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Safety First

Spring 2012

Public Safety Training

FVTC is essential for the cross-training of police, firefighters and first responders.

Fox Valley Technical College is changing the landscape of public safety training. Traditionally, law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical services are trained independently and at different facilities. FVTC’s integrated approach in training these disciplines together reflects the way the services work in the real world.

“The Cottonville fire, just west of Wautoma, in 2005 was an excellent example of why law enforcement, emergency medical services, and fire training work best when they’re essentially functioning as one response unit,” states Rick Buser, department chair and instructor in FVTC’s Wildland Firefighter program. “It burned nearly 4,000 acres and 90 structures. I was there, and everyone had to work together to get the job done safely and efficiently. Now, with our college’s unified approach to public safety, we can make sure everyone is better prepared through cross-discipline training.”

Dr. Pat Robinson, dean of FVTC’s Public Safety division, has been spearheading a plan to integrate these programs since 2008. “These disciplines work together on the street all the time,” she states. “However, we’re one of the very few places where they get to train together. The potential when every field of public safety trains together in the same place is amazing.”

Areas such as arson investigation, which involve both fire and police departments, need professionals who have cross training. And, there is a nationwide trend for consolidating services. “In today’s economy, it’s far more cost effective to have people who can serve in whatever function is needed at any point in time,” explains Dr. Robinson. “The result is very beneficial for the community.”

Access to technology is another important consideration for public safety training. “Every program has an advisory committee that meets at least twice a year to keep us in touch with what is going on in the real world,” says Dr. Robinson. “I’ve been at schools where the graduates talk about how the college equipment is several years out of date. That’s not the case at Fox Valley Tech. Our job is to be an innovation leader with state-of-the-art equipment to keep our grads current in their fields.”

The Criminal Justice department, for example, has a Leica 3D laser scanner used for crime scene reconstruction. The college has made it available for use on a number of actual crime scenes, including a major pile-up accident on Highway 41 in Appleton in July of 2011. “We train our students and make our services available to the units who are actually out in the field,” Dr. Robinson says. “It’s a good deal for the taxpayer, plus it gives our students and instructors more real-world experience.”

Michael Sullivan, the Village of Hortonville’s police chief, validates FVTC’s commitment to staying current with today’s ever-changing needs. “I earned my associate degree from Fox Valley Tech in 1994,” he says fondly. “And, I’ve watched as the college has continually evolved to meet new needs. Just look at forensics, SWAT team, juvenile law, evidence technology, DNA preservation--the list goes on. All of my officers go to Fox Valley Tech for training.”

Sullivan is not alone in his enthusiasm. Jessica Giacalone, a basic-level first responder in the nearby Weyauwega-Fremont community and current student in the Emergency Medical Technician Paramedic program, adds her voice to the chorus of those impressed by FVTC. “I believe that Fox Valley Tech is really making our area a safer and better place to live,” she states. “These programs aren’t easy. They weed out the people who aren’t right for this field and make sure that the people who make it are the best professionals to have on the street.”

Giacalone also appreciates FVTC’s practical, real-world emphasis and hands-on approach to learning. Virtually every class includes demonstrations, and all students take intensive clinical hours for on-the-job experience. In addition, FVTC was one of the first colleges in Wisconsin to have a Human Patient Simulation technology lab.

“The simulated mannequins in the lab are very lifelike,” explains Giacalone. “They cry, laugh, bleed, turn blue, and even urinate. Through working with them, we learn what to do in critical situations and can keep practicing.”

Giacalone looked to FVTC because she wanted to work in emergency situations. “I wanted to be out in the field,” she remembers. “I want to be the first person on the scene and the first person to help in what can be a horrible situation. I think I’ve found my niche here. The college’s reputation in training first responders is well known. I made a great choice.”

Xiong Yang, a recent graduate of the Fire Protection Technician program, came to FVTC as a way to give back to his community. “My family is from Laos and I am the fourth person to graduate from the college,” he says. My instructors worked hard to make sure I learned. I came here not knowing anything about being a firefighter, but now I am very well prepared. My classes were very hands-on.”

Yang also credits a current internship experience with Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue for preparing him for all aspects of the job. “They treat me as if I am another firefighter,” he explains. “I get to help save lives. My captain said that I would be an asset to any fire department, and that gives me confidence in my current job search.” Yang is currently going through various application processes for a job as a firefighter.

“Our work is to bring the most highly qualified people into the fields that require so much from each individual,” continues Dr. Robinson. “And we’re expanding by offering more programs in new ways such as online learning and even fighting wildfires from the sky through partnering with our Aeronautics program. We’re also working on developing fee-based programs as well as continuing to secure government grants.”

“I came to Fox Valley Technical College because it was just too cool of an opportunity to turn down,” concludes Dr. Robinson. “The people here are amazing and we’re leading the way nationally in many areas. We’re making a real difference. My only regret is that I didn’t find this place sooner!”

A National Leader in Your Backyard

“I’ve traveled the country for more than three decades, and Wisconsin is one of the best public safety states in the nation based on communication between firefighters and law enforcement,” notes Gordon Graham, president of Lexipol and 33-year veteran of California law enforcement and national renowned trainer in risk management topics regarding public safety practitioners.

“What has contributed toward Wisconsin’s special disposition in this area is the exemplary public safety training initiatives of Fox Valley Technical College, which continue to standardize best practices in services for those who serve and protect us,” adds Graham.

FVTC is a national, state, and local leader in training the next generation of public safety professionals, as well as keeping the skills up-to-date for current police officers, first responders, firefighters, and forensic investigators.

“Criminals are finding new ways to commit crimes each day,” says Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson. “It is vitally important that public safety officials, investigators, and first responders work more closely than ever to combat criminal behavior, and Fox Valley Technical College is already taking charge of bringing these fields together to make communities even safer.”

FVTC also takes a leadership role in protecting America’s children through grant-funded training for AMBER Alert, Internet Crimes Against Children, as well as a wide range of training related to missing and exploited children.

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