Command Training Center

For more information on the Command Training Center, call: 602-534-2373.

The future of firefighting and rescue techniques is here… and the Phoenix Fire Department is making sure its firefighters are prepared for any large-scale incidents that may lie ahead. The Phoenix Fire Department houses one of the only state-of-the-art facilities in the country that can train firefighters and company officers to fight large-scale incidents - without ever putting on a set of turnouts!

The Command Training Center provides interactive simulations of large-scale incidents through computer programs and three-dimensional models. The exercises take firefighters and command officers through simulated incidents to teach them to make better decisions on the fire ground - decisions that could potentially save firefighter and civilian lives.

The Command Training Center (CTC) is responsible for the training and certification of all the Command Officers in the region. All Phoenix Captains, as well as prospective Captains receive training at the CTC each quarter and almost 1,000 firefighters are trained at the facility per quarter. The CTC’s training methodology has been recognized as a model for fire services across the nation.

The CTC is used by Phoenix, as well as other Valley fire departments. Command officers from around the nation have also used the PFD’s CTC. It is capable of training regional FEMA response teams, police departments and Weapons of Mass Destruction responders, as well.

The Command Training Center is divided into several sections to replicate an incident as realistically as possible, from dispatch to knockdown.

Communications: An actual dispatching console, located in a side room, allows a 911 fire dispatcher to “dispatch” the incidents. This provides experience for the dispatcher and allows instructors to track the communications that can be used later in the critiques.

Classrooms: Two classrooms are used for various training sessions, and during simulations they serve as a staging area and as a place to conduct critiques of the incident. The critiques are used to reinforce the positive results and provide discussion of those areas that need to be reviewed. A portable cart is used to hold the mobile computer terminal that provides preplans, maps, response vehicle locations via GPS and communications. The terminal is the same as the one installed in all Phoenix apparatus.

Sectors: There are ten cubicles or kiosks that allow responders to receive or give assignments based on their fire conditions, activities or tasks. Each kiosk has a computer monitor, radio and a headset that allow for communication and interaction, but each participant sees only pictures of his or her assigned area and actions. The responders position apparatus and initiate tactics and tasks for a variety of actions such as laying hose, pulling pre-connects, pulling ceilings and venting roofs.

Command vehicle: The arriving command vehicle is actually the front two-thirds of a surplus Chevy Suburban, which includes everything found in a real battalion vehicle. A large screen sits in front of the vehicle to display elements of the simulation. The results of the tasks being performed by the sectors at the individual kiosks are displayed for the incident commander. Every attempt is made to make these simulations as realistic as possible.

Command van: A full scale mock-up was created of the department's Command Van 1, which is dispatched on all first alarms and greater. The mock-up contains computers, radios and TVs — everything that's found on the original. When an incident is escalated, the van houses the IC, support officer and senior adviser, along with any other command staff positions that may be required. A large screen is just outside the side windows to provide the IC a realistic view of the action.

Control room: This hub for the various sections being tasked is operated by captains who are trained in the equipment's operations and have related field experience. The control room provides all the images to all kiosks and command vehicle props using Fire Studio 3.0 Digital Combustion. The sequence of images is determined by storyboards that account for potential actions of participating officers.

Simulation development: The creation of a simulation is quite a challenge in itself. After determining the type of simulation to be developed, the team of trainers scouts for a location to base the simulation on and shoots dozens of digital pictures to be used for as many as ten sectors and command sequences. They develop a storyboard, which is used to guide the control room facilitators through the simulations and then build the simulation in Fire Studio software. Each simulation can take between 30 and 60 hours to create.

A simulation lasts from 15 to 20 minutes with eight to ten people participating in an incident. Participants playing the roles of responding companies stage via radio in the classroom, and then take their assignment at the kiosks. As the incident escalates and the Incident Commander begins to sectorize, additional officers assume the command responsibilities for each sector on the incident ground. If the goal is to take the incident to the next level, the Incident Commander moves from the battalion chief's vehicle to the command van, and the command team continues to grow with the incident.

During the simulation, it's possible that instructors will role-play victims, media representatives or others to try to distract the commanders, as in real life. After the incident is complete, the participants reconvene in the classroom to dissect the incident.