60 years and counting for Emergency Training Centre

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January 29, 2020
For more than six decades, the Emergency Training Centre (ETC) has trained leaders for the frontline of emergency services.
When the ETC - then known as the Fire Officers Training School - opened in 1959 under the jurisdiction of the Alberta Fire Commissioner’s Office, approximately 100 aspiring emergency services professionals were trained annually. Now, the ETC trains and graduates more than 1,300 individuals.
“I am very happy to see ETC make it to 60 years and particularly the last 20 years under the college, which has been great. We expanded our operations under the college, both in pre-employment programming and industrial contract training, which adds over $3 million of revenue to the college’s bottom line,” says Chris Senaratne, dean of the ETC. Senaratne has been dean since 2004 but has been walking the ETC’s halls since 1991.

The ETC’s roots are in the post-World War II era when massive infrastructure development was taking place in Alberta’s urban and rural communities. In response to this growth, an organization was needed to provide training for firefighters.

Through the next half-century, the training facility would have many changes including a move from provincial government jurisdiction to become a subsidiary corporation of Lakeland in 1998. The corporate status was dissolved, and the ETC became a division of the college in 2004.

As one of the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art training grounds in Canada, the ETC continues its mission to train emergency service personnel. People travel from across the nation to train at the ETC in emergency services technology, firefighter training and bachelor of applied business in emergency service (BABES), plus various short-term courses for municipalities and industry.
Putting theory into action

Jesse Shelton, a Ingersoll, Ont. native and 2019 firefighter training graduate, says he left Lakeland with with the skills he needed to excel on the frontline.

“I came in here knowing a bit about fire and having a grasp of the concept of first responding from previous schooling, but this is a different branch of first responders. I am now leaving with a wealth of knowledge. My classmates and I lifted each other and supported one another. My instructors had a wealth of experience they were always willing to share.”

Like Shelton, students take the lead in a leadership rotation as battalion chief of their platoon, as well as create a fundraising calendar to support organizations and non-profits, and volunteer around the community. Students not only apply the theory they learn in the classroom through practical exercises, they also learn to become leaders and team members.

Two BABES graduates recently made headlines; Michael Seth was appointed director of fire and emergency services of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and Stephen Drolet was appointed chief of police of the Saint John Police Force.

The facility is complete with more than 20 different training structures and props, ​as well as 16 firetrucks, including aerials and rescue, two ambulances, 300 breathing apparatuses, a fire tower, a dangerous goods pad, and so much more.

These tools and the addition of more than 250 years of on-the-job experience by ETC instructors is a recipe for success. For Ceris Twa, a 2019 graduate of the emergency service technology program’s firefighting stream, her instructors and classmates, and the connections they forged were an integral part of her success at Lakeland.

“My highlight would be the instructors. They give you 110 per cent. If you need help, they're willing to stay after class. They're eager to come in early to help you. The second highlight is my classmates. I feel lucky to be in the battalion that I was in. They make or break the school experience. The courses are tough, but it’s reassuring to have your classmates there to help you. It's refreshing to be a part of that family,” says Twa.

To commemorate 60 years of the ETC, students who graduated in 2019 received a commemorative coin upon their graduation.
Photos: (Top-Bottom) A firefighter student leads his platoon through a burn exercise. Firefighter Class of 1992. Suncor Energy Emergency Services Department trains with a specialized firefighting nozzle to respond industrial fire scenarios. Emergency services technology students in the medical stream complete a transportation exercise. A couple of students wave from above during a ladder exercise.
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