Regional training centers provide a safe haven for firefighters who want to hone their skills in real-world scenarios, live fires and classroom discussions. But regional centers aren't dedicated solely to fire departments. Instead, such centers invite all public agencies to run drills, learn specific skills and co-mingle with firefighters in order to foster interagency cooperation, said Alan Benson, fire chief at the Woodlands (Texas) Fire Department.

The fire department manages the Woodlands Emergency Management Training Center, a multidisciplinary center built less than two years ago. Benson said the center was paid through a sales-based tax at a cost of more than $8 million dollars. It is a 13-acre site with 21,000 square feet of classroom facilities and four acres of open concrete, Benson said. The campus includes six multi-use classrooms capable of holding 24 to 170 students; a library skills lab with secure and unsecured storage; a three-bay apparatus room; an SCBA room with compressor and a six-bottle fill station; and a 6-story, live-burn training tower.

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