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.