The Environmental considerations in which firefighters work today is becoming increasingly uncertain and complex. In Australia, rapid changes to building regulations, urban population growth, the security environment, climate change and growing community expectations places increasing pressure on fire services everywhere to prepare firefighters and emergency responders with the skillsets to work in these increasingly complex operating environments. These changes require contemporary thinking in the design and use of emergency service training centres.
The Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre (VEMTC) Craigieburn was conceived in 2002 to provide Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the State of Victoria with a contemporary firefighter training environment.
Award-winning architect Woods Bagot led the design team. HAAGEN was engaged as the fire-training specialist to support the design team and deliver the specialised fire training equipment and services, and Leighton Contractors was engaged to construct the facility.
On Sunday 29 June 2014, VEMTC Craigieburn – which is owned and operated by MFB on behalf of the State of Victoria – was officially opened as a specialised emergency services learning and training facility.
Located in the Melbourne suburb of Craigieburn, the $109 million facility strengthens MFB’s position as a leader within the emergency services industry through the adoption and promotion of new technologies and the development of new training initiatives.
VEMTC Craigieburn was designed to provide a blended approach to skills acquisition, utilising both classroom and practical learning facilities to optimise a holistic learning and development environment. The facility’s design has a fundamental focus on ‘practical training’, flexibility, innovation and technology.
The academic facilities include eight classrooms including a science classroom, command training centre and breathing apparatus classrooms.
Practical Learning Environment
In addition to the various specialist and technical training environments, VEMTC Craigieburn’s 10 hectare site provides a Practical Learning Environment that includes 12 training props, 43 live fire points, a drill yard and a fire station laid out within a streetscape urban environment, which is unique in that it has been designed specifically to mimic Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire District.
This provides firefighters with replicas of real urban risk environments, such as shopping districts, theatres, prison cells, attached residential housing configurations, petrol stations, industrial and petrochemical facilities. Transport infrastructure is simulated with public transport hubs and includes a tram and train, underground carparks, road rescue props, and road and rail tunnels. Melbourne has the largest operating tram network in the world, with 250 kilometers of double track and more than 1760 tram stops. Around 80 per cent of the tram network shares road space with other vehicles.
A key aspect of delivering life-like firefighter training at VEMTC Craigieburn is the integration of the 43 live fire points throughout these urban risk environments in the practical learning environment, providing an almost unlimited array of life-like training scenarios for all levels of firefighter and officer training. The design of firefighting props is drawn from real-life emergency experiences, for example a truck and car fire prop simulating a major road accident rescue and transport fire in a road tunnel. Designing the urban landscape in this way also allows MFB to train with partner emergency service organisations, such as ambulance and police, in multi-agency response scenarios.
The residential area simulates the environments experienced in typical Melbourne suburban homes, containing in total six fire scenarios. A petrol station is used to simulate LPG-tank, dumpster and automotive workshop fires. A high rise building represents a typical Melbourne city building with multiple fire scenarios incorporated on each level.
An industrial zone with a petro-chemical plant replicates facilities found in Melbourne’s industrial areas and simulates fires involving hazardous materials. Here, foam training is also incorporated as well as low and high angle rescue.
The transport zone simulates emergency scenarios requiring inter-agency response. Scenarios simulated here include train and tunnel fires, train and tram stop incidents and road accidents.
A marine environment provides training for fighting both dock and shipboard fires. The Port of Melbourne is a key economic hub for Victoria and the entire south east of Australia with a total trade value around $92 billion of economic activity each year.
MFB’s capability requirement for marine and shipboard firefighting requires extensive marine and shipboard firefighting training infrastructure to replicate various marine and port emergency situations. VEMTC Craigieburn’s ship firefighting prop allows firefighters to immerse themselves in life-like hot fire marine environments, such as climbing the hull to access a ship at sea, firefighting in the cargo hold or managing operations from the captain’s bridge. A broad selection of fire simulators, combined with vessel realism, allow for fire suppression, damage control and search and rescue training.
High angle rescue and urban search and rescue
Similarly, VEMTC Craigieburn’s high angle rescue and urban search and rescue props provide access to the latest rescue and specialist equipment training. A purpose built seven-storey high rise building, lift shaft, rubble pile and collapsed building simulation gives specialist response rescue teams from response agencies all over Victoria the opportunity to train in life-like rescue operations scenarios.
Hot fire training
Investment in hot fire training technology has been critical to the success of firefighter training and learning at VEMTC Craigieburn. The latest HAAGEN technologies have been implemented throughout the practical learning environment to maximise the variety of realistic operational situations with varying complexities utilising fire, smoke, sound, heat and lighting. Integrating these technologies into the firefighting props at VEMTC Craigieburn helps MFB maximise student learning in fire behaviour, fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue, hazardous materials response and specialist rescue techniques.
During the design and build period MFB was acutely aware of the impact that emergency service training can have on the environment, particularly around the use of large volumes of water. For this reason, a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan was developed and implemented in conjunction with the build.
A key component of the environmental management plan was investment in a state-of-the-art water recycling and treatment facility to reduce MFB’s impact on the environment. This facility is designed to provide recycled training water to a standard equivalent of potable drinking water, ensuring an environmentally responsible approach to water use while also ensuring the safest possible training environment for firefighters and other trainees.
The water recycling and treatment system captures, treats and stores all training water used on the site, as well as harvesting rain water for use in training, storing 1.6 million litres of water at any one time. The system is capable of treating up to 150 mega litres per annum. In addition, all foam residue used on site is captured via surface drainage and transferred to a 30,000 litre holding tank where it is treated and neutralised before being pumped to our waste water system (sewerage).
VEMTC Craigieburn was designed with the future in mind.
The facility is Victoria’s premier urban hot fire and specialist skills training centre and a focal point for developing emergency services operational, and leadership skills and capability for the State of Victoria’s all-hazard, all-agencies emergency management sector.
Fewer than three years since VEMTC Craigieburn commenced operations, MFB is already planning the next phase of infrastructure investment for VEMTC Craigiburn to meet future capability and capacity needs. An expansion of structural firefighting, specialist response and incident management training infrastructure will continue to deliver world-class outcomes for the communities of Melbourne and Victoria.
Learning environment props
In addition to the drill yard and fire station, the VEMTC Craigieburn’s Practical Learning Environment re-creates a number of emergency scenarios in a typical Melbourne urban landscape including:
- compartmentalised fire behaviour environment
- high rise building – urban search and rescue
- petrol station
- retail environment
- residential neighbourhood
- road and rail tunnel
- tram stop
- traffic intersection
- industrial environment
- petrochemical plant
- ship and marine environment.
VEMTC Craigieburn utilises ecologically sustainable development initiatives in accordance with best practice, including:
- minimising reliance on water resources through a site-wide water management system which:
– captures, treats and recycles all water used in training exercises within the practical learning environment
– harvesting and recycling roof rainwater for re-use
– water efficient fittings and fixtures
– capturing water from showers and basins in the academic building for treatment and re-use in toilet flushing and irrigation
- minimising reliance on energy resources including:
– use of insulation, double glazing and solar orientation
– use of solar panels for energy re-use
– use of solar-boosted hot water systems
- protection of the surrounding environment from emissions through:
– capturing all water used in training exercises to minimise run-off
– utilisation of clean burning propane gas in most exercises
– capturing and treating smoke generated from the one carbonaceous fire exercise though the use of thermal oxidizers.
For more information, go to www.mfb.vic.gov.au