Burlington County plans to use federal funding to update police and firefighter training tools and emergency management equipment.
The Burlington County Commissioners voted to appropriate money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to upgrade the Firearms Automated Training Simulator used to train law enforcement officers at the County Public Safety Center and update the fire simulating equipment employed by firefighters training at the County Emergency Services Training Center.
The Commissioners also approved using ARPA funds to purchase a new command vehicle to support emergency management operations.
“Protecting public safety and public health are always our top priorities and these upgrades will ensure our first responders are properly trained and equipped,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “It’s an investment in the health and safety of our residents and also those who put their lives on the line to serve and protect them.”
Firearms Automated Training Simulator
Burlington County plans to use ARPA funding to upgrade the Firearms Automated Training Simulator, also known as FATS.
The video system was first installed in the Burlington County Public Safety Center in Westampton decades ago and provides police officers real-life scenarios they may encounter on patrol or while conducting investigations to test their split-second reactions, decisions, and actions.
The current system is nearly a decade old and is expected to be replaced with a new virtual system that includes three wraparound screens and additional training scenarios.
Virtual simulators like FATS have been proven to improve officers’ speed, accuracy and judgement in the use of the force, and they are also credited with helping to reduce the training costs for law enforcement officers.
“Burlington County law enforcement officers often face unpredictable and frantic situations on patrol or while conducting investigations. FATS is proven to be an effective tool for helping to simulate these situations. It allows them to sharpen their training and learn valuable de-escalation techniques that can help them in the field,” said Burlington County Commissioner Allison Eckel, the liaison to the Department of Public Safety.
Fire Academy building
The County plans to use ARPA funding to update fire training simulator equipment at Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center in Westampton.
The fire training equipment is used to safely simulate the smoke and fire conditions firefighters face when battling fires in various buildings, structures and vehicles. Running drills and training with this equipment provides life-like fire conditions that helps firefighters to safely learn and practice important firefighting techniques.
The equipment is an essential component of the operations at the Emergency Services Training Center, where more than 400 training sessions and classes are held annually. Last year, 31 local fire departments also utilized the center’s training grounds and fire simulator buildings 84 times for instruction and drills.
“It takes a special person to step forward and devote their time and energy to serving their neighbors and communities, and even more special to be willing to place your own life at risk,” said Burlington County Deputy Director Tom Pullion. “We know battling fire is dangerous, so we’re taking this step to ensure those who do enter the fire service can be properly trained. The skills they learn and practice will not only make them more proficient at what they do, it can help them better protect themselves and save the lives of others.”
The Burlington County Department of Public Safety also plans to use ARPA funding to purchase a mobile emergency management command vehicle.
Burlington County is the largest county in New Jersey covering approximately 827 square miles, presenting a challenge to first responders during disasters or other emergencies. A mobile command vehicle will allow the County’s emergency management team to respond to any situation and help coordinate response, relief and recovery operations with local responders on-site while remaining connected to other resources.
“Burlington County has experience managing all manner of disasters, including hurricanes, floods, blizzards and wildfires and it’s essential that our emergency management team be properly equipped to respond and coordinate resources on-site where they are most needed,” said Eckel. “An OEM command vehicle is an essential tool that will provide the space and equipment for responders to safely work together during most any disaster.”