NTC breaks ground on ?Safety Village?
Northcentral Technical College has broken ground on an expanded public safety training village to replace the facility destroyed in the April 10 tornado.
Officials from the school, including NTC President Lori Weyers, briefed city officials on the state of the art training facility at last Tuesday’s Merrill Common Council meeting.
Before the old facility was destroyed, it served about 4,000 students – both NTC students and outside agencies. NTC officials say the expanded facility that will replace it will be able to easily accommodate up to 10,000 a year.
In addition to a much larger classroom facility itself, with three classrooms, a commons area for students, larger space for fire equipment and a tornado safe room, the campus will feature several buildings that can be used to train officers for hostage situations under all kinds of conditions. The village will have street lights that can be turned off and even a “Merrill City Hall” the school included as a way of honoring the city’s contributions to the facility.
The facility will also feature an $800,000 EVOC track that can be used for training emergency vehicle operators how to handle their equipment during bad weather or at night. A central control tower will be able to oversee and control operations on the course and in the village. The track can also be used to help train younger drivers as well as offer refresher courses for senior citizens.
NTC’s Dean of Public Safety Bryce Kolpach told the council that the new facility will be state of the art and will draw police and fire departments from around the state and beyond for the training that it will be able to host. It will also mean that the school will be able to graduate better prepared emergency personnel through its own programs.
“We will be prepping emergency first responders for real life situations,” Kolpach said. “When they leave our hands and go to work, they are as fully trained as possible.
Kolpach said the fire arms training that will be available at the facility when it is completed will be conducted in all weather conditions and also at night. The facility will have the ability to convert the student’s real weapons to fire “advanced paint ball” projectiles instead of bullets. The village itself will feature “reactive” targets that are both in fixed positions and pulled around by a radio controlled robot. When these targets are hit by the paint balls, they will drop.
Kolpach said the advanced training is needed because most graduates of the NTC Law Enforcement program often find themselves working alone and at night on their first jobs. Being able to not only train them properly in the use of deadly force in all conditions, but offer refresher training to whole departments will be a major draw to the new facility.
The new facility will be able to simulate hazardous material spills to help area emergency management agencies the ability to hone their skills for such disasters. Utility crews will also be able to use the facility for training.
“We think it’s going to have a wonderful impact in economic development in Lincoln County,” Weyers told the council.
NTC officials said the classroom portion of the facility will be ready for classes by the start of Spring Semester in January. The driving track and other portions of the village will be constructed next spring. Its burn house has been repaired and is already operational, Weyers said.
The most important feature of the new facility is the classroom building will have a tornado shelter.
“We had 80 people in there training the day before the tornado,” one official said. “If they had been in there that Sunday, they would have had no place to seek shelter.”