Public safety training center in Cranberry ready for use

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The finishing touches were applied this week to a $1.3 million public safety training center in Cranberry. The building, which will be used to train the township's first responders, is ready for use.

"This is a key part of our ability to recruit and retain," said Cranberry manager Jerry Andree of the township's ongoing efforts to maintain a volunteer fire company and a healthy emergency medical services unit.

The 5,400-square-foot building was constructed on 5 acres off Route 19 shared by the township's public safety and public works complexes.

"The best thing about it is that it eliminates our volunteers having to spend time traveling to other places for training. It's about maximizing their time and providing their training at home," Mr. Andree said.

The cost of the training facility was covered through proceeds of a bond issue and savings.

Township fire officials have said repeatedly they have been successful at keeping their ranks full because of the department's commitment to training. While Pennsylvania's ranks of volunteer firefighters have dropped dramatically over the years from some 300,000 in the 1970s to about 50,000 today, Cranberry's continues to grow. About a dozen new members were added during 2011, bringing the roster to more than 100.

The public safety training facility was part of the township's master plan developed 12 years ago. Six years ago, the township celebrated the completion of a $350,000, four-story fire tower behind the Route 19 fire station. Also built on the site a year earlier was a police firing range and two concrete pads used for simulated fires and vehicle extradition practice. The property was bought in the late 1990s for $45,000 an acre.

The new building includes a multimedia-equipped training classroom that seats 50 fully equipped firefighters, EMS and police personnel.

The facility also includes a real-life simulation room with all the various fire sprinkler systems the firefighters would be exposed to in the community, Mr. Andree said. Additionally, enough space is available for storing specialized firefighting and police equipment as well as for a piece of fire apparatus that would be used for training.

"This investment by our community and its elected board of supervisors is indicative of its commitment to support highly trained and professional volunteer firefighters," Mr. Andree said. "Cranberry, in the early '80s, understood the approaching challenges of attracting and retaining quality volunteers and made the decision that the community would pay for the facilities and equipment to support a first-class, professional volunteer fire department.

"The volunteers aren't required to have bake sales and ticket sales to purchase the equipment to protect our properties and to save our lives. In turn, the community asked the volunteers to train, train and train to be the best they could be.

"That model has been very successful for our community and, as a result, is attracting and retaining quality volunteers, contrary to the state and national decline of volunteer firefighters."

neigh_north

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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