SPRINGFIELD – The Blagojevich administration today commended a joint local, state and federal effort that resulted in a new vertical and confined space rescue training facility at Scott Air Force Base that will benefit thousands of emergency responders throughout southern Illinois. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Velasquez III joined officials from Scott Air Force Base, local, state and federal officials and emergency response organizations to dedicate the new training facility during a ribbon-cutting event Monday.
“Training is integral to effective response, and regional training facilities such as this will help more first responders sharpen the special response skills that are necessary to meet today’s threats and challenges,” said Velasquez. “Many firefighters in southern Illinois are volunteers who have to schedule training around their full-time jobs. This facility will make such training more accessible and cost effective. The bottom line is that lives will be saved with the skills and experienced gained through the continued use of this site.”
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved a proposal by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) to construct regional training centers in partnership with local communities to support baseline and ongoing statewide deployable team training. With the completion of the facility at Scott Air Force Base, 18 sites have been established at a total cost of $3.5 million. The training sites support DHS-approved hazardous materials and technical rescue curriculum.
Velasquez said the new training facility will be a tremendous asset to the more than 3,000 firefighters who work within an hour’s drive of Scott Air Force Base, as well as many others located throughout southern Illinois.
Before the ITTF established regional training capabilities throughout the state, emergency responders had to travel to centralized locations to receive vertical and confined space or structural collapse response training. By enabling responders to participate in training closer to home, local response organizations save money on travel and personnel expenses related to covering shifts for training participants, thus increasing local participation in response teams that can be deployed to support homeland security emergencies statewide.
The ITTF provided a grant totaling $299,018 to fund construction of the recently-completed facility. Scott Air Force Base supplied the site and ground preparation for the project, while St. Clair County oversaw construction. The new training facility consists of a vertical and confined space prop, constructed by stacking multiple boxcar-like containers in a design engineered and tested to be both stable and effective for training purposes.
The ITTF previously provided more than $45,000 to the City of Sauget for the purchase of a trailer and emergency response tools for regional hazardous materials training and development of a structural collapse training house in Sauget. The two Metro East-area facilities will greatly enhance training opportunities for responders in the region.
“This Technical Rescue Training Facility will enable our all-volunteer Mutual Aid Box Alarm Technical Rescue Team and other Southern Illinois teams to continue to hone their technical rescue skills on a regular basis without having to travel out of our response area,” said Chief Randy Lay of the St. Clair Special Emergency Services. “This critical training prepares these teams for any technical rescue incident, from a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, to a man made event, such as a terrorist attack.”
In addition to the training facility at Scott Air Force Base, the ITTF has supported development of regional training sites in Bloomington-Normal, Cherry Valley, Decatur, Effingham, Frankfort, Galesburg, Kankakee, Lisle-Woodridge/Downers Grove, Macomb, Marion, Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA) in Glenview, Northlake, Peoria, Quad Cities, Quincy, Salem and Southern Kane County. Each site offers one or more of the following types of training: ordinary construction collapse, vertical and confined space rescue or hazardous materials.