First responders face dangerous situations on a daily basis. As such, these individuals need to ensure they have the best possible training to handle the chaotic moments inherent in their line of work.

Chicago announces new training facility

In a move aimed at improving the readiness of first responders, the City of Chicago recently announced the opening of the Public Safety Training Academy for firefighters and police officers, according to WGNTV.

The facility will be built on 30 acres of land in the Garfield Park neighborhood on the city's west side, and will house a mock two-flat building, public buses and locomotives used to simulate real-world scenarios for training purposes. The nearly $96 million "state-of-the-art" facility will also include shooting ranges and dive-training pools in addition to classroom and outdoor areas for staging emergency scenes.


"It will include the resources we need to prepare for policing in the 21st century," noted Chicago Police Department Superintendent Kevin Navarro.

City officials said construction will begin in 2018 and will take two to three years to finish. Officials also noted that the project will create nearly 100 construction jobs for the neighborhood.

Building greater partnerships

Not only will the new facility serve as an advanced training ground for local first responders, but city leaders also expect it to create greater bonds of unity between various departments, agencies, municipalities and jurisdictions.

"The new center will train firefighters and police officers simultaneously."

Unlike its current system, where firefighters and police officers train at their own respective facilities, the new center will train both groups simultaneously. This setup should prove helpful as most emergency situations in Chicago involve members of both the fire and police departments.

Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago welcomed the news, noting that it's more important than ever before that all types of first responders train together since communities are impacted by emergencies that often require simultaneous police, fire and EMS services. When all of these different departments can successfully work in concert, it produces better overall results for everyone.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel believes Chicago will become a must-visit destination for departmental training from nearby states as well.

"So it will be a real economic development," Emanuel explained. "People from the suburbs come train here, downstate come stay here for small fee; [sic] we will let people from Wisconsin, Indiana come train here."

Colorado opens new training facility

Chicago isn't the only place making efforts to update the training of its first responders, as other locales also take steps to upgrade their facilities to reflect real-world scenarios and the ever-changing nature of the threats they face on a daily basis.

For instance, Wheat Ridge, Colorado, recently transformed a closed-down elementary school into a first responders training facility, according to NBC affiliate KUSA-TV. After 60 years of educating children, the Jefferson County School District shut down Martensen Elementary in 2011.

The facility – named The Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety after the principal at Columbine High School during its infamous student shooting incident – has already hosted 17 agencies from across the country. These bomb techs, SWAT teams, school resource officers, federal agents and Navy Seals use the facility as it reproduces a realistic school environment, providing first responders a better idea of their limitations and capabilities as they protect students and teachers.

Faced with evolving threats and dangerous situations, first responders need training adequate enough to prepare themselves for the latest iteration of emergencies. With upgrades and state-of-the-art facilities at their disposal, first responders will have the tools and means to improve their practices and be ready to face a whole new set of real-life situations.