A couple weeks ago I wrote about the new EOC training courses released by FEMA. Last week I acquired some additional information on these through a webinar conducted by the course managers from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI). In this webinar, they covered the updated ELG 191 (ICS EOC Interface), G 402 (NIMS Overview for Officials), IS 2200 (Basic EOC Operations), and ELG 2300 (Intermediate EOC Operations). Similar to the rollouts for the new ICS courses, they walked us through comparisons for these new/updated courses (where they exist) and gave some information on the course structure and general content areas. They also provided plans of instruction, which, for those of you who aren’t instructional designers, are documents foundational to the instructional design process, laying out everything from course objectives, target audience, and materials needed, as well as outlining the content areas for each unit within the course.
First, it’s important to note that EMI stressed these courses being part of a new EOC training track, intended as an analog to the foundational ICS courses, with the vision being that, depending on what the assignment of personnel might be, they may be better suited to take one or the other. Of course there are some staff that would certainly benefit from both. I think this is a great move by EMI. For decades we have been using ICS courses supplemented by home grown courses to produce meaningful training. Depending on the structure and processes of the EOC, we often had to tell people to ignore parts of the ICS training they had because of how differently the EOC operates. That said, while these new courses build a much better foundation for EOC training, there will still be a need for some locally developed training to address the specifics of your own EOC. This is incredibly important… don’t be lazy about this.
The course I had greatest interest in during this webinar was the ELG 2300 – EOC Intermediate course. This course actually replaces the G 775 EOC course, which I wouldn’t say is equivalent to the new course, but in creating these new courses, the old courses are being fully demobilized. The course runs for three full days in the classroom, covering EOC skillsets, incident planning, situational awareness, resource management, and the ever-awkward transition to recovery. Pilot offerings of the course have demonstrated it to be a very full three days, with didactic material reinforced by activities.
From reviewing the Plan of Instruction, here are the items I appreciate in this course:
- They address an EOC as a nexus of activity within the greater context of emergency management, covering topics such as incident management teams, potential roles, multi-agency coordination, preparedness, and maintaining readiness.
- Developing EOC plans and standard operating procedures
- A lot of emphasis on situational awareness
- They accept the challenge of discussing the different possible EOC organizational models within major topic areas
- The importance of structured recovery operations and the role of the EOC in these
There are two things I see through the lens of the plan of instruction that I’m not a fan of. First of all, the first few units seem to have reiterative content. While it may be with a different focus, topics such as the ICS/EOC interface don’t need to be explained over and over again in each unit.
The second item is a big one, and this brings me back a few years to my first critical piece on ICS training. This issue is that the course objectives simply don’t line up with what the course needs to be. Each of the terminal learning objectives of the course center on explain or identify, which reflect a low domain of learning in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Yet the ‘overall course objective’ as stated in the plan of instruction is for students to ‘demonstrate the managerial and operational roles of the modern-day EOC’. Demonstrate is a higher, application-level domain within the taxonomy, which is absolutely where we should be for a three-day intermediate level course. The course terminal objectives, however, don’t reflect this higher domain. Not seeing the actual course material, I’m not able to ascertain if this is a reflection of poor instructional design (not properly aligning the objectives with appropriate course content) or if the content is actually written in accordance with the terminal objectives, thus not meeting the intent of the ‘overall course objective’.
I’m a big proponent of the need for the courses in series to be developmental; with foundational, rote information provided in a basic or awareness level course and a progression to more practical learning occurring at intermediate and advanced levels. While this course, as I see it, certainly comes a long way to improve our collective preparedness for emergency operations centers, most jurisdictions are not going to commit to sending their staff to three days of training just so they can do a better job of talking about what an EOC is and should do. They should be coming back with an increased ability to perform. Given the range of skills and ideal learning outcomes we are really striving for, perhaps we need to transcend the basic-intermediate-advanced training levels and examine the role-based model of awareness-operations-technician-management/command-planning. This allows for better targeting of learning outcomes based upon what people need. Just a thought.
Despite my misgivings, we needed to start somewhere with a jumpstarted EOC training program. This is a great start and I’m sure as this course gets some exercise, there will be some identification of opportunities to improve and better meet the needs of the variety of audiences out there. I’m looking forward to seeing the course material sometime in the near future.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.
©2019 Timothy Riecker, CEDP