WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – In a big moment for both Walnut Ridge and Imboden, Arkansas State University’s Board of Trustees decided Friday to sign the leases for two disaster training facilities.
The sites, talked about for well over a year, would be used as a training ground for emergency responders with simulated scenery to various disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and so forth. First responders, the National Guard, and other groups could use the location. It will potentially serve a seven to nine state area.
The term “disaster city,” which has been used but would not be the proper name for this construction, is a reference to what it the project would/will be. It’ll be 80 acres, made up of pods of small training cities inside one land mass. Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp described it in June, 2016 as something with “limitless opportunities.”
Walnut Ridge Airport is the number one rated airport rated by FEMA in case of a major earthquake, Snapp said. If the “city” is constructed, it would be capable of being used for a command center in case of natural disasters or earthquakes in this area, too.
However, the major benefit comes from how many who could potentially use the site. Similar facilities have 50 to 400 per week attending training at the site, Fire Chief Frank Owens said in June, 2016. Other areas that have similar facilities have 50 to 400 a week coming in to train per week, depending on groups signing up.
“That’s where the economic impact would come from,” Snapp said. “It’s not that the training facility itself would have a lot of full time employees but it’s the potential for the people to come in. Even if you just look at a small crowd of 50 or 60 for two to four days training, that’s significant.”
Featured photo from TEEX.org, depicts the style of training which could take place at the new disaster training facilities. Story photo, from army.mil, depicts a fake garage collapse for training responders.
Stan Morris Reporting