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Despite security, fire academy easily accessible

Stephanie Long
Emmitsburg Dispatch


The main gate to the National Fire Academy stands open to visitors. The security check-in to the right is no longer used and visitors are required to check in at the security building at the end of this long entry

(1/3) Located in Emmitsburg, the National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute facilities is a federal government facility. Just a year ago security guards manned a security building at the gate entrance, checking every incoming visitor in and calling ahead to make sure they are expected. But now the booth sits empty and cars freely pass in and out of the gated entrance. This makes it somewhat easier for visitors to come and visit the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and other public areas, while still meeting the federal guidelines for security.

“We took security off the gates a year ago, mainly for budget reasons,” said Ronald P. Face, Jr, director, NETC Management, Operations, and Support Services with U.S. Fire Academy.

Now security personnel watch the gate via cameras, Face said. In lieu of the manned gate, a series of barriers have been set up on the main road leading to the buildings and a sign directs guests to proceed to the security building on the campus for check in and students to proceed to the registration building.
Since the threat level for the country is generally at elevated (yellow), there is no need to restrict campus access to only essential personnel, according to federal guidelines. Face said the fire academy has agreements with the Maryland State Police and Frederick County Sheriff’s Office for situations where the threat level is raised.

“If that happened, we would hire a number of officers and sheriff’s deputies to help us,” Face said.

A sign directing incoming traffic acts as a “No Trespassing” sign, according to Face, but the campus could be considered easily accessible as anyone could bypass check in at the security or registration building. However, the campus has video surveillance and Face said that anyone found on campus to not be an employee, student or guest, will be considered a trespasser and “will be prosecuted.”

The public is allowed on the campus, particularly to visit the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
“All they need to do is stop in at the security building and sign in, but they will be told that they cannot go anyplace else and that they should go directly from the parking lot to the location and directly back,” Face said.

The National Fire Academy is on the grounds of the old St. Joseph College, which closed in 1973. The federal government purchased it for $3.5 million in 1978 and located the fire academy and what is today known as the Emergency Management Institute, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there. About 25,000 students come through the academy classes each year, spending a day to two weeks at a time in Emmitsburg. FEMA became part of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 and so did the Emmitsburg property.

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