ICS seems to be one of the major organisation system for incident in the USA. Are you using it? And when you are in front of a structural fire (eg a house with a running fire), as "first truck on the scene", are you using ICS or do you use ICS only when the situation is "bigger" than a "basic" structural fire?
Eg, do you, as first chief, organise the location where the other truck will park and so on?
In the area that I live and work, yes, we do use the ICS. First arriving unit on fire alarms, structure fires, car fire, Haz Mat, wires arching, etc. establishes command. The first unit can be a chief officer or the first arriving engine or truck or rescue company. Command can be transferred if need be. Then whoever is going inside or operating with the firefighters would be Operations. This doesn't matter what manpower you have on the scene.
One day, I had a crew of five (driver, officer, and three crew members) on the first arriving engine. I established command and gave the TIC (Thermal Imaging Camera) to my senior firefighter to act as Operations. This worked out very well and we were dealing with a bank's fire alarm.
What I don't agree with ICS is when some people think you need to fill all ICS positions for EVERY incident. That's not always the case. As long you have accountability and organization at the incident, then you're doing something right.
What means "I established command"? My problem is that I gave course to non-US FF (who are also non-European) and they claim ICS is the best but the only thing I see are people running everywhere.:)
For example, I recently get a course during when an instructor explained that when first arriving on the scene you must establish a command post, defined an area for the next truck to arrive and so on.
If was so "heavy" that it tooks more time to set all these thinks that to extinguish a fire. And the problem was that all the man-power which must be used to attack, was used for other things,
So suppose there is a bad use of ICS.
So what are you really doing when you "established command" and what are you really doing when you "Operations"? Putting a flag to locate something? Wearing a special sign?
If you have only a small team, I suppose you don't give the TIC to the newbee but each time you give the TIC to the same guy in the truck. So why do you have to give it to him on the scene, rather than giving it to him at the fire station? With 10 trucks, 50 FF and only 2 TIC, I can understand but with one team and one TIC what is the reason?
When a first arriving chief officer or line officer(captain or lieutenant) or firefighter on an apparatus will tell dispatch "I'm arriving and establishing command." This lets dispatch know on who's the Incident Commander (IC) at that emergency incident. Also this lets other responding apparatus know on who's the IC and who's in-charge of the emergency scene so this way you don't have "more chiefs than indians". There have been problems where there would be more chiefs or officers than firefighters trying to give orders and not do alot of action. ICS helps element having too many chiefs overseeing the situation and taking control, besides the accountability and limit freelancing.
Operations will be the point of contact between the firefighters and/or line officers to the IC. Usually the operations chief (either chief officer or line officer or senior firefighter) will assess the situation and see what's needed to help the firefighters and transmit it to the IC. Operations can also give updates on situational changes for the IC, if they go unnoticed from the exterior compared to interior conditions say on a structure fire.
Can also have sections or divisions and groups at the incident, which would involve more chief officers. This all depends on the situation and the manpower provided. Some calls you can get two chiefs and others can get more than 12 chiefs easily on top of 12 to 40 firefighters and officers. This is due to the volunteer and combination (paid and volunteer organizations) in the town I work and volunteer in. Usually the IC has the time to do his "360" (walking around the building to size up) and other times would have to rely on other chiefs on scene to survey each section of the building or whatever the incident is. As long those chiefs have the experience and knowledge on what they're looking at and keep in communication with the IC.
There's no special use of flags or signs. Sometimes, if the incident is long and drags on in time, the IC will put on a vest stating "COMMAND" and might have other vests in different colors stating "ACCOUNTABILITY" and "SAFETY OFFICER" and "STAGING" and "OPERATIONS". This also goes along with specific color of helmets with who are the officers for safety, accountability, medical, IC and so on.
Usually, if I have a chief on scene I will go in with my team and carry the TIC. If there's no chief on scene and I have more apparatus on the way (Day Time Mutual Aid or DTMA we call it) then I will hand the TIC off to my senior firefighter and I'll stay outside to direct apparatus depending on the emergency.
We have one TIC on each apparatus. The officer or senior firefighter would normally take it. Sometimes it's never taken due to lack of training and inexperience among the volunteers. We keep the TIC strapped in it's battery charger and have a spare battery on charge all the time.
One team will take a TIC in to assist with their investigation. This is a great tool and very under-utilized within the fire service. I used it for interior and exterior fire attacks. Reason for exterior attacks because I've noticed fire streams being directed into the smoke and I have use my camera to let them know there's no heat source in that smoke and more it to the other end where there is heat and flames. Also used it to find escaped criminals. Great tool!
But getting back to ICS. I believe it's a good system which needs to be practiced and understood by all in the fire department(s) and neighboring fire departments within the fire service. I've gone through ICS-100 and 200 and NIMS-700 and 800 classes. There are 300 and 400 classes which are more for the federal level and two or three day long classes. I usually stick with the simple ICS-200 since I deal with single company operations. Like I said before, alot of the incidents I deal with are normally IC and Operations and maybe Staging and that's it. No need to always have Planning, Logistics, and Finance unless it's truly big and drawn out incident.
I AM GOING TO AGREE WITH TIM.FOR me we decide at the begining of shift before the first call and hope I have all of my team back before the next one. But I usually am on the first truck and as soon as a chief arrives I give over command. I have had to run more than one scene at a time so I am not power hungry. I like Tims ideas it beats caos I have seen especially with some of our younger crew.
OK, thinks became clear and I understand the confusion. In fact you call "ICS" a big system, but when you arrived on the scene you don't use "the BIG one".
In France for example, the message "I establish command" is natural, We tell it to the dispact as we go to the scene (we tell the dispact who we are, how many we are, where we go and why ( to confirm what the dispach ask us for) and we give the name of the chief (he gives his name). On arival we confirm the location. When we ask for oher trucks, the dispach call them and tell them who is the chief. and so on.
For the 360 it also "common".
We have had a meeting about tactic recently, and we made a comparison with what we call the "red plan" for emergency. When a FF ambulance arrives on the scene of a big crash, it discover the crash. The team has a common wwork to do as usual. But here, they also count the victims and ask for other anmbulance. If the number of victims is important, the dispacth start the "red plan" which had a special organisation, with parking, special clothees and so on. In fact it's like the ICS but the first ambulance is NOT part of it. This had the great advantage of not confusing.
What I think is that there is a confusion between what to do at first level and what we can do when thinks go wrong and this confusion came from the fact you use the same name for both.
I think in the USA, the one who don't use ICS at the beginnig of the event, think it's too big to be used as they believe they must do all. Like the FF I meet a few times ago, claiming ICS was marvellous but who were describing very heavy things to do even whan facing a trash-can fire.
I add some comments. In Europe and many other countries we don't use the word ICS but have same organisation. What we see is that these organisations (like the "full ICS") have been created at a time where fire was attacked by outside, due to poor noozle, no SCBA, poor turn our gear and so on.
Also, on such fire, we needed 5 or 10 trucks and many guys. Also, this way of doing is an "officier job" (in France, the rank are not the same as in the US. In some cases, what you call officier is a sub-officier for us. An officier is on the scene with 5 or 6 trucks, but with a smaller number,there is no "officier" (from French name of rank point of view). So the "organisation" is a "game for officier".
The problem is that fire has changed, and also techniques. With the method we use know (and that are not well known in the USA) we fight a fully envovled appartement fire with a team of 4, in about 5 minutes. This is great, but at the same time, we see organisational method must be changed as the time of action become incompatible with organisation time.
What we start to think is that we need three organisations:
a - when the team is arriving and is able to attack alone. (and as techniques are better and better, this become the common fact)
b - when the team is on the scene, facing a big event
c - when other trucks are on the scene
ICS can do "b" and "c" but as it uses the same name, it create confusion (explaining why some US FF don't use ICS for "b" because they just want to apply "full ICS" like on "c"). We know also how to do the "b" and "c" cases, but don't use the same name.
The main problem is case "a". It seems to be easy and many FF claim to know how to do. But after many tests, we see it's not true and that the high speed of action create big problem. And we must never forget that in 99% of cases, the "big fire" just came from a "small fire" we were unable to kill. So, jn order to avoid big fire, we must be better in fighting the small.
My wife recently take an ICS course (not in the USA) and the subject was a house fire. When she came back to the fire officier after 5 minutes, saying "fire is out"; he was so suprised that he tells her "No, that's not possible: I've not had enought time to do all my ICS job" and he tells her to go back and to fight the "virtual fire"... In fact the way he uses ICS was no good. Too slow, too complicated. And the only solution was to change the reality of fire to glue it to the organisation.... A complete non-sense!
That is how ICS is designed. You use what you need for that incident. If you get the time take ICS300 and 400. You will enjoy them and find them useful. I had to take them when I was on the job in Florida. Everyone complained about having to sit through the classes, but I found that it is better to get the training before the sh*t hits the fan. It's good to have the structure :) I am currently working to get my dept. more structured. We have a lot of chiefs and not enough indians. I'm craving structure and training at this point :) You covered ICS very nicely. I enjoyed reading your response. The TIC works great to find victums ejected from motor vehicles and those who are drunk running through the woods trying to hide from police. I found a guy once running through the swamp in Florida, everybody was ready to go home and I grabbed the TIC and found the guy in two minutes.
Maybe the need for ICS on small cases came also from difference in rank, kind of trucks and so on. In France, (EG), establising the command is of no use as the Law indicate who is the chief on the scene. Also, the message on arrival is common thing and we MUST do that everytime. So if i'm the sergent in the truck, I'm the chief, so I send the message and everyone know I AM the chief. I don't have to indicate that.
Also, I think the US system is to send many trucks on fire scene, with many teams: ventilation, RIT and so on. Which mean a human organisation needs to be done, in order to know quickly who is the chief for the RIT, the chief for ventilation, the chief of the chief and so on.
I'm writing a little book which I'll released in about 2 or 3 weeks. Comparing the way of doing in USA and in non-USA country. This is not about ICS but about nozzle technics. I started to write with some idea, but the more I write, the more I discovered each solution is good, but mixing them is stupid.
For us, in term of "ICS", we need an ICS for big cases and in fact we have such system. But trying to use the "same ICS" in front of an appartement fire is of no use. Maybe you don't really use the "same ICS" in the two cases, but as the name is the same, this give a confused situation.
Maybe some who are not using ICS on small fire will use it if it had a different name in that case. In many time, only changing the word change the point of view.
This is funny because this is the same as for "strategy" and "tacticis". The way US FF use these words is completly different from the way the non-US people use them. So in many case when a US FF speak of "strategy" all other non-US guys say "he don't know what is strategy" as in fact, only the link "word - signification" is different. Each one know what is it, but we don't name the same way.