It seems that in our department the hardest thing for us is to establish and maintain a managerial IC. I'm Guilty of it myself. Keep in mind we are a volunteer department and personal is sometimes limited. I'm just wondering if any of you have had similar experience's,and if so have or how have you lowered the hurdles?
First of all every Department has a chain of command of some sort or another. That same chain of command should be what operates/ administers any given incident. Whether you realize it or not you ARE IC of the incident.
Dont get hung up on a term that conjures up all kinds of nasty nightmares.
The best way to maintain accountability is a simple, manual tracking system.
There are several versions. My department uses the Passport system, similar to what Phoenix and Seattle use.
It's a county standard here. Here's one source for the components: http://www.imsalliance.com/passport/index.asp
You don't need an expensive electronic tracker system to keep track of your people.
We use the Passport system because it includes a tactical board that every engine and other company can carry to not only track units and personnel, but you can use it to manage the incident as well. We have larger versions of this board on pull-out command modules in the rear of the battalion chief rigs that allow for expanded operations.
These systems are simple, easy to teach, easy to use, and they work in the the rain and when the electricity is off.
This is not an easy answer, you need a command class. 2 things that are very important span of control (ideally its 5 but no more then 7) and accountability. We keep each rig, be it an engine, truck or rescue together as a team, ok hears the 3rd important part, someone has to take command and announce it, everyone needs to know YOUR structure and who out ranks whom from the chief down to the rookie, and this needs to be in writing, we have dedicated the shotgun seat as command. Now at a fire you need to do 4 things attack, search and rescue, vent and water supply, you can combine tasks because of manpower issues, but all need done, some may add salvage if you got the people. Set up your responding rigs to cover those tasks with only the PIC of that rig talking to IC makes a clean and easy flow chart. This is very brief but remember some basic rules, announce command, use names not numbers, stay in your group with a PIC and remember a FF should be in 1 of 3 places, working, staging, or rehab. If the people you have as officers don’t seem to want to take command or would rather be working, you may want to rethink their position, some people just can’t do it.
NIMS is an excellent program.... on paper. In my real world, it doesn't work the same way. Each department in my area utilizes it a different way. My department doesn't use incident command on small single incidents. If we work a collision or incident and are using helicopter transport, or mutual aid, then we initiate. Some departments around here initiate IC to extinguish a cigarette. There is also little or poor communications interoperability between agencies.
As far as utilizing a unified or area command, that football gets a workout. There was a recent wildfire with multiple agencies. Again, interoperability (or lack of) was the first breakdown. City FD on one channel, two other suburban departments on another. They tried a patch between systems, all they got was feedback. (football 1, monkeys 0).
Plan B. We are going to do a multi-agency unified command. Of course the communications issue immediately affected this plan. Radio transmissions went something like; booster #, head over to the south and assist the dozer. On another channel you hear; I don't know what they are doing, just go to that side and work the line to the south. On the other channel, booster# to command, they have a truck with the dozer, what do you want us to do? (Football 2, monkeys 0)
Anyway, as is always the case, the fire eventually goes out, and apparently nobody got hurt. This department is upset with another department because they wouldn't follow orders of command, other department is upset because command couldn't operate on their channel, and at the end of the game, the football won, (again).
Quick question if you don't use ICS how do you know it's time to pack up and go back to the hall. ICS is as simple as the OIC being in command, you don't need every box of the ICS flow chart filled for every fire.
Maybe we are lucky here in Illinois, for as long as I can remember we have had 2 channels for fire grounds, everyone has at least these 2. Now with MABAS we have 8 and a plan to go with it, this is starting to trickle down, but we still have the 2. For years we have operated by go do this or pull up and start to work and have got the job done. The time of turf wars and pissin matches and freelancing should go by the way of 8 track tapes; there’s no place for it, no command, no accountability no structure. If you are not at least working towards this, and someone gets hurt of god forbid dies, close the doors cause the fines are coming. From Chicago to a 1 horse town, everyone should use ICS and NIMS, you may have to tweak it to work for you, but the system is standard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you have officers that won’t or don’t take command, then they should not be officers.
Actually things went pretty good, no fights no swearing no one walked out, all-in-all good. The staging thing everyone agreed on, that was a biggie as a lot of other stuff will fall in place if that’s done right. Communications was another hot topic and I feel once we come out of the marrow banding committee with a plan, we can solve that. Knowing everyone has the proper channels and a plan for there use will make that work. I probably missed you last night, digestive problems.