In a recent discussion thread, someone shared some material for a new program that promotes resiliency for disaster housing. While the intent of the program is good, there was one thing that struck me – it stated that it was based on the incident command system (ICS). My question – why?
ICS is a great system. It’s proven to be effective WHEN APPLIED PROPERLY. That’s the catch, though, isn’t it? A great many after action reports (AARs) identify areas for improvement relative to various facets of ICS after incidents, events, and exercises. The organizations that the AARs are usually focused on are professional response organizations – fire, police, EMS, public works, public health, emergency management, etc. These are organizations that generally get LOTS OF PRACTICE in applying ICS. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that most organizations that do use ICS don’t get enough practice in applying ICS beyond smaller incidents. So if responders, who are using ICS, have difficulty with expanded application despite some practice and more advanced training, how are organizations who don’t use it all expected to be able to remember it much less apply it properly on even the most basic of incidents? (More on my issues with ICS training here, in case you’ve missed posts over the last year or so.)
So back to the main topic of this post – who doesn’t need ICS training? I would suggest that those persons and organizations that don’t fit the broad definition of responders DON’T NEED IT. While this may be blasphemous to some, consider the time and effort wasted on getting people trained to understand ICS who will NEVER USE IT. “But what if they do need it?” you ask?
I’m challenged to really find that need. Why does the management of an apartment complex need to know or understand ICS? I find the thought of that foolish and wasteful. Sure, they can be a partner in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Does that make them a responder? No. Will they become part of the ICS organization? NO! Is there any reason why they would need to use ICS to manage their own organization? NO!!! They manage their organization every day through what should be a very effective model for them. Why the hell do we want to change that? We need to stop pushing our complex shit on other people who don’t need it.
I’m of two thoughts on this… One, there are people who are so gung-ho over including everyone under the sun into emergency management that they feel compelled to bring them into the profession. News flash people – if they wanted to be emergency managers, they would. There is no practical reason for them to be trained in the vast complexities of emergency management. Two, there are people who don’t really understand the applications of emergency management themselves, and therefore try to make adaptations of the system for every variety of stakeholder out there. This is something I’ve struggled with very often as people try to adapt ICS to their organization and, in doing so, change the foundational principles of ICS (span of control, terminology, organizational structure, etc.). Further, every organization thinks they have an INCIDENT COMMANDER. STOP!!!
ICS is not for everyone. I’m not being elitist or exclusionary, I’m being practical. That’s not to say that certain stakeholders shouldn’t at least be familiar with what it is, but still not every stakeholder or partner, and they certainly don’t need to know how to actually apply it. For many, simply having a point of contact with certain departments or through the 911 center is enough. Certainly if some have an interest in it they can ask, or take a class either in person or online. (I would never withhold a training opportunity from anyone.) This should certainly give them enough to satisfy their curiosity.
Along with my crusade to make better ICS training for responders (even non-traditional ones), I would suggest that we need to do a better job of advising other organizations about how they interact with the system. Simply throwing ICS training at them DOESN’T WORK. It creates false expectations and generates more confusion.
So please, fire away with your thoughts. Who do you think shouldn’t have ICS training? What would you change about the current ICS training model/requirements?
Shameless plug time: Need ICS training or training in other areas of emergency management? How about meaningful and practical emergency plans you can actually implement? Exercises to test those plans and give staff an opportunity to practice implementing plans? Emergency Preparedness Solutions can help! Link to info below!
© 2016 – Timothy Riecker