By KRYSTAL RINER
The 830-acre one of a kind training facility in Perry is getting its final touches on things before the first disaster strikes in early December.
The Guardian Centers, a private training facility for first responders, is preparing for its first group to arrive. The company’s CEO Geoff Burkart said a group of Marines will be the first to train at the new facility.
They are expected to arrive Dec. 3, and the training class will last a few days.
Burkart said the center has 10 full-time employees at this time, but he hopes to increase that number as they gain contracts.
The facility is designed to host training for first responders on all levels. Burkart noted it would be available for local, state, national and international agencies.
Representatives from the Guardian Centers said the training seminars at the new complex will bring in thousands of first responders to the area.
“This is one of those $51 million ‘you build it and they will come’ venues,” said Burkart.
He explained that the plans for the center revolve around his experiences during Hurricane Katrina.
There are cityscape venues, mini towns, an interstate system, a subway system, collapsed structures and much more at the site.
For any future disasters, he hopes this training center will be able to prevent the types of occurrences he witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina.
A portion of the facility has the ability to be flooded just as the towns were during Katrina.
“In just a few weeks, the mock town will be eight feet under water,” Burkart said as he conducted a tour of the facility on Thursday.
Burkart stated the center will look to Houston County to provide the needs the center may have, such as hotel rooms for first responders, contractors for building materials and volunteers for role-players in the disaster simulations.
He explained the center will train first responders in simulations that will combine many real-life elements such as smoke, fire, flooding, moving buildings, rubble, vehicles and people in a contained training environment.
“This center is designed to be America’s disaster preparedness center,” he said.