Working together has become a template for success in one county in upstate New York. Even with the challenges of shrinking budgets, members of the Monroe County fire service keep moving into the future by embracing the concept of working as partners and sharing resources with others.
Monroe County’s Public Safety Training Facility (PSTF) houses a number of prime players in emergency services. This group includes staff from Monroe Community College (MCC) who oversee the facility’s day-to-day operations, the Monroe County Fire Bureau’s command staff, the Rochester Fire Department’s Training Division, which includes the Special Operations Unit, and the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management.
The facility is comprised of classrooms, labs, conference rooms, training props and the county’s Emergency Operations Center. Classrooms are equipped to provide students with the latest technologies to enhance their learning experiences. The training ground houses a large volume of specialized training props. These props include two specialized aircraft fire simulators, a propane-fueled structural fire training building recently updated with a flashover simulator, a five-story training tower/structural trainer, industrial/flammable gas/automobile fire simulators, roof ventilation simulator, rail car for hazardous materials training, and a new Technical Rescue Building that will be described in detail in a later segment of this article.
The First Days Of the Journey
The concept of a Technical Rescue School has been in the minds of many within the community for a number of years. September 2006 represents the unofficial beginning of this project. At that time, a group gathered in the facility administrator’s office to present this vision. Representatives from the college and the County Fire Bureau listened as the proposal was unveiled. Initiating the project was Peter Rizzo, a member of the Rochester Fire Department (RFD), now retired, and the founder of Tech Rescue Corp., an international technical rescue training company. The idea was to create a facility capable of supporting technical rescue programs through the use of specialized props designed to simulate many of the challenges faced during technical rescue incidents.
Identification of a target audience, a review of data compiled during a regional risk assessment and an overview of the courses this school could potentially offer were the main components of the presentation. By using a gradient approach; one in which the concept would grow over time in an effort to maintain the highest level of program content, appealed to the college’s leadership team. Though funding was not available to immediately move forward with the project, members of the MCC staff ended the meeting with words of encouragement and a promise that they would not set the ideas aside and let them be forgotten.
Over the next few years, the RFD’s technical rescue response capabilities began to expand. With the PSTF being the central training location for the entire county, much of the training related to this growth was done on site. This allowed the college’s staff to observe the various training sessions. These real-life examples of the types of courses and the demand for them helped to support the initial concept. Using a mask-confidence maze for confined-space rescue training was the first step. After a few modifications to the existing prop, the department was able to use the facility for initial training programs as well as ongoing proficiency training and annual drills.
As the fire department continued its development, the need for a facility to house and support the training became even more evident. It must be noted that not only the RFD was expressing a need for these facilities; many of the other departments in the county were also taking on the challenge of preparing their members to respond to technical rescue incidents and expressing a need for a place to train.