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

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 http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/OEMS/Files_page/symposium/2010Presentations/OPE-921.pdf

Fire Apparatus Drivers Program

The DPSST Regional Fire Section is no stranger to remote delivery and over the last ten years has purchased a number of training props that can be moved around the state to assist with the needs of the Oregon Fire Service. The latest addition to the Oregon Fire Training toolbox is the Skid Avoidance for Fire Apparatus Drivers (SAFAD) Program. As designed, the program is similar to that used by the law enforcement community with the noticeable difference between the Fire Service and that of law enforcement training being the use of a Ford F-650 crew cab truck with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating up to 24,000 pounds instead of the police package sedan. The concept of the program started several years ago and came together towards the end of 2008 and early 2009 as a result of several tragic accidents involving Oregon Fire Service drivers. As with law enforcement emergency vehicle operation course (EVOC), the foundation of the Fire Service Program is a sound base of training that emphasizes the dynamics or performance characteristics of the vehicle, an awareness of the space occupied by the vehicle and how this impacts the overall environment, taking into consideration driving conditions.

Driver/Apparatus Operator Competency

Once the base knowledge, skills and abilities have been established or identified through such standards as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Driver/Apparatus Operator Competency, the SAFAD curriculum provides the actual hands on experience to support and reinforce the base training.

In designing the program the goal was established to provide each attending operator the psychomotor skills and mental attitudes that are essential to becoming the most competent, skillful and responsible driver possible. Overall, the program performance objective is to reduce Oregon’s statistical numbers in the national list of accidents and injuries. In the past 12 years, 16 Oregon firefighters were killed in vehicle crashes while on duty.

SKIDCAR Systems

To deliver the training, various solutions were considered, with DPSST ultimately choosing SKIDCAR Systems. The SKIDCAR System consists of two hydraulic platforms mounted to the front and rear axles of the truck. An instructor who is seated next to the driver adjusts the grip using a computer that is slaved to the hydraulic platforms. The instructor is able to create and repeat circumstances where it is possible for the driver to lose control, experience common roadway hazards, and do so at low speeds with no physical risk to the driver, instructor, or equipment.

See the full article here
Article from: DPSST November 2012 Newsletter, Volume 1 Issue 3
Department of Public Safety, Standards & Training, 4190 Aumsville Hwy SE Salem, OR 97317