In mid-April, the National Center for Fire and Life Safety (NCFLS) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced that the NPFA HEROES Experience, the first public fire and life safety educational and entertainment attraction of its kind in the world, would be located in Pelham, Ala.
"For those emergency professionals who seek to reduce the loss of life and injuries due to fire and other hazards, this is a watershed moment," said Russell A. Jackson, CEO of the NCFLS. "This firefighter-themed attraction will be an incredible teaching tool to the public. One hundred percent education and 100 percent showmanship, this is a collaboration between local, state and national organizations; emergency services professionals; and researchers—many recognized as the world's leading authorities in fire and life safety."
The facility will be located on a 25-acre tract of land in Pelham, about 20 miles south of Birmingham, just off of Interstate 65. It will combine public education with state-of-the-art technology designed to teach critical lessons in fire and life safety to all visitors.
One reason for the selection of Alabama as the site had to do with the fact that the southeastern U.S. has the highest fire mortality rate of any region in the country.
"NFPA chose Alabama as a central state in the Southeast," said Wayne D. Moore, P.E., vice president of Jensen Hughes and ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR fire/life safety contributing editor.
"NFPA HEROES Experience will be a more than 100,000 square-foot public nonprofit attraction serving a wide range of audiences ranging from K–12 school groups and families to visitors and tourists of all generations," Jackson said. "Visitors will be immersed in authentic stories, exhibits and experiences that dramatize the importance of preventing fires and life safety measures."
According to Jackson, the concept and design of the attraction has been in the works for three years. Groundbreaking is set for 2019, and the facility is set to open in 2021. The NFPA HEROES Experience will be funded through a traditional nonprofit capital campaign engaging both private and public-sector partners. The current estimate for the cost of the project is $100 million.
"We are honored to have the NFPA as our title naming sponsor for the attraction and to have their CEO, Jim Pauley, serving as chairman of the national campaign," Jackson said.
In addition to being a place that provides education to visitors, work will be done behind the scenes at the facility, researching and testing new safety and prevention education approaches. The results will be disseminated worldwide.
Moore said the facility will have a positive effect on fire and life safety education.
"I am a strong believer in education as the key to both lowering the fire problem and, at the same time, raising the reliability and awareness of all fire protection systems," he said.