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:
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.

Should Police and Firefighters Wear Seatbelts?

How many of us have told our children, husbands/wife or friends; “Wear Your Seatbelt” or “Is your seatbelt on?”
In case you missed it (yes, sarcasm purposefully implied), it’s dangerous when police or firefighters ride in an emergency response vehicle without wearing a seatbelt!
Don’t believe me, or too stubborn to listen. Here are the facts.

At least 42% of police officers killed in vehicle crashes over the past three decades were not wearing seat belts or other safety restraints…
Fatal traffic incidents in 2010 were the leading cause of officer deaths for the 13th straight year.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of firefighter fatalities in the United States and this effort aims to reduce the number of preventable fatalities,” said Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, Executive Director of the NFFF
The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, fatal vehicle accidents involving officers have been steadily rising, from 29% of the total fatalities in the 1980s to 50% or more in recent years.

For First Responders, Now For Some Good News
Over the past 12 months or so it seems to me that people are finally “getting it.” It seems that excuses are beginning to run thin. The adage “If you don’t get to the call, you can’t help anyone.” is taking hold. I have collected several reports and articles that I feel are spot on by leading the conversation and moving in the right direction. Have look and I look forward to your comments.

Management has gotten serious, case in point: FDNY seatbelt initiative increases firefighter safety – FDNY amped up its seatbelt efforts, retrofitting older fire apparatus with Ready Reach seatbelt systems[1], ordering new units with the belts already installed, and delivering internal “Buckle Up” training.
The department shared with FIRE CHIEF this video, which features Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, Safety Chief Steve Raynis and others explaining the importance of seatbelt use. Also, Lt. Mike Wilbur details the Ready Reach system. Video Link
From the FAAC – Drivers Safety and Training Blog – Aggressive reporting and writing that discussed the importance of maintaining fresh content in professional driver training programs “The Great Seatbelt Lie”
A true to life (saving) story – “If not for yourself, than for your families and for your chosen profession.”  The Bottom Line on Seat Belts for Law Enforcers
From Buckle Up! So Everyone Goes Home ®,some very encouraging news “After five years, over 850 departments and 150,000 firefighters have signed the National Fire Service Seatbelt Pledge and committed to wearing their seatbelts.”  International First Responder Seatbelt Pledge
Video – Watch it and share it with everyone you work with!  We’ve Heard All The Excuses

Driving a Emergency Response Vehicle is Dangerous, Still Not Convinced
If you or someone you work with STILL is not convinced please take a couple of minutes and read this report. It may save your life.

Volunteer Fire Fighter Dies After Being Ejected From Front Seat of Engine


Public Safety Training. Stay Connected and Informed
Here are several additional ways to stay connected and informed with Public Safety Training:

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.


[1] – No product endorsement is intended or implied.

Police Training Shoot House, Home Grown and Impressive

Police Training Shoot House, Home Grown and Impressive

A police training success story. Sheriff’s ingenuity with the help of the local community build a training shoot house from 100% donations.
Jackson County sheriff’s Deputy Phil Cicero says he’s pleased with the agency’s new “shoot house” that will be used for SWAT training and training for other high-risk calls inside homes.

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.

The training house was assembled from materials donated by several area businesses. It sits at the Jackson County Sports Park on Kershaw Road, but the structure is restricted from public use.

The 40-foot-by-48-foot building certainly isn’t a handsome piece of real estate. Its sides already are chipped from bullet holes and the bare plywood exterior doesn’t project all the comforts of home.

But the shoot house gives SWAT deputies a place to practice room-clearing, forced entries and other important tactical skills.

The shoot house contains several rooms that can be altered to give the space a different look for each training exercise.

Trained Police Dogs In Big Demand

Trained Police Dogs In Big Demand


Police Dogs or K9’s have become very commonplace in our everyday lives. Travel though an airport or spend a day that the mall you are sure to see these extremely well training police canines “working” right alone side their two legged partners.

Nearly a day doesn’t pass when I don’t read about an heroic act, a drug bust, or far too often a tragic injury or death of one of these highly trained law enforcers.

Always curious by the many facets public safety training for both policeman and firefighters I recently read an excellent article written by a Massachusetts news reporter, Jessica Trufant (see the contact information below), that added to my knowledge base of the world of K9’s, their training, commitment and (growing) importance.

Ken Ballinger is the Assistant Deputy Superintendent of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department has seen a huge spike in the number of departments investing in police dogs following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. More recently AD Ballinger has been flooded with calls pouring into his cell phone in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombings.

“These aren’t your grandfather’s police dogs,” Ballinger said during a recent training session. “Some of these dogs are just getting back from seven days in Boston with SWAT teams.”

Dwane Foisy, president of the Massachusetts Police Work Dog Association, has also received many inquiries from departments interested in bomb-detecting dogs since Patriots Day.

With more than 20 years as a K9 officer, Foisy, who works for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, just like Ballinger said he saw an upswing in bomb-detecting police dogs after 9/11, but then the demand dropped off. He said bomb dogs might not be realistic for small departments, because calls for suspicious packages peak after an attack, but then trail off.

“When you have a narcotics dog, they’re making seizures of narcotics and money, and there’s a return on the investment,” Foisy said. “With explosives dogs, you may not get calls for service very often.”

While small agencies’ interest in bomb dogs will likely simmer, Ballinger said the demand for multi-purpose police dogs is higher than ever.

For every dog that retires, we’re replacing it with five. said Ballinger

At the Auburn University Canine Detection Training Center in Anniston, Alabama Labrador Retrievers are learning the Auburn-patented vapor-wake training, which means they’ll be able to smell a plume of scent left by an explosive device that is worn or carried. John Pearce, associate director of the Training Center, said they’ve used vapor-wake training for eight years.

Pearce said the vapor-wake trained dogs cost $24,950 and dogs skilled in vapor-wake and standard explosive detection cost $29,950. The Labs trained in Anniston are used by law enforcement agencies across the country, including the New York Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police. Pearce said he couldn’t say with absolute certainty, but if one of his Labs had been at the Boston Marathon the pressure cooker bombs that killed three people might have been discovered before they went off. For more information on the training center in Anniston click here:

Click here to view original web page at

A Drastic Increase In The Use Of Dogs

A second-generation K9 handler, Ballinger 20 years ago never imagined that dogs in 2013 would be sniffing out contraband cell phones in prisons, or wearing cameras to stake out buildings before raids.

K9_1But Ballinger has seen a drastic increase in the use of dogs and the sophistication of training, as case law and public opinion have shifted to treat K9s as legitimate police tools.

He expects a greater presence of K9s before and during large public events, despite some pushback from privacy rights advocates who may consider the use of dogs unlawful searching.

“Standards for privacy are high in Massachusetts, but the standard of reasonableness reflects the world we live in now,” Ballinger said. “A dog walking around and sniffing you is a lot less intrusive than a cop grabbing you and shaking you like a leaf.”

“There’s nothing in modern technology that will be more accurate or sensitive than a dog’s nose,” Ballinger said.

There is no state oversight or registry for the approximately 300 police dogs in Massachusetts, but Foisy said training and annual certification through a reputable organization or police or sheriff’s department is essential to the integrity of K9 units.

“When you go into court, you need to have the paperwork and justification for how you know what your dog is telling you is correct, and that’s through training and maintenance,” he said.

I encourage you to click on the link below to read more about the extremely valuable training work that Foisy, Ballinger and many others are doing. Get a history lesson and learn some interesting facts, for example:

  • Learn how in 1903 Ivan Pavlov studied conditioned response in salivating dogs. A
  • Learn how today’s police dogs are trained for “detection not destruction” of evidence.
  • Food and veterinary care average about $800 a year, depending on the department and health of the dog. Ashland Animal Hospital, for example, provides care for Dax at no cost.
  • The cost for starting a K9 unit ranges from several thousand dollars to $50,000, depending on who breeds the dog, where it goes for training and the equipment the department needs.

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

  1. LinkedIn Group – Public Safety Training Center Planning, click here to join
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Jessica Trufant can be reached at 508-634-7556 or

Link to the news report: HERE

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

Training helped police officer survive

Another story in the How My Training Saved My Life series. This time a police officer directly attributes his training to saving his life.


Fort Wayne police have shifted officer training to less classroom time and more role playing in real-life scenarios.  It’s something they say may have saved Officer Treven Brown’s life when he wrestled a firing gun out of a suspect’s hand Friday.

FWPD: Training helped officer survive being shot at

Juan Barrientes with the FWPD training division said Officer Brown did as he was trained when he controlled the suspect’s hands.  It’s FWPD’s number one priority when preparing officers for what has been a violent year.

“I’m glad that he was able to apply some of the training concepts and principles that we use in a real world application and was allowed to go home safely that night,” Barrientes said.

There have been 18 homicides in Allen County so far in 2013.  A handful of times, Fort Wayne police have shot and killed a suspect.  These violent statistics have leaders at FWPD saying this shift in training, couldn’t have come at a better time.

It has been said many times, “It all starts at the police academy!” Once again this success story proves the old say to be true!

Click here to view original web page at

On-Line Courseware Trends and Evaluation Study

On Line Learning Fire and Police Departments

On Line Learning Fire and Police Departments

There has been widespread research by academics, corporations and scientists on the effectiveness of e-learning. The overarching result of all the recent studies has been that pure online learning is as efficient as pure face-to-face learning and can be better in some cases where the student has no time limitation. It has also been found that classroom learning enhanced by some online learning is the best approach to education. Last month I listed the seven how first responders learn and assimilate information. These seven guidelines further validate a study I conducted on the status and condition of on-line leaning in the fire service. The study included the independent evaluation of several common topics of study that are currently being offered for sale to the fire service by private courseware providers. Using a national group of fire service professionals active and retired, from large metro departments, volunteer departments, academia we audited and evaluated courses based on 14 predefined criteria.

Statement of Situation

Within the public safety sector, in-particular to this assessment, the blended learning requirements of theoretical and practical fire services training activities coupled with dramatic budget constraints are creating challenges to agencies nationwide. While distance education formats have been embraced, the breadth of offerings available, the lacking mechanisms to assess quality and value, along with burdensome subscriptions costs and disconnected Learning Management Systems were identified in the study.

The Intent of the Study

  • Identify the macro trends of distance education and the associated market impacts to the public safety communities.
  • Secure and evaluate common training course modules from leading content development companies.
  • Define a course utilizing an established evaluation criterion assessment matrix and weighting system.
  • Establish an independent evaluation panel from both academia and Training Directors from notable fire service agencies/organizations.
  • Provide a summary of findings and recommendations.

Click on this link to read and download the full report. On-Line Courseware Trends and Evaluation Study, Fire Service Training


Avoiding Training Accidents, It’s All About Discipline

Coach Wooden Statue

Legendary Coach John Wooden

“You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve — not to punish.” John Wooden, Legendary College Basketball Coach

As I wrote in last month’s newsletter, public safety recruit hiring seems to be on the upswing with police and fire departments nationally reporting more job openings, record numbers of applicants, and more academy classes. Concurrent with this trend is a particularly disturbing one – an apparent increase in the number of training-related accidents. Over the past 6 months it seems the number of training-related accidents is rapidly rising. If (as I perceive it) training has become more dangerous than in the past, then the big question is why? Were prior accidents unreported or under-reported? Given the 24/7 news cycle and increased reliance on social media, are accidents (even minor ones) taking on more scrutiny? Or, are we seeing a decline in discipline that’s contributing to an actual increase in accidents?

Although training-related injuries and deaths due to underlying health issues such as heart conditions are nonetheless tragic, I have been focusing in particular on training accidents and deaths not associated with health issues. The following links provide a reference to some of these:

Clearly, many training-related accidents can be attributed to a lack of discipline. This breakdown in discipline can take place at the instructor level, at the student level, or at both levels. It’s important to understand how and why those breakdowns occur. A colleague recently told me that, in his opinion, there are too many cases of “television/movie” inspired instructors. What he meant by that phrase is that the instructors believe “faster is better, stronger is superior, and toughness is admired.” This attitude (and lack of discipline) can result in a convoluted badge of machismo to be the best – at the cost of safety. Another theory is that instructors are working and training in a new era; due to budget cuts, and due to the need to get a backlog of recruits trained and out on the street, they are simply moving too fast. It’s possible that instructors are somehow encouraged to cut corners to reduce costs or get the job done more quickly. In either case, the attitude of safety is undermined, creating an environment where an accident is more likely to occur.

In order to understand how discipline relates to learning, it’s important to understand how first responders learn and assimilate information.[1][2]

    • Public safety workers are dynamic assimilators: They learn best when allowed to actively participate, practice and repeat codified sequences of behavior, as opposed to strict book learning. They are hands-on learners.
    • Public safety workers are communication-oriented learners: 1) Public safety work requires instant knowledge transmission and reception; 2) The culture of public safety is that of a large family.
    • Public safety workers are “prioritizers:” They focus their attention upon self survival, search, rescue and safety of incident victims, and then the protection of properties.
    • Public safety workers are follower/leaders: They respond to authority and expertise of their superiors and those who have lived the skills they wish to learn. Through this they gain confidence and leadership skills.
    • Public safety workers learn from peers better than unknown teachers: They view their co-workers as equals. They are “brothers and sisters,” not fellow employees. Therefore, to be most effective, the instructors must also be public safety workers who have been “in the trenches.”
    • Public safety workers are mindful of learning conscientiously: They view their education as important to themselves and the survival of the communities they serve.
    • Public safety workers prefer actual scenarios to abstract training: As hands-on learners, they don’t respond well to theory or hypothetical example. As dynamic learners, they respond best to actual critical incident scenarios. Public safety workers thrive on real life situations. They live for the “adrenaline rush” of being on a scene and responding to a crisis. So, the training must somehow re-create incident scenes to be effective.

Creating and maintaining a training environment that supports these concepts will also help support discipline among both instructor and student.

One of the most important aspects of the learning process is the opportunity for a new recruit (or seasoned veteran) to apply a newly-learned skill or to reinforce old ones. This is not to say that experience isn’t a great teacher – but learning through repetitive practice allows students (probie or veteran) to develop their cognitive skills to an autonomous level through repeated rehearsal. Having spoken to many police and firefighters, there’s always a recurring theme: “When stress, adrenaline, or disorientation occurred, I fell back on the lessons learned in training; in other words my training kicked in.” In the service of public safety, “On The Job Training” (OTJ) is not acceptable without mastery of job task fundamentals.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, one of football’s most accomplished and respected coaches, “Excellence is Achieved in the Mastery of Fundamentals.” Coach Lombardi Statue

Coach Lombardi trained his athletes for consistent performance, rather than one-time stunning plays. It takes discipline to master fundamentals and to perform consistently. Most importantly, in the world of public safety training, it takes discipline to do so safely.

[1]      Bullets are from the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services