By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new training facility in the east metro could transform the way first responders answer emergencies — and hopefully save lives as well.

The Health Emergency Response Occupations Training Center in Cottage Grove, or HERO, is a two-story indoor tactical training area with interchangeable walls.

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From the door breach, search and rescue of a person in harm’s way, to safely loading them in an ambulance — the center provides unlimited training scenarios.

“Whatever I’m presented with, I’m going to have to react to it,” Officer Adam Sack said.

The facility also has a firearms training simulator.

“This affords us the opportunity to practice that decision making under stress, and to practice utilizing our tools, utilizing our verbal skills,” Sack said.

These are skills that Officer Sack hopes will de-escalate any situation, and save lives.

(credit: CBS)

“I want to keep you safe. I can keep you safe as long as you stay right where you are,” Sack said.

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HERO is set up so one scenario builds upon the next.

“You can go from one training environment right into another, so from the virtual simulator, you can go through a de-escalation scenario, come right into the mats room, and maybe now they have to do some defensive tactics,” HERO training center manager Dan Anselment.

It also features a top-of-the-line shooting range with 50-yard shooting lanes. Officers will use this for training, and the public is welcome on weekends.

“This facility really allows us to have an area where agencies can come from all over and have one spot that they can train at,” Anselment said.

There are also two training houses outside with doors that can withstand small explosive charges. The secure outdoors area is also ideal for K-9 training.

The HERO training center will also host community-based safety education and training, like CPR and firearms.

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The cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury built the $21-million facility.

Reg Chapman