By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Officials at the Meridian/Lauderdale County Public Safety Training Facility located on Sandflat Road are looking at 2014 as a breakout year in more ways than one.
Bunky Partridge, public safety director, said Monday he is trying to do two main things in the coming year: make the facility an invaluable source of training for police and emergency personnel not only in the state but the entire Southeast: and make the facility financially self sufficient.
"If you look at us from the training standpoint, we are like Disneyland," Partridge said. "We have all kinds of thrills and chills that can train a wide variety of emergency personnel and police."
Partridge is counting on increased training at the facility to fund the operation and maintenance of the 99-acre facility. He pointed to about $47,000 in grant money awarded to the facility for training purposes he believes will make it more attractive to outside agencies.
Just recently, Partridge said the facility hosted almost a dozen emergency personnel training in structural collapses. He said many of these personnel are from outside Meridian, and in some cases, outside the state.
There have also been police recruits getting prepared for their training stints at the state police academy at Pearl. Instructors have been utilizing the classrooms and taking the recruits onto the grounds and its numerous training areas. Firefighters have been using the firehouse to hone their skills. Some of these firefighters are from the Kemper County coal plant facility.
"We are the only training facility in the state that offers both fire and police training areas," Partridge said. "State officials are starting to realize we can offer so much here in Meridian, so I expect the demand for our facility and the services we offer to go up in the next year."
There have been countless sniper training and contest events held at the facility. Partridge said there is a new 500 yard sniper range that can recreate just about any scenario instructors choose. There is also a regular firing range used by local law enforcement and a live-fire shooting house.
With 99 acres, much of it wooded, tough terrain, Partridge said the overland rescue operations routinely tackled by emergency response crews can be replicated.
"How many times are volunteer, police, sheriff's department, and homeland security personnel asked to help with locating an elderly person or child who has gotten lost in the woods?" Partridge asked. "We can teach anyone how to execute those types of operations right here."
Partridge said six overland rescue classes have already been scheduled for early next year that will include agencies from Mississippi and other states in the Southeast.
Overall, Partridge is looking forward to 2014 being one of the banner years for the facility.
"There are other training areas we haven't even talked about," Partridge said. "The main thing is that we stay busy and continue to provide the best training environment possible because the better the training, the better these men and women will be when they are called upon."