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world of public safety, more and more public safety departments are finding that their current training facilities are outdated and sorely lacking in the equipment, technology and props needed to adequately train their growing numbers of police and firefighters.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.

Public Safety Training Newsletter Available

The Public Safety Training Newsletter began in 2003 as an information source for our customers. Our customers told us that information specific to public safety training was not available. The large publications and web sites had grown too large, too diverse and unwieldy, finding information specific to public safety training was either not available or just plain too hard to find. Listening to our customers, we decided to publish a one-stop source for news, events, technical data, product information & trends and success stories for the public safety training industry.

Interact Business Group

10 Years Later

Now, 10 years later, the Public Safety Training Newsletter has grown to over 8,000 readers and 15,000 soical network folowers. and has become the go to source for public safety training news, trends and events.

Click HERE to see the archive page of past issues and to begin receiving the newsletter.

 

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

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:

Some of the Best Training Public Safety Facilities

These facilities are not the newest or the most expensive, but they are all stand-outs for excellence in planning and execution. They are worth looking at and learning from before beginning your Training Center Business Plan to plan or build a police or fire new training center.

Click on the name of each school for their Benchmaked Report:

 
Luzerne County Community College, Public Safety Training Institute
Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
 
Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy
Glenview, Illinois
 
Tarrant County College Public Safety Institute
Fort Worth, Texas
 
Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex
Ft. Pierce, Florida
 
Washoe County Regional Public Safety Training Center
Washoe County, Nevada
 
 

Law Enforcement and Fire Service Training Trends

In today’s fast-paced environment, traditional classroom learning does not fully meet the training needs of police officers and fireman in dispersed organizations. Just as the Web is a critical business component, eLearning is now a critical learning component for organizations. Fast, anytime access to engaging content that is tracked and recorded enables organizations to enhance training in employee skills and competencies. Contextual learning in a more informal setting is the wave of the future as younger tech-savvy personnel enter the workforce. With the cost of implementing e-learning tools falling, more governments, businesses, and schools have added online courses and other forms of distance learning to their organizations. As evidence, The Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services reported a total of 593,167 course completions in 2009-10.

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. A recent meta-analysis[2 the US Department of Education proved the above facts. In addition to being effective, it has also been proven in a Forrester Research study that e-learning earns organizations a positive ROI in less than a year.

The e-learning industry is expected to see a lot more changes in the next 5 years than what it has seen over the past decade, primarily because of the technological advancements. Mobile instruments (phones, tablets) are expected to become the platforms of choice. Learners will utilize content when they need it. Games and simulations will become an integral part of workplace learning. We will see the emergence of personalized learning systems. All these will lead to shift in the way we measure performance with an increased emphasis on cost efficiency.

Public Safety Must Find Better Ways To Train

With budget cuts and staff reductions departments must find better and more manageable ways of delivering training. Only a short few years ago I began to see private companies offering training programs as “slide presentations” (the paper kind). Then after a couple of years we saw the introduction of the Computer Based Training (CBT) that was software based. In reality most were the paper slides with a few pictures thrown in. Ho how far we have come!

The following link will lead you to a download link to a white paper based on an extensive study of Law Enforcement and Fire Service Training Trends.

“Public Safety Training Trends Courseware Assessment Paper”

Training Center Attracts Global Students

When I first heard about TSB in Rome Georgia was skeptical, until I read this article. Training for 40 years with 8 to 10k bed nights per year they would seem to be the real deal. Does anyone have experience with them?

  Fire training attracts global industries

Police Fire Facility Cost and Funding Benefit Analysis

Here’s something to think about:

These are difficult funding times, as everyone is aware.  If I’m an elected official, a Mayor, Councilperson or County Commissioner, I must ask the question:

  • “Why should I support the Public Safety Facility project?”

You must be prepared with a strong response, to answer this question—and make no mistake—this question will be asked.  If the project is in competition with other projects across the city and this is usually the case.  Ask yourself three questions:

  1. “What must I do to make my Project stand out?”

  2. “What need does it solve?”

  3.  “How do I prove it?”

You must be prepared with a strong response, to answer this question—and make no mistake—this question will be asked. Here are several example of what I mean;

  • Are you renting existing facilities to conduct training classes?  This is a Hard Cost that could be saved by having your own facility.

  • How much time are you spending driving to other centers?

  • What are your overhead costs associated with having to drive to other facilities?

  • Look at your vehicle driving / accident records.  How many accidents have you had?  Documented studies have shown at more drivers training leads to few accidents.

  •  Would your insurance premiums benefit from a strong, safe, driving consistent driving program?

  • Think about Partner with other fire agencies, or, with other law enforcement agencies across the country. Partnerships are certainly a growing trend across the country.

I have spoken about the value of Partnerships in past video casts

When considering Cost Benefits… Keep one thing in mind:

Funding is competition!

Many other departments and project are competing for the same dollar.

You have to beat your competition.  In order to do so, you must have a strong, well thought, well-document Strategic Plan. I’m Bill Booth, and this has been something to think about for a new facility design.

Providing a strong Cost Benefit Analysis is a critical element in the funding battle.

In the following 3 minute video I address this issue in some detail.

Police Shooting Range Near Denver Airport

Interact Business Group has worked extensively on this project for the past three years. The Adams County Sheriff’sTraining Center will be used for law enforcement training only, no civilans. We wrote the business plan and feasibility study for the project. The news/facts in the article are dated. Many of the concerns from DIA have been addressed. Did you know that there are shooting ranges currently at SFO and SLC?