ECC's emergency training center to start in spring
Construction of Elgin Community College's new Public Safety Training Center in Burlington is wrapping up and the first students will take classes there in spring, officials said.
Work began in fall 2014. The nearly $20 million center on about 120 acres along Plank Road will provide classes and training for police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
"We anticipate having our first class start there mid-spring semester (end of March/April)," said Ileo Lott, ECC dean of sustainability, business and career technologies.
ECC now 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.
"When we are fully operational, the emergency operator (911) program, emergency medical technician basic program and fire science courses will be there," Lott said.
Nearly 80 percent of police officers, firefighters and paramedics are credentialed at community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.
ECC's new center includes an 18,300-square-foot academic building with space for future simulation training equipment, an 11,900-square-foot apparatus building including classrooms and two bays for training on fire and police equipment, and a three-story burn tower, which will simulate residential and commercial fires.
Also coming: an emergency operations simulated lab, a near-functioning command center to train students to respond to emergencies, and a community room available to fire and police departments for public meetings. The facility also will have a digital forensics lab that can be used by police to conduct investigations.
Also on the property are a 139,400-square-foot driving pad with a skid pad, a drafting pond providing water for firefighter training, and a dive pond for submerged vehicle search and rescue training.
"There is a space where we actually have an overturned car to train students on those types of rescue operation," Lott said.
The college is also looking to buy an ambulance for paramedic training.
"If we are able to teach students in the environment that they will be working in, it increases the quality (of learning)," said Carl DeCarlo, interim director of fire science and safety programs. "The new campus will allow us to store and maintain an ambulance and use it in a realistic setting."
The South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District has offered ECC an ambulance it plans to decommission, which would cost ECC between $5,000 and $9,000, Lott said.
A new ambulance could cost more than "six figures," he said. But "we haven't finalized a deal with them at this point," Lott said.
The center has generated much interest among local police and fire departments who want to use it to train their personnel. Ultimately, officials aim to train new and existing police and fire service professionals there.
"We are still working on the accreditation to become a regional training center," Lott said. For that, the center must be certified by the state fire marshal's office. Still, "we're very excited to be able to be a participant in the community in this way," Lott said.