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world of public safety, more and more public safety departments are finding that their current training facilities are outdated and sorely lacking in the equipment, technology and props needed to adequately train their growing numbers of police and firefighters.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

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 and Firefighter Hiring Trend Continues

Earlier this year I wrote about the Turning Tide in Police and Firefighter Hiring. As weJobs reach the midyear point, police and firefighter hiring trend appears to be accelerating along with a couple of interesting twists.

Class of 20 Immediately Following 40

Kansas City is planning a recruit class of 20 new police officers immediately after wrapping up its current academy class of almost 40 cadets, one of its largest classes. The department reports that last year it had 400 applications for the police academy. Recruiters this year are looking for a new incoming academy class of about 20 people, but so far the applications aren’t pouring in like they were last year. It is still early in the process and the numbers of applicants will surely rise.

Read more from Kansas City: HERE

Salaries Remain Strong

In New Jersey the Rutherford mayor and council have approved hiring new police recruits after several years of a hiring freeze. While the recruits are in the academy they will earn $27,242 and within eight years the new officers could earn up to $99,639 per year.

Police Chief Russo said that he hopes this is sign of change for the police department, which has not had the ability to hire new officers for a number of years. “To be honest, said Russo, I’m not looking to get back to the 49 officers that we had when I first started. I just want to be able to staff all of the shifts without having to constantly dip into overtime.”

Read more details from Rutherford:  HERE

Diversity in Hiring Continues

In Erie, PA nearly 300 applied to become City of Erie firefighters. The strong diversification trend continued in Erie where officials say the pool includes African American, Latino and female candidates. Preliminary results show that the pool includes 20 women; three African-American men; three Latinos; one African-American woman; and three who listed their ethnicity as “other.”

An ongoing recruiting effort continues as it as for the past few years. Erie has printed brochures detailing application requirements that are distributed throughout the community, including local churches. To expand its reach, the city has also advertised on its website, www.erie.pa.us, and in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland newspapers.

Read more details from Erie: HERE

New Firefighter Hires Help ISO Rating

In Springfield, FL the commissioners voted to hire six new firefighters before the June 1st deadline set by Insurance Services Inc. (ISO). In October ISO informed the commissioners the city’s rating would increase — homeowners would pay more for insurance — without the additional firefighters to meet staffing level requirements.

With the decision to hire six firefighters the commissioners also approved a budget to spend  $12,042 to equip the new firefighters with coats, pants, suspenders, boots, helmets, gloves and shields.

Read more from Springfield: HERE

Increased Hiring Brings Competition

The economy is moving slowly toward recovery and in law enforcement, like many industries, jobs are beginning to open up again.

Bigger departments are opening their doors to new hires and many local officers are ready to take them up on the promise of higher pay, lower cost of living and more action on the job.  Unable to compete, local departments are again beginning to struggle to keep well-trained and qualified people on staff.

Its been recently reported that Denver PD ended a more than four year hiring freeze last fall and was on track to bring on 100 new officers in 2013. Many of these larger agencies will pull new hires from smaller agencies who cannot compete with salaries, benefits and in some cases more career opportunities.  

A new patrol deputy for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (Colorado) can start off at an annual salary of approximately $45,000. Denver PD pays a police officer 4th grade more than $51,000 and salaries are set to increase next year. (According to the departments web sites.)

Read more: HERE

Firefighters and Paramedics Finding Higher Paying Jobs

In the past three years, Georgetown County, SC has lost nearly 100 firefighters and paramedics to higher paying jobs. Some took jobs in places as close as Horry County, where starting salaries are about $5,000 higher than in Georgetown County.

Leaving For More Pay

One firefighter/paramedic took the same position in Montgomery, Md., for a salary of $70,000. That’s $11,000 more than fire chiefs, the highest paid firefighting employees in Georgetown County, earn. Another firefighter moved to Florida to make surfboards. He now makes more money than he did at Midway Fire Rescue.

Read more from Georgetown: HERE

Will Police and Firefighter Hiring Continue?

I think yes. After tracking police, fire and all public safety job growth there is an unquestionable national up-tick in job hiring across all areas, disciplines and specialties. Another trend worth mentioning is the number of veterans turning to jobs in public safety after their honorable careers. Well trained vets along with the dramatic growth of college curriculums in fire and police science programs (I will be writing more about community college programs in the near future) will make competition tough for applicants but offer a huge benefit for counties and cites.

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.

 

Police and Fire Academies Hiring: Is the Tide Turning?

We have all read the headlines and many have felt the reality of reduced or eliminated public safety recruit academies over the past 4 years. As the Managing Editor of Responder Gateway, I keep a close eye on technology trends, events making news, chatter around the coffee pot and reports from our sponsors. Starting last September I began to notice a change. Have we turned the corner on reduced Fire/EMS and Police hiring? Can we state without a doubt that the worst of the hiring freeze is over? As with most things, there is no absolute yes or no answer. However, as the old song goes, “The Times They Are a Changin’.” In August/September of 2012, we began to see headlines such as this one from Toledo Ohio: “42 begin 26-week push to become Toledo officers.” Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs said the new officers are “desperately needed.” The department went years without hiring a police class and in the last year-and-a-half, has been trying to play catch-up and bolster the ranks amid retirements and a gap in hiring. Police Cadet

Division Chief Michael T McIntosh of the Adams County Sherriff’s Office in Colorado reports “We have certainly seen an uptick in our Academies. We, for the first time in 5 years had every seat filled in our Academy, in fact we had 7 additional seats causing me to conduct skills training on Saturday. Our July Academy is already full and my staff is ready to kill me because I asked them to look at the possibilities of running a third academy. Needless to say, business is very good!

Psychologist use a term called “perceptual vigilance.” In layman’s terms, perceptual vigilance occurs when one becomes aware of something, such as news and conversation, and your mind changes the way it filters your impressions of it. Suddenly, it seems like the thing you’re interested in is appearing all the time.

Now in 2013, we see this trend of new recruit academies springing up in many parts of the country. This resurgence of new hires is not limited to just police or just fire – it’s occurring across both disciplines. So why now? What has changed or is changing? Several factors can be attributed to the hiring upswing, including:

  • Overtime Savings – Last year, Providence, RI Mayor Taveras stated at a new academy class ceremony that “The new fire academy will create good family jobs in our city and at the same time save up to $1 million annually by reducing overtime costs.”
  • Community Risk Reduction Program – In January the Philadelphia Firefighter Academy graduated its first firefighting class trained in the new Community Risk Reduction Program.
  • Hiring Due to Attrition – In Joliet, IL, staffing is down in the police department due to attrition and early retirements. The city looked for ways to save money to ward off budget shortfalls in recent years. But now the city intends to replace retirees to maintain staffing levels by adding 10 new officers to the existing staff. The city is also taking a new approach to hiring by seeking trained and certified officers. This will save the city money and allow officers to help out immediately.
  • Departments Training Together to Reduce Academy Costs – In Anoka County, MN fire departments identified the serious need to bring training into one place to reduce training costs. The combined efforts of 15 department chiefs found that over the next four years, 236 new firefighters would be needed to keep the departments at their current staffing levels.
  • Academy SAFER Grant Success – The academy in Anoka County received a $1.57 million SAFER grant in August 2012. The grant fully funds the academy for the next four years, including medical screening and equipment. It also includes a $500 bonus for the academy graduates if they stay with their departments for a year.

Speaking with several academy directors, there is an impressive focus on background, experience, and age of the new recruits. As new academies begin, the standard of new student (recruits) has never been higher. Several commons factors among police and fire academies seem to be overriding contributors to the selection of new recruits:

  • It is common place to see very large numbers of applicants for very few academy slots. For example:
    • In San Jose, CA there were 800 applicants for 52 positions and city reports 1,400 applicants for its next academy class.
    • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has notified 2,800 eligible candidates who previously expressed continued interest in police jobs that up to 175 will be selected for their July academy.
  • Diverse backgrounds and experience are also driving high recruit hiring standards. Recruits with military backgrounds and recent multiple combat deployments on their resumes are common. Academy selection committees are enthusiastic about the work experience and discipline these individuals bring to the table and are pleased that they are able to employ veterans. It’s not uncommon in today’s recruit academy class to have new recruits between 27 and 35 years old; veterans; those looking for second careers choices; and those with advanced college degrees. Here are several examples of today’s experience and diversity:
  • Rochester, NY- Fire Academy consisting of 24 city residents includes one Asian male, two white females, one African American female, 11 African American males and nine white males; five of these recruits are also military veterans.
  • Madison, WI – Graduated 20 new firefighters from its recruit academy. Some examples of the recruit background include: USMC Reserves, Degree in Fire Protection Technician, Accounting and Paramedic License, Degree in Business Marketing, Degree from Northern Michigan University. One new recruit holds certificates in Firefighter I & II, Driver/Operator – Pumper, EMT – Basic, Fire Inspector I, Driver/Operator- Aerial, Fire Officer I, and Fire Instructor I.
  • Huntsville, AL – HAS just graduated 32 cadets, its largest and most diverse academy ever. The March 2013 graduating class includes 7 African American, 17 white males, 5 white females, 2 black females, 1 Asian female.

If my perceptual vigilance is accurate, we should not call the era of training academy cancellations and postponements a thing of the past; however, the darkest days seem to be behind us. Most job watch statistics derived from the leading job search platforms indicate an optimistic public safety job outlook over the next few years. This is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

DOL forecasts that employment for police officers will experience growth through 2014 with competition remaining high due to attractive salaries and benefits, particularly with state and federal agencies. Further, recruits with college training in police science, military police experience, or both should have the best opportunities. Firefighter recruit statistics are also expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Just as with police recruits, fire recruits will see strong competition for academy slots.

Going forward, and now with your “perceptual vigilance’ on full alert, keep an eye and ear on news and events in your community. It seems to me that recruit academies are going to get very busy in the very near future. And that’s one change in the tide we’d all like to see.

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.

 

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

Economic News and Its Impact on Public Safety

The economic news coming from cities and counties nationwide is abysmal. With the nation in a deep recession since 2007, some say even larger budget cuts are now reaching public safety agencies. It seems that only one year ago these daily headlines were unheard of: Budget Cuts Reach Public Safety, Fire Department Copes With Budget Cuts And Staff Shortages or Fire Department Cancels Recruit Academy. But today, these and similar headlines are common. Here in San Diego, Police Chief William Lansdowne is predicting a loss of more than 100 sworn officers. As reported in the USA Today, nearly 70% of police agencies have cut back or eliminated training programs this year as part of local government budget reductions (according to a survey this fall of 608 agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum).

Looking for Ways to Reduce Police and Fire Department Costs

Last month the Public Safety Training e-Newsletter featured an article from the Fresno Fire Department outlining their plan to replace sworn training staff with civilian instructors. Since the Fresno article was broadcast in mid-September many newsletter readers have told me similar stories regarding changes to their training departments. Simply doing more with less is the new mantra and it appears to have become the “new normal.”  I have spoken to major metropolitan agencies and small rural training departments — all are looking (most forced) to find more efficient ways to deliver training. Apparently even in hard times new visions and ideas can still emerge. Some of the ideas are really exciting and in some cases “out of the box,” such as: consolidation of multiple department training exercises, distance learning technologies, collaboration with community college programs, live podcast training classes, and merging of intra governmental department training classes.

Thank you; Policeman, Firefighter, my good friends

As we move into the Christmas season, cards are starting to arrive in the mail, phone calls to family members are at full throttle (asking who is coming who is not) and, of course, comes the annual ritual of hanging the outdoor lights. As the pace quickens and holiday music fills the airwaves, please take a moment to visit these links: (1) The CBS Sunday Morning Show segment that featured Steven Koeser

and (2) the tribute to all volunteer firefighters and tragic death of San Diego Police Officer Christopher Wilson (my home town). I mention these two because they touched me in different ways — the smiling face of Firefighter Koeser’s four-year-old daughter, Lexus, trying so hard to understand and holding on to her Mom, and report of two homeless men who donated $20, their day’s collection money from “canning,” (lingo for collecting cans and bottles to recycle) to the Wilson family. Here are two links that everyone reading this newsletter should visit and visit often.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

It’s a bit early for New Year’s resolutions, but at the top of my list will be to say a “Thank you” to every policeman or fireman I come in contact with in 2011. I am not a fireman or policeman but have had the privilege to watch, listen and work alongside so many over the past twenty years. I have seen the unbelievably hard work they do and the valuable services (often unsung) they perform. We pick up maxims in life; one of mine is, “I could never be a fireman or policeman, I’m not brave enough.” It usually brings a smile or laugh — the reality is that it is so very true. So let me start my New Year today by saying, “Thank you, my good friends.”

Wishing Everyone a Happy and Safe Holiday Season,
Bill Booth