Chattahoochee Valley Community College and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Region Four are mapping out a partnership which could provide first responder and HAZMAT training to local public safety professionals.
The college has been in talks with OSHA about providing training necessary for public safety workers that is unavailable in the surrounding areas. The partnership would make CVCC a hub for professionals in West Georgia, East Alabama and some parts of Florida who want to opt for nearby certification.
"Chattahoochee Valley Community College is looking to partner with OSHA Region Four in an effort to provide education and training opportunities for public safety professionals, healthcare, business and industry and other educational institutions," said Robert Pierce, CVCC associate dean of workforce development. "A partnership with OSHA would provide resources currently unavailable to our region, and increase occupational safety and health initiatives to ensure safer work environments. The ultimate goal of all training is to reduce the number of workplace injuries and fatalities. We want to ensure that CVCC does our part to help keep our community safe.
The program will be an extension of CVCC's already existing Public Safety Department, which provides degrees in fields such as Criminal Justice.
First responders are required to receive eight hours of training annually, during which they learn skills such as basic hazard and risk assessment techniques and how to control various contaminants. For public safety workers who want to become HAZMAT technicians, 24 hours of training annually is required.
Many public safety workers have to travel to large nearby cities in order to find proper training. Some even cross state lines.
During an OSHA Training Seminar held at CVCC on June 25, more than 200 people from Florida, Georgia and Alabama gathered for eight hours of safety seminars provided by representatives from organizations such as OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency. Each person who participated in the day-long event received first responder certification.
Speakers at the training seminar emphasized that first responders and other emergency workers should look toward preventative measures that can be used to protect the community, rather than waiting until an emergency takes place. Attendees were briefed about issues such as hazardous waste, emergency response and heat related injuries.
"We in this country have a tendency to be very responsive in post-emergency," said Deputy Regional Administrator Benjamin Ross during his June 25 presentation. "(Hurricane) Sandy hits the coast, and we're going to respond. And how are we going to respond? By providing assistance and a lot of dollars. Nobody has a problem with that. But if you were to tell [the government] that you need to prepare the Phenix City Fire Department and the Columbus Fire Department $500,000 to prepare in the event of an emergency, we have some politicians that say 'We can't afford it.' But after an incident we can spend $10 million instead of $500,000."
The June 25 training day was one of two being held this summer for first responders. A second training day focusing on homemade explosives will be held on July 25.
CVCC representatives say the partnership will provide training not only for local public safety workers, but will also provide training for business owners or workers who wish to participate. Between locally trained public safety workers and better informed businesses, the college hopes to provide a safer environment for citizens in the surrounding area.
The college has not announced a set time when the partnership between CVCC and OSHA Region Four will be finalized or when the public safety training will begin for area professionals. However, the training days held this summer mark the beginning stages of the developing partnership.
"Chattahoochee Valley Community College is excited about the involvement from the community at our recent OSHA training workshop on campus," said CVCC President Glen Cannon. "We hope the College will become the go-to training partner for public safety professionals in our region.