Book Review: Overlook
Chapter 5, Practice Land, Places Playing Places, surveys stage-set places that appear familiar because versions of them have been used in Hollywood westerns and crime movies with car chases. The settings in these fast-moving scenes have been adapted for use in locations where land-use planners, police, firemen, and military personnel are trained to deal with emergencies.
Perhaps the best examples of these stylized versions of potentially dangerous ordinary places have been created in media-rich southern California. In addition to crime scenes these simulated disaster sites include train wrecks, hazardous material spills, fires, and riots.
The Los Angeles Police Department Academy in Elysian Park has one of the earliest examples of a situation-simulation, or sit-sim, village. Its Tactical Training Center has sets like the alley shown below where corridors end at fixed and moving targets, and live ammunition is directed at them.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s realistic simulated training centers was built as a laser village in the 1980s. Practice weapons emitted a laser light, and victims wore vests that electronically determined the approximate strike of the beam. Later on, small pellets filled with dye replaced the beams.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department operates five training sites, of which the Del Valle site near Castaic is the largest and most diversified in the Los Angeles region. A major focus of Del Valle is technical rescue training. There are sites with props used to stage bus accidents and various kinds of urban search-and-rescue training facilities. A hazardous material training area even has railcars and a chemical storage building.
The North Net Fire Training Center in Anaheim is used by fire departments from southern California and outside the state. Its main feature is a five-story concrete tower, shown above, that uses propane in simulated fires and has ladder and rope rescue training. Wrecked vehicles, which are delivered to the site, are used for victim extraction training.
Sites for specialized training address emergencies such as leaking tanker cars on rail lines. There is even an elaborate simulated methamphetamine lab.