How Monmouth County first-responders are training for the worst scenarios
FREEHOLD — There's an active shooter inside a local high school. An attack litters the streets with multiple casualties. A traffic stop turns into a standoff at gunpoint. There's a family trapped inside a smoke-engulfed building.
Any one of these scenarios, and dozens more, can play out at a high-tech training facility launching Wednesday in Monmouth County.
The Situational Training And Response Simulator, or STARS, facility is the first in the state to offer first responders real-life scenarios through both in-person exercises and a virtual threat simulator, according to Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden.
"This has been something in the making for just about a year now to convert a building that the county has owned for some time and get it up to what we call mission-ready status," Golden said.
All future recruit classes from the police academy will utilize the building; it will also be used for in-service training, Golden said. And the exercises are not aimed toward police only; they can replicate field-specific emergencies for firefighters, corrections officers, EMS and other first responders.
The entire facility can be filled with smoke through remote control, for example. Exhaust fans can clear the air when the exercise is complete. A "correctional pod" allows corrections officers to perform cell extractions and riot control.
Areas outside the building allow for K-9 agility training and simulation of high-risk vehicle stops.
But the highlight of the building is the virtual simulator, Golden said.
A massive 300-degree screen puts up to six officers right in the action. The technology is packed with 100-plus scenarios, and the danger of those scenarios escalate or deescalate based on the officers' responses and commands.
Golden said the facility — a former detention center on Dutch Lane Road — already has agencies lined up for training. It's expected the facility will be used by agencies throughout the state.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.