Whether it’s an active shooter or a home invasion, law enforcement officers will soon be able to physically practice preparing for those situations in a new simulated environment at St. Petersburg College.
SPC currently has a Public Safety Training Center on its Allstate Campus, where thousands of officers, firefighters and EMS professionals graduate. The college will be enhancing its existing training programs by building what it calls “Simulation City” – the only one of its kind in the county designed to place these professionals in a realistic, immersive environment with physical structures.
“This is an integral part of our training as the state has moved to incorporate more scenario-based learning instead of only classroom training that’s based on theories,” said Michael DiBuono, SPC public safety programs director, who is leading the program at SPC. “This is really an environment to train officers on how to engage with the public to de-escalate active shooter and domestic situations. We will be able to simulate any scenario.”
Planning for Simulation City kicked off several years ago, and SPC is currently underway with utilizing and installing structures and props to resemble residences, schoolhouses, offices and a park to deliver a truly immersive experience.
“They will be aware of all the doors and windows in a space and recognize areas of concealment,” DiBuono said.
The project is supported by SPC funding and a $510,000 grant from the federal government.
DiBuono, who’s also a former law enforcement officer, said the project isn’t limited to law enforcement. EMS and firefighters in training would benefit from the program as they typically engage with officers on many calls, unifying efforts and ensuring that paramedics are equipped to respond to incidents.
Today, several components of Simulation City that are completed, such as the simulated “shooting house,” the first to host the state-sponsored program for active assailant training. The first floor in the house can replicate an office environment, while the second level can simulate a schoolhouse (the county has donated items such as tables and desks to SPC).
SPC is also creating four mobile home units that will be outfitted as traditional residences.
There will be a road paved within the training area, which will be completely fenced. The Simulation City campus is expected to be completed this year.