Elgin Community College unveils Center for Emergency Services

Elgin Community College's new Center for Emergency Services in Burlington is fully operational with more than 500 students taking courses.

Visitors toured the facilities Wednesday followed by a grand opening ceremony.

The nearly $20 million center, situated on about 120 acres along Plank Road west of Route 47, will provide classes and training for police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. It includes an 18,300-square-foot academic building with simulation training equipment, an 11,900-square-foot apparatus building with classrooms and two bays for training on fire and police equipment, and a three-story burn tower to simulate fires.

Construction on the center began in fall 2014 and the first students began taking classes there earlier this year.

Other facilities at the Burlington campus include a 139,400-square-foot driving pad with a 28,200-square-foot skid pad for students to develop their driving skills, a pond dedicated to search-and-rescue training, and a drafting pond providing water for firefighter training.

Classes are being moved from ECC's main campus in Elgin. The college offers programs in fire science and safety, emergency medical services, hazardous materials and apparatus, fire science management, public safety communications, criminal justice and emergency medical technician-paramedic.

Fire science, EMT and public safety communications are being taught at the center, said Ileo Lott, ECC dean of sustainability, business and career technologies.

A simulation lab at the center offers two simulators for training police officers and firefighters on driving techniques for squad cars, fire trucks and ambulances. A critical incident management lab is used to train for disaster and active shooter scenarios.

Officials expect adding more sections to the semester-long EMT certification program where enrollment has been growing.

"In the summer, we had 17 graduates," Lott said. "We are happy the enrollment didn't decline when we moved."

EMT-paramedic training also will be brought in-house - currently it is run in partnership with Advocate Sherman and Presence St. Joseph hospitals, both in Elgin.

In the college's newest fire science offering - a basic operations firefighter certificate program - trainees will learn to battle live fire using the burn tower on campus. "Fire departments right now, to do this type of training, send their firefighters to Champaign," Lott said.

That certificate program was approved by the Illinois Community College Board this summer, and its courses are sanctioned by the state fire marshal's office. ECC faculty had to undergo special training to be able to offer the course, Lott said.

Officials are expecting the first group of students to begin training in the spring.

Also at the Burlington center is ECC's sophisticated digital forensics lab. It houses a powerful computer system that is free to law enforcement agencies seeking to extract evidence from computers, cellphones, tablets, GPS units and other digital devices.

ECC plans to offer a criminal justice elective course next spring that would allow students to work on unsolved cold cases for credit, Lott said.

  A ladder truck is extended Wednesday at a three-story burn tower used to simulate fires at Elgin Community College's Center for Emergency Services in Burlington. The center includes an 18,300-square-foot academic building with simulation training equipment, and an 11,900-square-foot apparatus building with classrooms and two bays for training on fire and police equipment. John Starks/
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