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SCCC's Public Safety Training Academy Receives $546,000 in Funding

5/30/2024 12:00:00 PM


A classroom instruction Firefighters receive training Sign of the Public Safety Training Academy

In the coming year, the Sussex County Community College Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) will undergo significant enhancements in its equipment, technology, and training resources.

SCCC will receive $546,000 for the PSTA through a FY24 Congressionally Directed Spending request, according to Stan Kula, SCCC's Executive Foundation Director. The funding aims to bolster the academy’s academic and vocational emergency management programming, filling crucial resource gaps. 

The Congressional Directed Spending was a collaboration between Kula, PSTA Director John Dixon, and Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Cory Homer. Dixon explains that in 2023, the Department of Education allocated $96,000 to the College to establish the SCCC Cybersecurity Program. 

"The SCCC Public Safety Training Academy is immensely grateful for the awarding of this funding," says Dixon. "This will significantly enhance and support vital improvements to our infrastructure. With these funds, we can further our commitment to academic and vocational excellence for all emergency responders in our county and the surrounding region."

The funding, available through the Department of Education – Innovation and Improvement – Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), will play a vital role in educational programming for SCCC students and professionals.

"The enhancement of the PSTA is of value and critical importance for taxpayers as the further development will allow for more local educational programming for fire, police, and EMS within the county," says Kula. "The project will benefit all residents of Sussex County either directly or indirectly as the volunteer fire departments and police stations in the county will use the PSTA for training purposes."

The student learning and opportunities will be enhanced at the Academy.

"This project will create a better pathway for students pursuing education in fire, police, and EMS, which will eventually create job opportunities for these students," adds Kula. "Most fire and police departments need to seek training outside of Sussex County, impacting the number of potential volunteers for fire departments in the county.

The major categories for the project funding include equipment, technology, and training.

The new equipment will include:

The technology funding category will include portable radios and interactive smart boards.

"The portable radios are crucial to teach and demonstrate incident communications while on the scene, while the interactive smart boards will replace antiquated technology in the classrooms to allow for a more robust experience for students," shares Kula. 

At the PSTA, faculty and staff will be offered instructor training for FEMA and OSHA certifications.

"The instructors will be able to train students in FEMA and OSHA regulations and incorporate them in more comprehensive training opportunities to have more individuals with these nationally recognized credentials," says Kula.

"The modernization of the curriculum and the advancement of training is now going to be even more possible thanks to the infusion of funding," adds SCCC President Dr. Jon Connolly. "The equipment allows for training that our volunteers need and that we have been unable to provide completely. Further investments are needed, but we hope the College will see more federal dollars due to the strong return on investment delivered by our PSTA Coordinator, John Dixon. His great instructional team has transformed the PSTA in a short time." 

History of PSTA

The Sussex County government sold the PSTA and its land to SCCC in May 2004, and SCCC took over its operations in January 2005.

The mission of the SCCC Fire Academy was crafted in 1997. The Fire Academy (and PSTA) was a separate entity for instructional purposes, administration, and budget before the sale occurred. After the College took possession in 2005, the administration and instruction at the PSTA fell to the College, but the budgeting and finance remained linked to the county. "The financial model was built in this way to ensure that the PSTA expenditures were dedicated to fire training and that no money from one entity could be appropriated or borrowed by the other," explains Connolly. "In this way, it protected both entities."

The facility and its offering had some slow growth over the years.  

"The PSTA has remained vigilant in its service to the firefighting volunteers of Sussex County, providing training in classes for Fire 1 and Fire 2," says Connolly. "Although modernization of teaching and programming was slow in years past, it is now at a new moment in its history and has begun to increase its utilization and serviceability to the county during the last 12 months.

"A three-year strategic plan was developed, and about 70% of that plan has been achieved in just the last year," he adds. There has been a new emphasis on an entrepreneurial and opportunistic approach to pay more attention to the consumers of firefighting training and what they want and need; to upgrade equipment in a real and sustainable fashion; to listen and take action on the change needed to compete with other counties' training centers; to ensure the best training with the best instructors in the region." 

To learn more about Sussex County Public Safety Training Academy, visit https://www.sussex.edu/community/public-safety-training-academy/


Picture 1: A classroom of trainees at the PSTA.

Picture 2: Firefighters undergo drills.