This is the final installment of a three-part series about the creation of a state-of-the-art technical rescue training center – the Monroe County, NY, Public Safety Training Facility (PSTF). Part one (June 2011) described how the Monroe County fire service acquired a place to train, assembled an instructional staff and staged equipment. Part two (September 2011) detailed ways in which students put classroom instruction into action during hands-on training.
Once the dust had settled and the last trailer of equipment was on its way home, plans for the future of the training grounds began to develop. Working with the Monroe Community College (MCC) staff, decisions on potential location for the new structure as well as conceptual drawings started to dominate conversations.
The effort was guided by Marc Connolly, emergency services programs manager at MCC. He attended the initial technical rescue school proposal meeting in 2006 and ended the meeting with words of encouragement and promised they would not set the ideas aside to be forgotten. Connolly, with the assistance of other staff and instructors from the training facility, took these ideas and put them in motion.
Like many other projects of this size, many factors were considered before construction began. One primary concern was climate. With cold winters and sometimes extremely hot summer days, an interior training location was determined to be the best option. With that in mind, a 41-by-24-foot building was designed. A high ceiling was also a priority, allowing for two primary features – a four-level void-search simulator and a two-level confined-space simulator.
The void-search simulator has become the facility’s signature feature. Through the combined efforts of the MCC facilities team, a design that includes multiple sliding unions and sleeved support members within each floor was sent out for fabrication. The final product consists of a four-level simulator with three 12-by-10-foot adjustable floors. Each floor can be adjusted to any degree or angle.
Safety was a primary consideration throughout the project. Once the desired location of a floor is obtained, it is secured with a pin system at all four corners to prevent any movement. The floors all have preset cutout locations where students can breach levels as they move through scenarios. To move these large floor sections, electric winches were installed at the top of each support post. This method of lift provides the least amount of stress on the units and in the long run will provide a more economic operation due to minimized maintenance needs. The units are controlled from one location so safety and lockout security are maximized at all times.
The confined-space simulator occupies approximately one-third of the interior space of the building. Multiple access points make changing scenarios easy for the instructional staff. Two horizontal entry points, 18 and 24 inches, allow for direct entry of the simulator or they can be modified with lengths of tubing to vary the operation. From the top level there are two other pre-set openings for vertical operations. One opens directly over the lower level while the second opening has an 18-inch vertical shaft with an opening on the first level that provides additional challenges for students.
The Total Package
With the desire to become a regional training facility for technical rescue, all of the features in the structure were designed to provide positive learning experiences. From the newest student who is just getting into this specialized training arena to the seasoned technician from an urban search and rescue (USAR) team, the site’s adaptability answers each of their learning needs.
Durability and sustainability are two areas where the facility’s fabricators excelled. Each prop, as well as the building itself, was built with top-level materials designed to withstand an ongoing assault by students. To create a practical location for construction of raker shores on the exterior of the building, a wooden framing system was placed over the structure’s steel walls. This provided two benefits – protecting the building itself and a surface where raker shores of various configurations can be assembled.