By Mario Reyna, Dean of Business, Public Safety and Technology Division at South Texas College
Texas Border Business
The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence was once an idea on a piece of paper, but by June 2018 it will become a reality. This much-anticipated educational facility will be the cornerstone for better educated and trained first responders using the most innovative, instructional systems in accordance with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.
Although the facility has not been built yet, the programs that will be housed in this facility are already in place. Currently, police and fire cadets and the corresponding Associate of Applied Science degrees receive real-world education and training that will enhance the department, they intend to work for and the communities they intend to protect.
Three projects are being built at the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence (RCPSE). One is a 19,600-square foot professionally designed building with the most modern technology that will be used to provide an education environment needed by first responders.
Architects and engineers with years of experience in building public safety facilities were responsible for designing the building at the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence.
In addition to modern classrooms with world connectivity, this building will also house two simulators – a driving simulator and firearms simulator.
The FAAC driving simulator is a high-tech tool intended to prepare students to operate emergency vehicles in high risk situations. The driving simulator gives students the realism of operating a vehicle in an emergency situation with three high definition monitors and realistic driver’s console that includes a mobile data computer (MDC), control panel to activate emergency lights and siren, and radio microphone to communicate with the “dispatcher.”
Also available to students to improve their decision-making skills is the VirTra V-300TM, a 300-degree force options and firearms training simulator with five screens. The firearms simulator allows instructors to immerse police cadets in real-world situations such as school shootings, domestic disturbances, and ambushes. Along with tactical firearms training, trainees will receive instruction and practice on other less lethal force options, such as TASER® ECD and OC spray; giving students practice with different use-of-force options available to law enforcement while in the field.
Another feature the training center will provide to cadets is a driving skills pad and a 721-foot straightaway. This is the first site in the Rio Grande Valley dedicated to emergency vehicle driving. Students will refine their skills behind the wheel of various Police Package vehicles, such as the Chevy Tahoe and Caprice, and the Ford Explorer and Taurus.
Maneuvers such as the serpentine, or slalom, and the emergency lane change gives students practice on vehicle control and dynamics, as well as vehicle clearance as it relates to objects on the road.
Another maneuver that most students have limited practice prior to entering the police academy is the backing course. This course gives students the skills to back their police vehicles quickly (under 30 seconds) and safely…with only the use of their mirrors and both hands on the steering wheel.
Not being able to use the passenger-seat-as-leverage-and-one-hand-on-the-wheel technique in this maneuver; students must complete it with only the use of their mirrors, a feat only truck drivers may be able to accomplish easily. The straightaway will allow students to practice maneuvers such as controlled braking, giving students the understanding of braking distance as it relates to speed and vehicle control during emergency braking situations.
Attending the police and fire academy in a college setting is the beginning of a journey that will help cadets increase their critical thinking skills, and broaden their horizon to better understand the environment we live in.
Our communities are changing, so our first responders should adapt to those changes by increasing their level of education to become a global citizen and understand the spectrum of threats that exist in our society.
Continuous education and training is the key to success for any professional, and it is the most vital link in the community that will ensure security and prosperity for all.
The future for our law and fire professionals is very promising, and the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will be the source where all excellence begins and permeates into our community.