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updated: 10/22/2013 5:37 AM

COD to build second homeland security training facility on campus

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College of DuPage is moving ahead with the second phase of construction for its training center for emergency response agencies to be built on the school's Glen Ellyn campus.

The college's board of trustees recently approved architectural and construction management contracts totaling close to $2.65 million for the proposed $16 million project.

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The 35,000-square-foot Homeland Security Training Institute, which COD hopes to complete by spring 2015, will be at the site of the college's Open Campus Center west of Lambert Road in Glen Ellyn. It will be just a few hundred feet from the Homeland Security Education Center, which opened in October 2011.

The facility will house four multiuse classrooms and four simulators for scenario-based training, as well as an underground shooting range for COD's Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. The academy, at the college since 1994, is one of six in the state and has 49 recruits in a 12-week class.

"There really is no quality shooting facility for law enforcement professionals in the area," COD President Robert Breuder said. "The primary purpose of this facility is to provide an opportunity for students going into first-responder training; the second priority is the (law enforcement) academy. It would be used for continuing education for law enforcement professionals."

COD officials at one time envisioned the second phase of the project to be an off-campus facility on 30 to 50 acres and looked at several locations in DuPage County, including one near West Chicago. The off-campus site would have allowed for wish-list training items such as a full-sized airplane fuselage and several derailed train cars.

But Breuder said that by late June or early July, officials realized they could not find the $75 million to $90 million government backing they needed to build the even more comprehensive facility. The current project is being funded with money from a 2008 referendum approved by voters.

"We thought, 'We'll scale it back, get the heart of it and do it on our campus,'" Breuder said.

A key element of the new facility will be the subterranean shooting range designed so no noise will emanate above ground. Participants in the law enforcement academy now shoot outdoors at a location in Will County that must be booked a year in advance.

"It's long overdue," said Mike Casey, the academy's director, who was hired in June after 26 years with the ATF. "I applaud Dr. Breuder for taking the initiative to see this gets completed."

The $30 million Homeland Security Education Center features 66,000 square feet of training areas and classrooms for the criminal justice program and other first-responder training.

The facility also houses a large lecture hall that doubles as a mock courtroom, and a forensic science laboratory where students can learn to fingerprint and process evidence.

Roughly 1,400 students are in the criminal justice program each semester, with five different EMT classes handling 125 students per semester.

A key feature of the building is a tactical village that allows real-world incident-response scenarios for various departments, including police and fire. The streetscape can re-create and video any scenario, from a bank robbery to a medical emergency.

The closest training center of its kind is in Texas.

"If they (first-responders in training) are going to make a mistake, we want them to make a mistake here -- not out there," said Tom Brady, associate dean/director of the Homeland Security Training Institute. "The pretending is all over. This is as real as it gets."

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