Nestled amongst the McClellan pines lays a small town visited weekly by guests from around the nation. This town is unlike a storybook city or holiday retreat enjoyed by vacationers. It’s called Northville and its Zip Code has gone unlisted for nearly 15 years.
Sitting on a plot of about one-and-a-half acres, Northville is a fictional town, near Noble City, located in Liberty County. Its population fluctuates and is driven by emergency response personnel using Northville as a training site. Northville is part of the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological (COBRA) Training Facility, a training venue at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) that uses actual nerve agents and biological materials in training.
New paint, signage, and other exterior and interior changes recently added to the realism of the training venue at this unique facility. Six buildings make up the town, each given a unique role: a school, fire department, police department, sandwich shop, florist, newspaper stand, and bus depot.
"In the past, Northville resembled plain cinderblock buildings and everything else was left up to the student’s imagination," said Grant Bissey, FEMA training specialist. "Today, we have realistic buildings that offer an appearance and functionality of actual businesses and government offices found in towns across America."
The addition of sidewalks, outside light fixtures, siding and brick facades, windows and doors create a setting at which emergency responders can detect chemical or biological materials and respond to a mass casualty event that may be intentional or accidental.
In 2007 simple masonry buildings were erected as storage facilities. Later that year, the CDP staff came up with the idea to incorporate the buildings into training. For the past six years students have approached the entry to Northville as instructors give the command to "go on air." Clad in protective equipment and breathing apparatuses, the students cautiously search for survivors, perpetrators and contaminated sources.
"The buildings are fully configured with furnishings and training props similar to facilities in an actual town," said Bissey. "We’ve incorporated smoke delivery systems, two fire trucks, a school bus, police car and a motor coach bus."