Southwestern College Dedicates New Training Center and Remembers 9/11

Ribbon cutting photo
Community members, first responder students and Southwestern College leadership cut the ribbon on the new $29.1 million Public Safety Training Center.

Sept. 11, 2001, will always be a day the nation remembers. Nearly 3,000 civilians, along with 412 emergency response workers, perished that day. The event not only sparked two unwinnable wars in both Afganistan and Iraq, but also spawned a domestic war on terrorism, rewrote the rules on security and surveillance in this country–the reprocussions of which are still felt in everyday American life.

To commemorate the day, Southwestern College’s first responder students, faculty and staff held a 9/11 tribute and a joint grand opening ceremony for the Public Safety Training Center in Otay Mesa Friday. Community members and partner agencies from throughout the county gathered to pay tribute to all of the sacrifices that were made that day and to recognize that this new facility is an investment in our students, our community and to the future of public safety in South County.

“As a college, we are so thankful to our community that voted for Proposition Z to build this facility and several more across the district that are currently in design,” said Governing Board Vice President Roberto Alcantar. “Our community’s belief in preparing our future first responders has turned the dreams of our public safety faculty, administrators and staff into this $29.1 million complex.” .

The Public Safety Training Center includes a multi-bay apparatus building to house emergency vehicles for all programs, a storage building, a multi-purpose instructional building that includes spaces for offices, classrooms, restrooms, lockers and a fitness training space.

Police, fire and EMT/paramedic recruits will also be able to gain real-life experience in the single- story scenario apartment simulator and in the only live fire tower on a community college in the entire region. Lastly, the Public Safety Training Center includes a renovated track where police obstacles and other fitness training will take place.

Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez explained how creating this facility will open doors of opportunity for students.

“We are now fully accredited by State Fire Training and we will now be able to graduate fire science students with their State Firefighter One certifications,”Sanchez said. “Southwestern College will help lead the way in meeting the tremendous demand for all of these critical first responders.

“This work would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of our faculty, staff and administrators who work with honor and pride in service to our community,” he said.

The new Public Safety Training Center complements the stellar nursing programs at the Otay Mesa Center.

Ringing of the Four Fives bell ceremony
Students in Southwestern College’s EMT/paramedic program participate in the time-honored tradition of ringing the Four Fives to remember fallen first responders.

Before the community cut the ribbon on the new facility, first responder students and members of the San Diego Fire Department Honor Guard paid tribute to the fallen first responders with the time-honored tradition of FDNY known as Striking the Four Fives.

Historically, the ringing of the bell summoned members to the station, signaled the beginning of a shift, notified departments as a call for help, indicated when a call was completed, or when the unit had returned to the station.

When a firefighter had died in the line of duty or when some important person died, headquarters would transmit five bell strikes, repeated in a series of four, with a slight pause in between each series, followed by an announcement. In remembrance of 9/11, Southwestern College paramedic student Chelsea Lansang struck the Four Fives.

“Being eight years old when this happened (9/11), and now being a part of the first responders– a part of this community, and a part of this family–it hits a little bit different,” Lansang said. “People deserve to be cared for, but they also deserve to be cared about.

“I think being a paramedic covers all of those fields,” Lansang said. “I know all of our hearts are in the right places. For those of us that are in these programs, if something like that were to happen, we would all be there to help out.”

First responder directors and dean pose in front of the new Public Safety Training Center
Directors of Southwestern College’s first responder programs and Dean Silvia Cornejo pose in front of the new Public Safety Training Center. (L-R) Jason Hums, EMT/paramedic director; Lorraine Hutchinson, fire science program director; David Espiritu, police academy director; front-Dean Cornejo.