The classes, which are six weeknights and two weekends, begin on Sept. 11 (Thursday) and next Tuesday, Sept. 16. The classes are held at the new fire training academy in Shirlington (2800 S. Taylor Street).
The classes cover disaster preparedness, disaster medical operations, fire suppression and utility shutoff, disaster psychology, terrorism, light search and rescue and team organization, according to Community Emergency Response Team volunteer coordinator Cythina Kellams. The session concludes with the trainees participating in a mock-disaster response.
“To date, more than 650 Arlingtonians have completed CERT training, many of whom have elected to be members of neighborhood teams available to assist the county in disasters,” Kellams wrote in an email. “Following the 2012 derecho, CERT members provided critical back-up to the county’s disabled 9-1-1 system.”
The classes are open to anyone who lives or works in Arlington and is 18 and older. If accompanied by a parent, 16- and 17-year-olds are also welcome. To secure one of the limited remaining spots, and for more information about class times, email ArlingtonCERT@gmail.com.
Photo courtesy Cynthia Kellams
Arlington County showed off its new $4.9 million fire training academy Tuesday.
County Board member Libby Garvey and members of the media got a tour of the facility, which is located at the county property yard (2800 S. Taylor Street) near Shirlington. The new fire training ground includes a seven-story tower, a sprinkler room and smoke generator, realistic stair and floor configurations, rappelling and rope rescue gear, and a below-ground storm drain system for technical rescue training.
The tower, in particular, is a new addition that allows firefighters to train in environments that are more reflective of the kind of apartment buildings now being built in Arlington.
“The multi-level building offers a variety of structural designs to simulate commercial, residential, basement, mid-rise and high-rise operations,” the county said in a press release. “Many of Arlington’s new buildings are high-rises, which require specialized fire-fighting training. Now, with the new facility, ACFD will be able to engage in more realistic training scenarios specifically tailored to the County’s needs.”
“Firefighters must continually adapt and learn new techniques to stay safe and keep up with changes in building construction and materials that are causing fires to burn hotter and spread faster than in the past,” the press release continued. “The in-county facility also provides savings in time, money and emissions previously spent sending fire fighters and recruits to other jurisdictions for critical training.”
In addition to fire and rescue training, the facility will be used by the fire department’s bomb squad, HazMat team and by the police department for certain training scenarios.
“The safety of our community is our highest priority,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “The new tactical facility provides our first responders with the most up-to-date training possible to help keep our fire fighters and community safe.”
Construction of the facility began in November 2012 and wrapped up in October 2013. A public open house will be held at the new fire training academy from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday (April 5).
The facility will be built on the grounds of Dulles International Airport as a joint venture with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Arlington County will contribute $7 million to the project. MWAA will contribute about $5 million and the land, valued at $6 million.
The new facility is necessary, county officials said, because the Dulles-area range where Arlington officers currently train does not have running water and permanent restrooms. It also has no covered firing points and minimal classroom space.
Other federal and local law enforcement ranges were considered but rejected. An Alexandria shooting range, historically used by Arlington officers, is now only available on an “emergency” basis, and a Loudoun County range is “antiquated,” according to a staff report. The yearly expense of using private ranges, meanwhile, was deemed to be too high.
Building the range in Arlington was considered but rejected due to the fact that it would have to be indoors and would not provide a full range of training options.
“The lack of a permanent home for Arlington’s public safety personnel has hampered training, and increased costs for the County,” county staff reported. “This Agreement guarantees that Arlington will have a secure and up-to-date facility for 25 years in order to meet training needs for Arlington County Police and Arlington County Sheriff uniformed personnel for firearms proficiency training, qualification, and tactical training needs.”
“The training facility will include two 25-lane, 50-yard open firing ranges, along with a 300-yard rifle deck,” the county said in a press release. “The joint facility also will offer a 7,200 square foot modular training building, several classrooms and a secure storage area.”
Plans for the facility were reported by ARLnow.com in April. The plans faced criticism from repeat Green Party candidate for local office Audrey Clement, who questioned the $7 million cost.
“The NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel,” Clement said. “If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”
County officials called a partnership with the NRA “impractical” due to various factors. The joint venture with MWAA, officials said, will allow Arlington and Airports Authority officers to get the firearms training they need for modern law enforcement.
“We are fortunate to have this chance to partner with MWAA in building this much-needed training facility for our law enforcement departments,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada, in a statement. “This facility will help ensure that our police and sheriff’s deputies, for years to come, will get the training they need to continue to protect and serve our community.”
The new Dulles range is expected to take about a year to build.
Proposals are in the works for constructing a permanent firearms training facility for the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. The preferred plan involves upgrading and expanding a facility on the Dulles International Airport property, which Arlington police currently shared with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) police.
Arlington does not have its own facility for such training, and had been sharing Alexandria’s until 2008. At that time, it was determined that Alexandria’s use had grown to such a point that it could no longer accommodate the more than 350 ACPD members and more than 100 Sheriff’s Office members as well. Arlington has been using the MWAA police shooting range since then.
The Dulles facility is said to need upgrades and an expansion. Right now, it houses a 15 point outdoor range, but under the new plan would expand to include two 25 point firing ranges and a 300 yard rifle deck. The facility currently has no shelter from weather, no running water or fixed restrooms and no classroom space.
An alternative to upgrading the Dulles range would be to find enough land on which to build a training facility within the Arlington County limits. That, however, does not appear to be a viable option, according to Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz.
“We don’t have the land to do it. Having a firing range within the confines of the county would present some difficulties,” said Schwartz. “Try to find 21 acres in Arlington and just think of the cost.”
Arlington County lists the project in its 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The proposed price tag of $12 million, $7 million of which would be provided by Arlington County, may seem daunting to some, such as former Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement. She spoke at the County Board Public Budget Hearing last Tuesday (March 26), likening the firing range to other county funded projects she considers wasteful, such as Artisphere, the aquatics center at Long Bridge Park and the Columbia Pike streetcar.
“The project’s justification says that the firing range is needed because the one currently in use at Dulles lacks running water, fixed restroom facilities and covered firing points,” she said. “Does providing those facilities actually cost seven million plus dollars? If so, the NRA has a state-of-the-art shooting range just off the I-66, Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel. If this range works for the NRA, and they are highly successful, why won’t it work for Arlington police?”
Partnering with the NRA is not feasible, according to Schwartz.
“That comment, I could spend an hour telling you why her suggestion was impractical,” Schwartz said. “I really think the perception would be that this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ I don’t think the county manager or the police chief or sheriffs think this is a ‘nice to have thing.’ This is a very basic part of their training and skills that they need to have.”
ACPD Deputy Chief Jay Farr added that the current cost is a good deal when taking into consideration that MWAA is footing $5 million of the total bill, in addition to supplying the land, which Schwartz estimates to be worth at least $5 million.