NTC open house
Northcentral Technical College will give the public a look inside its Public Safety Center of Excellence (PSCOE) in Merrill during an open house Wednesday, April 24. From noon-2 p.m., the public will have an opportunity to tour the Merrill campus and view demonstrations of the various educational activities conducted there.
The PSCOE was built to serve not only Northcentral Technical College’s students as they prepare for careers in public safety fields, but public safety agencies in NTC’s district and beyond.
The campus is built on 36 acres of land donated to the college in the 1990s. The campus originally opened in 2005, but was hit heavily by the tornado that struck Merrill in April 2011. The main classroom building was destroyed and other structures were damaged.
Plans had long been in the works for the full development of the campus. Along with rebuilding from the tornado, many further improvements were made to the property.
“There was an existing plan for development into more of a multi-use facility than what the original building gave us the opportunity to do,” said Bryce Kolpack, NTC Dean of Public Safety. “We had to rethink what the future of this site will be. We are creating a blank canvas here for training opportunities.”
The main classroom building has three classrooms that can individually hold 18 to 36 students each, interactive video conferencing equipment, an office/conference room and a kitchen area. The apparatus bay can store two fire trucks, an ambulance, as well as assorted other trailers and equipment.
Several features of the campus cater to firefighter training.
The utility training area consists of five unique props: car fire, dumpster fire, residential gas meter fire, propane tank and barbecue grill fire. The props are used to teach fire fighters appropriate extinguishment techniques.
Wisconsin Public Service assisted in the development of a one-of-a-kind leak detection field. Through a valve system that controls an underground grid of piping, instructors can regulate the leaking of natural gas. This allows WPS to run exercises with their staff on the best techniques of finding a leak outside.
The burn tower structure was engineered to deliver live fire training on the first and second floors. The other capabilities of this building include search and rescue, confined space, elevator rescue, balcony rescue and rope rappelling. This building is used by every fire fighter that comes through NTC’s fire programs.
The splash tower/roof prop wooden structures are used for a number of exercises. The roof prop is used when a new fire fighter learns how to cut through a roof the first time. The splash tower is used to certify fire fighters in climbing ladders and to see if they can get to the peak of a roof that is two stories tall.
*The extrication pad was designed to give fire fighters the opportunity to learn to extricate vehicle accident victims under adverse conditions. Instructors can teach simple extrication or they can drop a power pole on the car and make it more complicated. State Farm Insurance sponsored a trailer and extrication tools necessary to complete the training.
*The flashover simulation trailer is a portable live fire demonstrator that allows NTC to bring the live fire experience to any department. Teachers take 5 students inside and a fire is ignited. The students watch how fire develops as well as feeling the heat and intensity of live fire as it grows and roars above their heads.
A unique feature of the campus is the Emergency Village. Resembling a downtown, the buildings in the village are built to be customizable for different training scenarios. The technology incorporated into the buildings include multiple cameras, digital recording, night-time infrared illumination, remotely operated targets, remotely operated internal lights, realistic furniture for props, room-size demarcation.
Overlooking the village, the Command Tactical Operations Center includes a briefing room with Smart Board technology, a control desk with nine monitors, PA system, public safety radio and reactive target remote control.
The village features actual traffic control signal lights, donated by Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The signal lights can be operated by remote control from the CTOC or wireless handheld device.
Each light pole in the Emergency Village is equipped with Wi-Fi antennas, PA system, multiple pan-tilt-zoom cameras, infrared emitter for low-light observation and recording, LED focused lighting and remotely operated on-off switches.
The technology allows training sessions to be conducted and recorded in the dark.
“When our students graduate from our programs, we know that 50% of their work is going to be in darkness,” Kolpack said.
A search and rescue building has been built as a rugged replica of a house with the ability to change entrance doors, a variety of different size rooms, overhead instructor platform and variable stairways, hallways and door openings. It can be used for exercises such as hostage rescue, active shooter, fire victim recovery.
The Emergency Vehicle Operations Course pad is 300’ by 500’ (3.5 acres). The blacktop covering will be of sufficient strength to handle all types of vehicles to include fully loaded fire trucks. The EVOC track is an additional ½ mile of full road-width asphalt with a gravel off-road recovery stripe and multiple, varied curves.
During the PSCOE Open House, both Aspirus Hospital and Ministry Healthcare will be landing their medical transport helicopters on the EVOC pad.
A future addition will be an indoor shooting range. NTC will be building a 25 yard, 12 lane indoor shooting range on this site. Uses will include mandatory firearms training for recruit officers as well as availability for local law enforcement agencies and other class-enrolled shooters.
Other future additions include a collapsed building prop for search and rescue training and train car props for hazardous materials training.
Of the 36 acres, about 28 are now developed. The rest remains wooded, which is also valuable for training law enforcement and emergency responders for incidents such as those involving campers and hunters, Kolpack said.
NTC has about 360 students enrolled in its Criminal Justice, Fire and EMS programs. In addition, there are more than 180 agencies with 3,140 public safety employees within the NTC district. The Merrill PSCOE is available to those agencies, and many are already taking advantage of the opportunity.
Beyond that, NTC plans to offer community education programs such as RV driver training and safety courses for young drivers.
State and federal agencies, private companies and others have expressed interest in utilizing the PSCOE for training activities.
The PSCOE reopened in February 2013. From March-May, about 1,000 people will use the facility.
“It isn’t so much just our students,” Kolpack said. “Law enforcement requires continuing education. We’re reaching out to the entire region to offer training here.”
Kolpack noted that the PSCOE can target the training needs of municipalities, smaller agencies and transit systems, for example.
“This facility is unique in that we are going to have a lot of different things happening here,” he said. “We’re going to be busy as long as we continue to offer the kinds of training that meet people’s needs.”
The plan is for NTC’s PSCOE to be the premier emergency management training facility for northern Wisconsin. To have that facility located in Merrill is a huge benefit to the community, said Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki.
“Economically, it will have a significant impact on the city,” he said. “With having it located right next to the airport, I see airport usage increasing significantly as well.”