Chronicles of a New Chief: Incident Command Secrets Part I

12/12/09

I also serve as a Deputy EMS Coordinator for the County. In this volunteer position my role is to respond to incidents involving two or more EMS agencies in my half of the County. The coordinator’s job is to represent the Emergency Management Office and ensure that all EMS agencies on scene are working together, all patients are being cared for, and just try to be of general help while not getting in the way. Most incidents are vehicle crashes, although I have also gone to fires and situations involving inhalation (intentional or accidental) of poisonous substances.

One crash that I responded to some years ago resulted in several agencies being dispatched including a medevac helicopter. Monitoring the radio while en route to the scene, I heard someone cancel the helicopter; a couple of minutes later someone else requested it back to the scene. So help me God, a few minutes later the first person got back on the radio and canceled it again. In my minds’ eye I could see the helicopter somewhere up in the sky, zig-zagging back and forth.

The coordinator’s role, when all is said and done, is to help the various agencies not do this.

I have heard of incidents where the coordinator arriving on scene found two high ranking chiefs literally duking it out over who was going to be in charge, ignoring the unfolding events of the business at hand. In this situation it took a kick to the shin of the more suitable candidate to stop the fight and re-focus his attention on the incident.

Today I responded to a vehicle crash in an adjoining fire district. Initial dispatch information was a three car accident with injuries, and at least two ambulances plus an air ambulance were summoned to the scene. The incident was well run, and as it turned out that there were in fact only two cars, one potentially critical patient who needed air transport, and two sign-offs.

After all of the patients were treated and transported, I checked out with the fire chief in charge of the scene. He introduced me to one of his officers as “the new Bristol fire chief” and shook my hand. Then he said “while you're here, what do you think about…” and proceeded to ask my opinion on an issue relating to incident command. I was somewhat surprised, yet pleased that he was already treating me as an equal, seeking my input to a problem that plagues many departments.

Someday I too will consider myself an equal; but not just yet.

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Comment by Joe Stoltz on December 29, 2009 at 10:33am
Okay, one dope slap taken. If you haven't figured it out, I tend to be my own worst critic.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on December 28, 2009 at 1:18pm
Don't worry, Joe.
You'll grow in to it.
I was a little uncomfortable at first. The helmet was a funny color to me.
And the only time I got to go "in" was when it was over.
You miss some of the fun, but you don't miss ALL of the fun.
Good to hear that it's already going well for you.
TCSS.
Art

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