By PEGGY USSERY, Dothan Eagle
DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — The Wiregrass Public Safety Center parking lot is full every day.
Inside the main building, a map of the United States is covered with pins of all the places that have sent people to train at the training center. People traveled from 41 states and five countries.
Just two years after it opened, the centre’s car park has already been extended and last week the Dothan City Commission approved the design of two new classrooms in a building that has been used for training at the ‘shopping centre’. “. Federal funding is being sought to help build an auditorium-style classroom that can accommodate 200 people.
“The way our rooms are filling up, we’re running at 85 to 90 percent capacity every week,” said Jason Wright, the center’s executive coordinator.
There are plans to offer even more training opportunities in the future and hopes that a police academy will be centrally located.
Local departments, state and federal agencies, military units and private companies have all sent personnel to the state-of-the-art training center.
“We knew what we had when it was built,” Wright said. “We knew what we had, but I don’t think anyone expected the popularity and the amount of usage we would have when we had only been open for two years.”
A police academy, however, could have a huge impact for local agencies that must now send new recruits to academies in other parts of the state such as Selma, Tuscaloosa or Montgomery. There is no police academy located in southeast Alabama.
The Dothan Police Department has asked the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to establish a regional police academy for that part of the state at the Public Safety Center, Maj. of Dothan Police, Will Glover. The next step is for the commission to visit the Wiregrass Public Safety Center and vote on the application.
New officers have six months after hire to attend a police academy, Glover said. Problems can arise when classes fill up within this six-month window. Additionally, departments must cover accommodation costs when new recruits travel for training at the police academy, which can take 12 to 14 weeks.
“Obviously having an academy in this area would be beneficial for all departments because once you get past the tuition and the cost of the academy, there will be no additional cost to the departments,” said said Glover.
The Wiregrass Public Safety Center is available for training use 24 hours a day depending on need and course type.
In addition to classrooms, training facilities include a range of “props” used for public safety training. On the police side, there is a shooting range, a sniper tower, a live shooting house, a programmed virtual training simulator with different subject reactions and a police canine training center . On the fire side, there is a drill tower and burn buildings that simulate different types of firefighting scenarios.
There are also props for training in a collapsed structure, confined space, trench collapse, and level crossing. SWAT teams can use buildings to practice entry techniques, and the entire center can be used to train for a full-scale mission. Even the pond out front is used to practice underwater recovery and rescue.
A large concrete pad provides space for fire truck training, and the Teach Me House provides a fully furnished two-story home for first responder training as well as teaching local school students about fire safety. home.
Wright said there are plans to expand farm safety training, particularly what first responders need to know when responding to an agriculture-related accident.
The training offered in all public safety disciplines makes the Wiregrass Public Safety Center unique among other training centers like this, Wright said. The community courses offered at the center – such as gun safety – also set him apart from others like him.
“Very few have everything on one campus,” Wright said. “Even fewer allow the public to come in and use it, and that’s really in my opinion what sets us apart is the type of community classes we offer for men, women and children.”
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