Local College to Build Public Safety Training Facility

A new, state-of-the-art public safety institute is going up in northeast Houston, part of an effort by Houston Community College to expand the area's law enforcement and first responder training.

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The facility at HCC's Northeast Campus will include a 10,000 square foot fire training tower, a burn building and a 25,000 square foot indoor firing range. Johnny Sessums is the chair of Public Safety Training at HCC and says the complex will be one-of-a-kind.

"The firing range will be unique in the fact that we can create weather conditions inside the range. We can make it rain, we can create smoke, we can make it dark, light, create noise, distractions. The firefighting facility is one that's going to be powered by propane or natural gas or a combination. So it's a clean-burn facility but we'll be able to use theatrical smoke, which is non-toxic, but very effective in training."

When it's complete in August, Sessums the facility will add a new twist to training for police officers and firefighters.

"For the first time, firefighters and police officers will actually train together. Because of the situations of 9/11 and natural disasters, police officers and firefighters have to work together, but yet they don't train together. This facility will allow officers to train together."

Because local law enforcement agencies can't keep up with training needs, the facility will allow people who haven't been accepted into local police and fire academies to get their state licenses, and then work at any police or fire department in Texas. Janelle Scott is a coordinator and instructor at the Law Enforcement Training Center.

"We're an institution where we train those persons who want to go to any police agency in the state of Texas that does not have their own police training facility. So this will be a facility that can be utilized by persons who want to be firefighters, persons who want to be police officers."

Houston Community College officials say they expect to train 250 police cadets and 200 fire cadets when the facility opens for the Fall semester.

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