Emergency responders in the 21st century will benefit from the high-tech training and instructional delivery options available at the new National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Field under construction in College Station. An Emergency Operations Training Center (EOTC), “Disaster City” and new classrooms and offices will involve multiple divisions working in cooperation with the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) to integrate emergency response.
The $7.7 million project, funded by the Texas Engineering Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System and the State of Texas, is expected to be completed by late fall 2000.
“Effective response to an incident involving weapons of mass destruction requires a radically different approach emphasizing integration and coordination with agencies at all levels,” said Dr. Kem Bennett, director of TEEX. “This state-of-the-art facility will provide responders, emergency managers and public officials the skills they need to coordinate with state and federal multi-agency representatives during complex emergency situations.”
The 14,000-square-foot EOTC will feature state-of-the-art virtual reality simulators and computer-based technologies capable of modeling incidents involving chemical, biological, nuclear, hazardous materials, explosives or incendiary agents. The EOTC will provide first responders with training in the decision-making process of a unified command system, as well as advanced management training in law, fire, EMS, hazardous materials and public works.
“Nowhere else is this technology available for emergency first responders,” said Rick Tye, head of the TEEX Fire Protection Training Division. “Thanks to NERRTC and the foundation that Dr. Bennett has developed nationally, TEEX will have the first computer simulation facility for training local government employees.”
This integrated response program will allow tactical personnel from all disciplines to receive hands-on emergency training on a full-scale scenario, while strategic and emergency management personnel work on incident command training on the same type of scenario. Tactical teams from law enforcement, management and other areas will train alongside firefighters at the facilities.
“The primary tasks that we teach emergency first responders to accomplish in high risk situations involve split-second decisions that often hinge on inter-agency cooperation and teamwork,” said Larry Michalscheck, head of the Law Enforcement and Security Training Division. “The difficulty lies when individual teams or departments are unable to coordinate efforts either through communications or actions. To be successful, representatives from different areas must train together, and Disaster City will meet this need.”
The scenarios can be linked together so that strategic operations personnel simultaneously deal with the computer simulation of the incident, multi-agency communications and the day-to-day operations.
Disaster City will include full-scale training props and provide realism unmatched at any other first responder training site, said Bill May, NERRTC’s director of operations and training. The props will include a retail shopping outlet, industrial and chemical complexes, a collapsed bridge, transportation terminal, derailed passenger and freight trains, utilities and water/wastewater processing complex, single- and multi-family dwellings and an aircraft hostage and rescue training prop.
Other construction projects include 10 new classrooms will full multimedia capabilities and 14 office buildings.
To support the expansion, TEEX has invested in infrastructure improvements, including road repair, a new maintenance facility and fiber-optic communications links.