Public Safety Training Center Management; Ideas and Solutions

More Agencies Are Adopting a Multi-Department Approach

In most cases, the Governance and Daily Operational Management of a Public Safety Training Center is pretty straightforward. Commonly, the Lead Training Officer has responsibility for daily operational management of the facility and reports to a Chief Officer on matters of budget, capital improvements, staffing changes, etc.

The Lead Trainer schedules training events, makes sure all training props are functioning properly, and ensures that training records are accurate and properly maintained. Over the past five years, however, it has been my experience that more and more training centers are adopting a multi-agency, multi-department approach concerning all aspects of the funding, construction, daily operations, and recurring maintenance.

Today I am going to discuss the topic of “Training Center Management” as it relates to the daily operations and recurring maintenance functions at public safety training centers.

One of the most important tasks in developing a multi-agency or regional training facility is to establish an appropriate management and operations plan. It is essential to draft a comprehensive plan specifying how the facility will be governed, staffed, and funded; how training will be scheduled and delivered, and how potential revenues can be attained.

It is imperative that any multi-agency government effort be protected and guided by strict, legally sound managerial procedures. Such an agreement must assign authority, identify the rights of those involved, and establish procedures for addressing issues. In addition, a comprehensive agreement must identify funding requirements, use of facilities, staffing, and financial responsibilities.

When two or more departments – or two or more cities – plan to build, operate, or jointly use a training center, the issues of governance and daily operation of the center become more complicated. Five of the most common questions that arise in such a partnership are:

  1. How is access to the training center prioritized?
  2. How will training classes be scheduled and how will the scheduled me maintained?
  3. What is the cost share for facility maintenance? For example, utilities, prop repair and maintenance, and new equipment acquisition.
  4. Should a dispute arise, what are the resolution procedures?
  5. How will the training center be staffed on a daily basis?

As you can tell from those questions, not all issues of training center management involve the cost of construction and the cost of operations (Two Colors of Money). There are several very important questions that must be addressed and decisions that must be made on the planning, staffing, and logistics side.

The Governance and Daily Operations Plans are critical elements of the overall Strategic Business Plan. The following three ownership or governance models serve as guidelines based on the training center’s ownership and approach to daily operations. For the purposes of this article I have not included the traditional “one owner, standalone” type training center.

Model 1 – One Owner; Multiple Users

In this model the training center has been funded by a single city or department. Perhaps the center was built using the traditional Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budgeting process or voter approved bonds. In other words, the city owns the training center and has full management and scheduling rights. However, the city would like to open the facility to other agencies in the hopes of deriving some revenue to help offset ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

Governing—To help accommodate potential outside users and generate revenue, the Owner may enter into an Inter-local Agreement with other agencies. The purpose of the Inter-local Agreement is to give outside agencies a voice in setting future training direction, budget, and daily procedures for the training center. 

Staffing—Maintenance staffing is the responsibility of the owner. Also, the owner will have its own training staff (instructors) located at the training center. Other partner agencies may assign their own instructors to the facility to train their personnel. However, those instructors would operate under the direction of the Owner’s assigned training center manager.

Scheduling—All scheduled use of the facility would be handled by the Owner. The Owner would have first priority in the scheduling process. Other agencies would then be permitted to schedule their training activities.

Revenue and Budgets—Outside users would pay fees to use the facility. Fees may be set several ways. Examples include: 1) Flat-use fee based on sworn staff size; 2) reduced fee based on annual training contracts by annual purchase orders; 3) fee paid for each class based on the class type, style, or instructor. In this case the user may pay a greater amount if they do not have the instructor expertise for a specific class; or the class has a large “consumable fee” (such as propane fuel charge for live fire simulated burns).

Model 2 – Multiple Owners; Revolving Daily Management 

In this model the training center is a multi-agency funded facility or a project for instance;  one city provides the land and the other city funds the construction. In this case there are at least two “owners” of the training center. These owners would be designated as Partners. Although somewhat more complicated, this training center model can be the most cost effective and very efficient in terms of training delivery – provided that proper early stage Strategic Business Planning occurs.  

Governing—The partners would establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). This is a legal entity whereby two or more public authorities can operate collectively[1]. The formation of a JPA usually requires the vote of elected officials. The agreement will establish a Governing Board to set all direction, develop a budget, and approve all operational policies and procedures for the facility. This Board is comprised of members from each of the partner cities.

Staffing—A full time position (Full-time Equivalent[2]), working at the direction of the established Governing Board, would manage the training center. The salary for this position would be negotiated and shared between the Partners. 

Instructional staff may be hired specifically for the purpose of conducting the training programs. Instructional staff may also be assigned to the training center by partner agencies for the purpose of providing training to all agency staff or their specific agency only. Additional staffing may consist of one or more administrative positions for scheduling, record keeping, and other appropriate tasks.

Maintenance of the facility would be provided by a full-time (or part-time, depending upon need) maintenance position. 

Scheduling—All scheduled use of the facility will be accomplished through the Training Center Manager’s office. 

Training Model—There are often differences in the method or model of instruction between partner agencies. Agencies could work toward a common training model or could maintain some independence in the manner their staff is trained through scheduling and instructor qualification. Students could be combined from all partner agencies (as well as non-partner agencies) as class sizes allow. 

Funding—Similar to Model 1, contribution to the annual budget may be a percentage of the total costs based upon the number of sworn personnel within the agency. Alternatively, each partner would commit to a flat percentage of the overall operations and maintenance (O&M) budget. In addition to the annual O&M budget, the partners may consider contributing to a facility improvement and unexpected emergency maintenance fund.

Potential Revenue Outside Users—Partner agencies may opt to provide contract training to non-partner agency personnel, private sector emergency medical services providers, and other entities (collectively referred to as Outside Users) as deemed appropriate and desirable. Typically, revenues received from Outside Users would offset the annual O&M expense or be used as contributions to the facility improvement/emergency maintenance fund.

Model 3 – Multiple Owners; Non-Sworn Manager and Civilian Staff

This model mirrors Model 2 in most ways except that a non-sworn Civilian Manager and staff would operate and maintain the facility. In this context a civilian is considered anyone who is not a certified first responder, police officer or firefighter working for one of the Partner cities. Civilian staff may be retired first responders or employees of the partner cities.

Governing—The Civilian Manager would report the training center Governing Board.

Staffing—All training center staff would report to the training center manager.

Scheduling—Partner agencies would have first priority access to the training center.

Funding—The Civilian Manager would manage and maintain a budget for the purposes of operating and maintaining the facility. Similar to the models above, contribution to the annual budget may be a percentage of the total costs based upon the number of sworn personnel within the agency; or, each partner would commit to a flat percentage of the overall operations and maintenance (O&M) budget. In addition to the annual O&M budget, the partners may consider contributing to a facility improvement and unexpected emergency maintenance fund.

Potential Revenue Outside Users—The Civilian Manager would aggressively pursue revenue opportunities for the training center. After reaching predetermined revenue objectives, the civilian manager could receive additional monetary compensation.

Strategic Planning Tools needed for these Models include:

  1. Inter-local Agreement or Joint Powers Agreement
  2. Staffing Plan
  3. Job Descriptions
  4. Prop and Classroom Scheduling Software
  5. Safety and Procedure Plan
  6. Operational Cost Budget
  7. Marketing Plan and Budget

For questions or help developing a training center governance or operations plan contact Interact Business Group. We are the authority on Strategic Business Planning for public safety training centers.

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About Bill Booth

Authority on Strategic Business Planning For Public Safety, Police and Fire Training Centers. President of the Interact Business Group and Managing Editor at
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