Don’t Just Take It From Me – There are Issues with ICS Training

The February 2016 edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal highlighted, among other things, some concerns with ICS training in the United States.  First off, if you aren’t subscribed to the DPJ, you should be.  It’s free and they offer good content, with few extraneous emails beyond the journals.  Check them out at

The specific article in this issue I’m referencing is Incident Command System: Perishable if Not Practiced, by Stephen Grainer. Mr. Grainer is the Chief of Incident Management Systems for the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.  Steve has a significant depth in ICS and understands all the nuances of preparedness and application.  I first met him when serving on the national NIMS steering committee with him several years back.

The title of the article is a bit deceptive – it’s not just focused on the issue of the training being perishable.  Right up front, Mr. Grainer, who is a longtime supporter and advocate of ICS, outlines a few shortcomings and constraints related to the application of ICS and ICS training.  He states that “little attention has been given to developing the students’ ability to recognize an evolving situation in which more formalized implementation of the ICS should be undertaken”.  This underscores one of my main points on the failings of the ICS curriculum.  We teach people all about what ICS is, but very little of how to use it.

After giving a few case studies that reflect on the shortcomings he highlighted, Mr. Grainer expresses his support for continued training, refresher training (something not currently required), and opportunities to apply ICS in ways that public safety and emergency management don’t do on a regular basis.  He summarizes by stating that not only does training need to continue to address succession and bench depth, but also the need to address how to maintain competencies and address misunderstandings in NIMS/ICS.

Yes, training does need to continue, but it must be the RIGHT training!  We continue doing a disservice by promoting the current ICS courses which fall well short of what needs to be accomplished.  Mr. Grainer’s mention of the need for our training to address better implementation of ICS, particularly beyond the routine, is perhaps a bit understated, but nonetheless present.  Refresher training also needs to be incorporated into a new curriculum, as these skills are absolutely perishable – particularly the aspects of ICS typically reserved for more complex incidents.

In the event you aren’t familiar with my earlier posts on ICS and my crusade for a better curriculum, check out these posts.  As I’ve said before, this isn’t a pick-up kickball game… this is public safety.  We can do better.

Shameless plug:  Assessments, Planning, Training, Exercises.  Emergency Preparedness Solutions does it all.  Contact us to find out how our experience can benefit your jurisdiction’s or organization’s emergency and disaster preparedness.  We are your partner in preparedness.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

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