2022 is bringing a great deal of positive anticipation to firefighters in Indianapolis. In July, the Indianapolis Fire Department took delivery of a new six-story all-steel Fire Facilities training tower.
“The idea for a dedicated Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) training facility really started gaining momentum about nine years ago,” says Chief of Training Eric Dreiman, with the IFD. “By 2019 the planning intensified. In partnership with the City of Indianapolis, a site was identified and researching of training facility manufacturers got underway.” Prior to this process, IFD had not had its own training facility for forty years.
With input, support and backing from IFD Chief Ernest Malone and Indianapolis Firefighters Local 416, a large-scale training tower with lots of “bells and whistles” was on the wish list for the largest department in the state of Indiana. One of their first steps was to research cities of comparable sizes, which led Dreiman, Malone and Local President Hank Harris to visit Nashville, TN.
“When we saw The Commissioner in Nashville, we could easily tell it had everything we wanted,” says Dreiman, a 27-year veteran Indianapolis firefighter. “I’ve seen and trained in a wide variety of other structures. The Commissioner has so much more potential. Overall, it was the quality and versatility of the Fire Facilities product that really impressed us.”
The Commissioner is the largest standard Fire Facilities training structure model. The tower spans 73-feet long and stands 40-feet high, although the Indianapolis tower was built to a height of 60-feet tall. It offers three sections, a four-story fire training tower, a two-story residential section, and a one-story burn room annex. The residential section features interior and exterior stairs, two roof chop-out curbs, hallways, a burn room, and a burn area in the attic. The tower section offers interior decks and stairs, ship’s ladder, parapet roof guard with chained opening, and a roof chop-out curb. There’s also a cantilevered balcony, inset balcony, and fire escape.
The Bells and Whistles
Within IFD’s order for The Commissioner, was an added external standpipe. Even though the tower has an internal standpipe, Dreiman felt it important to have an external one for high rise fire training.
“A serious high-rise fire, occurring in our city, is a major concern for us,” says Dreiman. “Having a burn room on the fourth floor, along with internal and external standpipes, is essential for high-rise training. Additionally, we requested special rope rescue options on the tower, which brings an important training component to our firefighters, that we haven’t had access to in the past.”
Training Up To 4,000
With an IFD recruit class of 60 starting in February of 2023, Dreiman believes the training tower will see immediate and constant use with close to 4,000 firefighters training in the new facility each year. Between IFD’s 1,267 sworn firefighters, utilizing the training tower across multiple disciplines, it is also anticipated that other area fire departments will request to use the space.
Prior to gaining The Commissioner, IFD did what many cities do … they leased space for firefighter training. According to Dreiman, this became a pricey endeavor.
“Between annual lease expenses, fuel costs for out of town training, and instructor hours, it was really expensive,” says Dreiman. “We believe our investment in the new tower will break even within the first few years. We’ll save on personnel hours, vehicular wear and tear, facility leases and other costs.”
Tips for Getting a Fire Tower
With the finish line in sight, Dreiman offers tips to other firefighters who may just be starting their search for a fire training facility.
“We learned so much along the way,” says Dreiman. “Start by knowing your budget and prioritizing needs versus your wants. Then see what’s available.
“You don’t have to start at ground zero. You’re not the first person to research fire training facilities. Reach out to other fire departments and see what they have. Learn from what others have already done. This includes both their previous research and the experiences they’re having with the training towers they’ve purchased.
“Don’t be afraid to look outside your state for training options. Once we started looking at cities our same size, that’s when it really started to click for us. And finally, work the references given to you by the training tower manufacturers. They are the experts, with information on funding options, fire departments with different training facilities and people who can offer you great insights. Take the time to make those calls, because they’ll really pay off.”