State College, PA, a non-profit organization trains first responders

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ERTCA’s Mobile Virtual Reality Experience Vans travel the Northeast to provide training to law enforcement professionals and other first responders in the region.

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Eric Porterfield, CEO of the Emergency Response Training and Certification Association (ERTCA), a non-profit organization housed at Innovation Park, credits a grant from the Ben Franklin Technology Center for helping him launch his network Distance Learning (DLN) – a company that laid the groundwork for its current initiatives.

“DLN was a satellite continuing education company focused on mental health and grew from 17 viewers in 1997 to 45,000 in seven years, making it one of the highest returns on investment in the program’s history. Ben Franklin Technology Partners,” Porterfield said. .

DLN’s weekly audience provided ongoing lunch hour training for doctors, nurses and therapists and spanned a total of 50 states before being purchased by the United Health Group. Afterwards, Porterfield was called to attend a meeting on police cadet education and certification.

“When I met the director of the Institute for Public Safety Training at Mansfield University, I realized that training police officers and doctors was not that different from training medical professionals” , said Porterfield, adding that he quickly realized that existing programming lacked standardization. . This led him to start talking with insurance companies, who seemed to be having trouble underwriting costs due to the various laws surrounding various situations. “What particularly caught my attention were areas such as surveillance standardization and data outcomes, all of which were lacking in law enforcement training,” he said.

Fortunately, Porterfield had an extremely successful previous experience in education and the ERTCA was quickly born.

Find solutions, reduce risks

“Our goal is to identify risks to the public and law enforcement, reduce those risks through training and education, and then reinforce best practices throughout the year,” Porterfield said. , when defining what the ERTCA does.

Topics addressed by the ERTCA include police culture, community policing, the impact of mental health on police procedures, emergency response in rural and disadvantaged communities, police and emergency communications and challenges with NG911, a next-generation initiative to update 911 infrastructure. Porterfield explained that these issues make up much of the current attention and that the nonprofit’s mission is not just to keep the conversation growing, but also to enhance the 40-year-old cadet and veteran’s understanding of what it means to protect and serve. with human dignity and understanding as a core value.

During ERTCA educational events, first responders are invited to offer their input to better understand their unique perspectives on an industry largely driven by legislation and laws. Porterfield said it’s an entry like this that has helped ERTCA seek new solutions, such as partnering with a company that makes “The Glove,” which has the same effect as a Taser, but with less tension.

This is not the only example of ERTCA using private industry to explore solutions to existing problems, according to Porterfield. AT&T is another company that has been tapped to work with ERTCA on the new emergency management platform replacing 911. Microsoft is also participating.

“We’re trying to make the car’s communication system more relevant to the topic at hand. For example, an arrested driver might have autism and exhibit behaviors that might cause an officer to perceive the individual as evasive or even The officer could learn from the tablet in his car that the individual is known to police to be on the autism spectrum and, in turn, approach a situation differently,” Porterfield said.

Another company provides a biometric watch, which monitors officers’ oxygen and heart rate. This feedback could then help the agent assess their own state before arriving on a call. “Those who wear this can keep an eye on their vital signs and slow down, for example, if their heart rate is abnormally high,” Porterfield said.

ERTCA verifies all products before recommending and accrediting them. One such product is the “PASS App for Pa”, which is still under development. The app is being developed by ERTCA and four other company partners, with the goal of making risk assessments accessible to all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania.

“The PASS app will allow schools to self-assess and contribute to an AI model that will focus on risk prevention through daily engagement with school staff. Much of the education and training will focus on prediction – knowing what to look for in terms of risks and then building them into a routine that will include not only teachers but also additional staff like janitors,” Porterfield said.

A $70,000 mannequin is another tool used by the ERTCA to educate first responders.

“We take them to the same communities where you might have police and firefighters in the event of an accident. Mannequins are able to bleed and communicate,” Porterfield said, explaining that realism helps all first responders be better mentally prepared for acute conditions they may not have seen before.

“For someone to be relatively familiar with the steps to take when dealing with a loss of limb from a car accident, one must first be emotionally prepared to witness a such injury,” he added.

Porterfield summed up: “We have set ourselves the goal of… closing the gaps in police training and replacing outdated ideas and practices with knowledgeable, cross-cultural and multi-jurisdictional voices from all backgrounds and types of community. .

ERTCA has eight employees spread across sites at State College and its future workforce development center, the Erick J. Coolidge Public Safety Center in Mansfield.

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