development or modification of a training center a college the same partnerships should be at the top of any priority list.

Carlsbad Fire and Police; Training At It’s Best

In preparing this month newsletter article I fully intended to tout the hard work and accomplishments of the City of Carlsbad California, accolades they genially deserve. Interact Business Group had the pleasure of working with the facility staff and the police fire and facilities department of over the past 12 months helping them with their daily operations plan, staffing and budgets. I have come to learn firsthand how a forward thinking city like Carlsbad when working together can take very limited sized site, around 4 acres, and create a first class public safety training center. I would stop short of calling it world class because of their limited site and location they did not have not space for EVOC training. A nice sized grinder area will serve them well for maneuvering and driving tactic but speed is not an option for them. (continue..)

Carlsbad during a live fire training session, using FireBlast prop

Carlsbad Public Safety Training Center / August 11, 2012 | Photo by Charlie Neuman
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MERTS Astoria, OR

I has been a number of years. I had a free afternoon and spectacular weather; what better way to spend the beautiful than in Astoria Oregon!.

It has been nearly, 8 years since I last visited  MERTS (Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station) center.

MERTS Sign

Astoria, OR

In 1997 the college hired IBG to develop their strategic business. I am very proud to say that due to very hard work on the part of the college staff and at the time their US Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse (and a self serving plug, a strong strategic business plan) the project received funding from the US Navy and State of Oregon.

What a proud achievement MERTS has become! Their web site states the following Located on South Tongue Point, near the mouth of the Columbia River about four miles east of Astoria, MERTS is growing into the most comprehensive industrial and marine technology center in the Pacific Northwest. This a true understatement.

Main Campus Building

I took some pictures and posted them to the Interact Business Group Facebook page . The burn building was locked that was really too bad. I have never been inside! We were told that the burn rooms are in continuous use not only from the college students but the location fire departments gaining very valuable training from the building as well.

During the visit again we showed without prior notice or appointment. We were told that Bill Antilla and  Pat Killian is still working hard. Two very sold guys.

Congratulation to MERTS keep up the good work.

Fire Training Center: A Success Story

The long journey for the planning, budgeting, design, and construction finally came to a very successful conclusion. Northwest Fire/Rescue District of Tucson Arizona dedicated its long anticipated state-of-the-art Central Services/Training Campus. Back in 2004, under the leadership of Fire Chief Stephen J. Piechura, the district began to realize the vision of taking a leading role in the planning and development of the training center, which is a natural outcome of its purpose and mission statements. The district strongly believes that ongoing, realistic, and technology-supported training is necessary for the healthy growth of its professional fire district. Funding, with the successful assistance of a 2004 bond election was crucial.  In early 2005 the district asked the Interact Business Group to help turn their vision into a reality by developing a strategic business plan. Read Complete Article

Training Center Campus

Training Center Campus

Portland Community College, Training Center Project

We had our third very productive meeting in Portland, OR. The weather was Chamber of Commence perfect. The Thought Leader Group met at the beautiful Rock Creek Campus. The group continues to provide excellent input as to their most pressing needs and how the college can best serve the community.

Thought Leader Group; Training Center Planning Group

Fire and Police Planning Group

Training Center Money; More Than One Color

When considering funding for a new public safety training facility there are at least TWO colors of money: money for construction and money for operations. Both are important, but many times the latter is the color overlooked or misunderstood.

Today I will discuss the latter. What will it cost to operate your training center on an annual basis? This is often difficult for departments to determine. For example, how many staff members or sub-contractors are needed to keep a training center operational and running efficiently? What are the estimated yearly expenses for necessities such as electricity, water, janitorial services, maintenance and other elements necessary for a smooth-running operation? Or more specifically, what are the true costs of fuel for the live-burn fire props or the cost to run the air ventilation system at the indoor shooting range?

Fire and Police Training Dollars

New Police and Fire Training Trends Emerge

Over the past couple of years I have seen several newly constructed training centers that were built with taxpayer approved bond initiatives or projects that received CIP approval prior to the 2008 economic downturn that are now facing great budget challenges for monthly and annual operations expenses. In these cases money for construction was the easy part. Now faced with budget cutbacks and layoffs, departments are faced with finding creative ways of maintaining training mandates and at the same time trying to pay the utility bills, and keep training equipment operational. We have helped training center managers re-think and modify their daily operational activities and policies. There is no one solution or “silver bullet” that can be applied to all training center sustainability challenges.  As with most things it comes down to hard work and commitment. Based on a national perspective, I see some key trends emerging. Coninue reading: