flood rescue training center
(Render/S2O Design)

Extreme Flooding Requires Extreme Training: Next-Level Houston Facility Being Built

Houston Community College begins work with S2O Design and Engineering on a 75,000-square-foot swift-water rescue training facility.

Three 500-year floods have ravaged the United States’ Gulf Coast since 2015. To help rescue crews keep up with intensifying conditions, Houston Community College (HCC) plans a training facility it calls state-of-the-art.

Soon, it may become a nationwide epicenter for flood rescue specialists. That’s because the institution is working with whitewater-focused S2O Design and Engineering on the cutting-edge flood rescue training facility.

A Closer Look at Flood Rescue

Planned at the school’s northeast Houston campus, the location will offer flood, swift-water, low-head dam training, and more for a slew of first responders — up to 4,000 each year, S2O said in a release.

The $25 million, 75,000-square-foot facility will feature a large swift-water channel; a 25-acre dive, powerboat, and flatwater training pond; and an urban flood simulator to allow rescue personnel to train in flooded streets and buildings. A huge pump system will channel water at a high volume through the manufactured watercourse.

The result? A simulated flood in a controlled environment will also prioritize staff and trainees’ safety.

flood rescue training center

It’s a somewhat novel challenge for Lyons, Colo.-based S2O. But the company’s experience with designing whitewater parks will help lead the way.

“More often we apply our skillset crafting whitewater-based recreation facilities, but designing projects like this to train first responders is incredibly rewarding,” said Scott Shipley, S2O founder.

“Regional emergency response teams will no longer depend on finding a creek or river with proper conditions for this vital training.”

S2O’s portfolio includes some of the most advanced recirculating whitewater venues in the world, including the Lee Valley Whitewater Center in London, home of the 2012 Olympics.

When finished, the Houston facility will join the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, N.Y., as the only two mock urban flood training centers in the U.S.

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Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.