A village not for living but for working: that’s what Columbia Gas recently developed to train its employees. The village, which is located at... Safety town: Columbia Gas completes work on employee training area

A village not for living but for working: that’s what Columbia Gas recently developed to train its employees.

The village, which is located at 1812 Coyote Drive next to other Columbia Gas offices, will provide a place where the company’s 400-plus employees can train with “real life” situations.

“You don’t see much traditional classroom setting,” company spokesman Karl Brack said.

The village is officially known as the emergency response safety town and consists of a mock neighborhood of mini-homes and businesses with functioning pipelines, meters and other natural gas facilities. From a command center in the village, instructors can create and control various training scenarios such as leak simulations.

Trainers can use the area to teach procedures, including service hookups, locating utilities and leaks and monitoring corrosion.

“It’s designed so that things are wrong,” Brack said, noting this provides employees the ability to troubleshoot.

Sound effects – such as a dog barking, children playing and a couple arguing – can be added, training team leader Crystal Foster said.

A “slip, trip and fall simulator” mimics real life icy conditions that is used to train employees how to “penguin walk,” Brack said. The simulator is made of glass, and a soapy water solution is added to make it more slippery.

A backhoe simulator on a motion platform is also available. “The seat moves if you hit something,” Brack said.

A fire safety training area allows for the practice of fighting natural gas fires in monitored exercises. Columbia Gas plans to partner with local first responders to offer firefighter training.

“This new training center is a game-changer when it comes to developing and maintaining the skills of our entire workforce,” said Phil Wilson, vice president and general manager of Columbia Gas of Virginia.

Building the $9 million, 22,000-square-foot facility started 18 months ago, according to Brack.

An open house at the village will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 2.