MONTGOMERY - Gas industry, state and Pennsylvania College of Technology officials gathered Friday to dedicate the Energy Technology Education Center - the first of its kind in the state.
The facility, 130 Allenwood Camp Lane, will allow first responders and gas workers to receive training on how to handle emergency situations on drilling sites.
"I think it's a great opportunity for our local fire departments and our local first responders to be trained quickly," said county Commissioner Jeff Wheeland.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Bob Ulrich, chief of fire station No. 21 in Washington Township, center, leads a heat wall toward a flaming plate simulating a fire on a gas drilling site during a ceremony dedicating Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Energy Technology Education Center in Allenwood on Friday afternoon.
The facility was a joint venture between Penn College, the county Department of Public Safety and gas industry partners. Speakers at the dedication mentioned the fact that collaboration was a major part in getting the facility completed.
"We all work best when we work together and this is a shining example of collaboration," said Dr. Paul Starkey, Penn College vice president of academic affairs/provost.
"We wanted to do this right, that's why we partnered with the (gas) industry and state fire academy," said Craig Konkle, county Energy Development Emergency Response coordinator.
After comments from selected speakers, those in attendance were given a tour of the site.
In a lighter moment, Starkey said in keeping with tradition of "unusual" openings of facilities, a demonstration of a fire would replace a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"I do believe this is the first time we've ever dedicated a facility by setting it on fire," Starkey said.
Prior to the site's construction, the closest facility of its kind was in Ohio. Area leaders saw a need for a training center in this area.
"We started seeing a lot of areas where we needed to improve," said Ralph Tijernia, vice president for safety and environment compliance for Range Resources-Appalachia and Safety Committee chairman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Wheeland and Starkey mentioned that the county and college are proud to be a part of the group to take the lead on this type of training in the state.
"Lycoming County has a history of ... being proactive to any issue that comes forth," Wheeland said.
"One of the things that's important to us is recognizing emerging technology," Starkey said.
The facility offers a variety of equipment and scenarios for participants to experience.
It also will offer training to first responders and gas workers and become a part of Penn College curriculum in some programs.
Classes to be offered at the site include advanced well control, fall protection and rescue, fire extinguisher training, and gas field emergencies.
"We're looking for a responsible way to support the commonwealth," Starkey said.
Ed Mann, state fire commissioner, said the center is a step toward his goal for the safety of first responders: "Everybody goes home."
"This is a perfect opportunity for first responders around the state to get hands-on experience," Mann said.
Mann said he's hoping to use money from the state's impact fee to help offset costs for first responders who travel from around the state to gain training.
With so many classes and opportunities, Mann said he doesn't think the space will go unused.
"I don't think we'll have any problem filling classes at this facility," he said.
Starkey also mentioned that the facility isn't finished yet as some renewable energy resources and other equipment will be added later.