West County Fire Has Big Plans for New Training, Education Facility
The organization is expected to announce a major partnership with a local health care system to expand the mission of Safety House and the Advanced Center of Excellence.
The West County EMS and Fire Protection District is expected to soon announce a major partnership that will broaden the mission of a $5 million training and education facility that opened last year.
Safety House and the Advanced Center of Excellence (ACE), located behind the fire house at 13970 Manchester, together contain mock environments that can simulate a range of incidents, a 60-seat auditorium and classroom space. According to Development Specialist Harry Hamm, there are only a few other facilities like it in all of the U.S.
“The real story now that it’s open is how it is evolving and what some of the potentialities are for the future,” he said.
To find that future, Hamm said the next step is to form “meaningful partnerships” with organizations in the area that are interested in the same quality-of-life improvement goals as the fire district, such as the health care industry, the corporate sector and community service groups.
“Many of our partners’ priorities will become ours because we are in the same business, ensuring the health and safety of children and the protection of homes and adult family members,” Hamm said.
This could mean expanding the standard safety courses offered so that they appeal to an audience beyond students, such as senior citizens, and finding innovative new ways to teach them.
“We want to cover all the age demographics eventually,” Hamm said.
It could also mean enhanced training for the area’s first responders by having a facility where hospital staff, for example, and firefighters can exchange techniques and expertise. Given that 70 percent of all the district’s calls are sick calls, Hamm said, this could be especially critical.
“That kind of sharing info, training and knowledge will be what we will be after in concert with safety house,” he said.
While the facility was funded in part by a $19 million bond issue, Hamm said finding a way to develop enough support to take care of the district’s operating expenses while allowing it to expand the mission of Safety House and ACE is part of the challenge.
To this end, Hamm said the district will be forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation called Friends of Safety House to help enlist the community’s support. He said the district is still “firming up” its budgets to see exactly what will be required financially to fulfill the vision they have for the facility’s future.
“They built a Cadillac and we need to put fuel in it,” said Hamm, who started with the district only a month ago. “What it’s going to become is going to surprising a lot of people in a positive way.”