Posted on September 25, 2011 by Airplane1964
As of this writing, fourteen days ago, our country remembered 9/11 and those who died on that day. Those terrible events ushered in what we now referred to as NIMS (the National Incident Management System). As those of us in the business know, the foundation of NIMS is the Incident Command System (ICS). Over the past 10 years, billions (yes BILLIONS) of dollars have been spent through the use of grant funds to teach ICS and NIMS to communities from Indian Reservations to New York City, as well as equipping and training emergency personnel to respond to various types of emergencies. These funds have helped the smallest volunteer fire departments or “Mayberry” size police departments to the so-call big city career departments. But what have we really learned over these past ten years? Have departments truly embraced the ICS/NIMS concepts? The answer to that yes and no.
The basic principle of NIMS is to have a nationally accepted and adopted incident management system that all departments and agencies will abide by so when other agencies (on a mutual aid or EMAC, Emergency Management Assistance Compact, request) arrive to assist the stricken department, everyone will be speaking from the same sheet of music. The fourteen essential features of ICS includes: 1) Common Terminology, 2) Modular Organization, 3) Management by Objectives, 4) Reliance on an Incident Action Plan (IAP), 5) Chain of Command and Unity of Command, 6) Unified Command, 7) Manageable Span of Control, Pre-Designated Incident Locations and Facilities, 9) Resources Management, 10) Information and Intelligence Management, 11) Integrated Communications, 12) Transfer of Command, 13) Accountability, and 14) Deployment. Let’s be honest with ourselves….are departments truly adhering to these principles? Do you want the truth or a lie?
You may say, “Ken, where is your proof that ALL departments receiving federal grant funds are not following these principles?” I submit to you the NIOSH reports on firefighter deaths over the past ten years and you will see several recurring themes: 1) Accountability Issues, 2) Communication Issues, 3) Failure to establish or abide by ICS practices, and 4) Failure of Command to COMMAND.
“What else do you have Ken?!” Well, common terminology and cleared text (no ten codes) are both ICS principles. But I submit to you recorded radio communications on YouTube or other web sites. Many departments (including some “big city” departments) are still using ten codes.
“Okay Ken”, you say, “let’s not bad mouth departments who lost members.” If that is what you are thinking as you are reading this article, you are so wrong. I am merely pointing out that after years of training and billions of dollars, we are still losing or severely injuring people during emergency operations for the same reasons. Isn’t that enough to bring it to people’s attention?
Recently, I was at the scene of a large apartment building fire in the jurisdiction of a major Louisiana fire department. During that incident, the fire department never established a Rapid Intervention Team, never maintained accountability of the firefighters on the scene, never established and maintained an incident command post, numerous units on the scene used the word “Command” when communicating to the Incident Commander, and sides around the building were identified contrary to how all other departments in that particular parish (county) identified sides of a building. Again, this department has received training in ICS and NIMS (and grant funds) but yet they failed to adhere to the basic fundamentals of ICS during this major fire. I believe that this is not an isolated incident but a common occurrence around the country. And this is not only a fire department issue. If you listen to most police department or 911 EMS department radio communications you will most likely find the same problems exist or are worst.
“So why are you bringing this up? What is the point of this article?”, you are asking. Ten years after 9/11 and all the money that has been spent on training, can someone (anyone) explain to me why are we still losing people for the same contributing factors? Additionally, why during our country’s budget problems, are federal grant funds still being sent to departments that fail to adhere to ICS/NIMS principles? Is that not rewarding departments for their bad behavior?
It is time to make a change public safety departments. It is time to let go of historical operational practices (“this is the way we have always done it”) and adhere to the principles and practices of the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System. If your department or agency has failed to do so, what will be your excuse if the next Line of Duty Death occurs in your department and it is faulted by NIOSH for some of the failures noted here? What are you going to say to the family members of the person who gave their life in the line of duty? If a contributing reason why this individual died was because of the lack of Accountability, Safety Officer, Communications, or Command, there is nothing that you can say. Nothing at all.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Attributed to different people.
Original Sorce: Link - http://usabeready.org/wordpress/?p=182
http://www2a.cdc.gov/NIOSH-fire-fighter-face/state.asp Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report
http://www.training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/IS100CM/ICS0102summary.htm IS-100 Incident Command Systems (ICS) 100 Training Lesson 2 ICS Features and Principles