North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and N.C. Air National Guard Col. Michael “Troy” Gerock on Thursday announced a partnership between the Guard and the Office of State Fire Marshal to establish a state emergency training center at the Stanly County Airport, which will be the second such facility in the nation.
“This new emergency training center offers many opportunities for our state,” said Commissioner Causey. “It will spark economic growth to the region as well as provide specialized training for our emergency responders to keep our residents better protected,” he said.
The Stanly County Airport NCANG facility was chosen as the site for the new emergency training center for several reasons: It has a burn building, confined space, trench rescue and structural collapse training facility needed for this type of specialized training. It is also centrally located and sits near various types of terrain needed for training — lakes, the Rocky River, Morrow Mountain State Park and the Uwharrie National Forest. A FEMA warehouse is nearby and the site is close to the state’s largest city, Charlotte.
The Stanly County Airport NCANG facility also allows the OSFM to create the emergency training center with no upfront costs.
The memorandum of understanding states the N.C. Air National Guard will provide maintenance and custodial services for the facility and pay for the utilities. The Office of State Fire Marshal will have a facility manager, schedule OSFM fire training, supervise fire training exercises, provide courses at the site at no cost to Air National Guard Fire Department, and be responsible for cleanup after each use.
The facility will also benefit the Tarheel Challenge Academy in New London by providing vocational and technical training for academy students. The Tarheel Challenge program is a N.C. National Guard 22-week quasi-military residential program for 16-to-18-year-olds who have either dropped out or are at-risk of dropping out of high school. Following graduation, the academy provides a 12-month period of placement and monitoring to help the youth adjust to career paths.
Commissioner Causey has pushed for programs to get more youth interested in fire and emergency services, citing difficulties many volunteer fire departments have recruiting and retaining members. This program and the new N.C. Emergency Training Center is designed to encourage more youth to enter fire and emergency services.
- The emergency training center at the Stanly County airport will provide firefighters and rescue members with advanced training. The state’s community colleges will still provide the vital role of offering basic firefighting and emergency courses.
- There is a high demand for Fire Investigation Technical and Fire Officer III programs in North Carolina. The emergency training center will help meet that demand.
- Rural fire and rescue departments will find it is more economical to send members to the emergency training center than to hotels. The training center can house and feed personnel for $30 a day.
- North Carolina has approximately 52,000 firefighters. Approximately 14,000 of them are career firefighters. The rest are volunteers.