At the newest public building in Cottage Grove, unruly prisoners get handcuffed, car crash victims get saved, and people in crisis get talked out of hurting themselves.

None of the emergencies at the new HERO Training Center are real.

But for hundreds of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical staffers, the scenarios that will be played out at the $20.5 million facility mimic the challenges they face daily on the job.

"It's a lot easier here" to do training, said Anthony De La Rosa, a Washington County corrections officer who on Tuesday was leading about 20 people through exercises.

The facility, jointly built and owned by Cottage Grove and Woodbury, is just a stone's throw from Cottage Grove City Hall off County Hwy. 19. The state chipped in about $11 million to help pay for the building, and Woodbury and Cottage Grove split the remaining cost.

The HERO Center — the name is an acronym for Health Emergency Response Occupations training center — broke ground in September 2018. It's been operating for a few weeks, but an open house Tuesday gave the public its first good look.

The facility is designed to give police officers and firefighters a space for all their state-mandated annual qualification work.

In the past, Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Pete Koerner said he might have to send police officers to a variety of places to get their required training hours accomplished, ranging from a high school wrestling gym to a shooting range in Denmark Township.

Now, with the training center right next door to the Cottage Grove Police Department, and just a few minutes from the Woodbury Police Department, officers will spend less time driving to undergo training, he said.

Among its many features are three classrooms for up to 128 people; a catering kitchen; a two-story tactical training area; two free-standing "training" houses; balcony and stairwell training areas; a room of soft mats for physical training; a video simulation system for firearms training; and an outdoor yard for K-9 training. There's also an acre of pavement to practice traffic stops.

In the video simulation room, a $120,000 system uses up to three large screens to put a police officer in any one of some 700 scenarios. As a training officer sits at a nearby computer overseeing the video exercise, the officer being trained has to make split-second decisions.

Daniel Anselment, the center's public safety training manager, showed one such scenario to visitors, a video of a despondent woman sitting outside and armed with a knife.

The woman, an actor, shouted at the police officer to leave and threatened to hurt herself.

If the officer does a poor job of handling the situation, the training officer overseeing the exercise can push a button and suddenly the video shows the woman rising out of her chair or even charging with a knife raised over her head.

Those scenarios are frighteningly common for police officers, Anselment said.

In the "mats" room, a group of county corrections officers practiced physical compliance moves they might need on the job in the prison system. De Le Rosa said officers used to practice on gym mats tossed on the floor at the county government center.

A two-story area allows fire crews to practice running up smoke-filled stairs in the dark or using a ladder to reach balconies and second-floor windows.

The training area is large enough to fit the department's largest fire truck, he said.

Cottage Grove Fire Chief Rick Redenius said he used to have to wait for a house or commercial building facing demolition to give firefighters that sort of hands-on training.

The 12-lane shooting range may eventually open for public use on the weekends, Anselment said.

Another four-lane shooting range for police officers would remain off-limits to the public.

A large door on the side of the shooting range allows officers to drive in with their squad vehicles if they want to train that way, Anselment said.

"That's not something you normally get to do during the winter," he said.