Yep, I’m still at it. It seems with every post about the condition of Incident Command System training as we know it, I’m able to draw more people into our cause (aka the Crusade). While I’ve never espoused there to be an easy solution, the training that we currently provide for ICS falls well short of doing us any favors. People walk out of each subsequent training course with a marginally increased understanding of the system and how to use it. And that’s really the fundamental problem, isn’t it?
Perhaps at some point, someone had the idea of developing ICS 100-400 to be knowledge-based courses, with position-specific training to be more about application. Unfortunately, that’s a significant disservice to responders and the populations they serve, which was further exacerbated by the NIMS training requirements, creating a type of a false sense of security in which people believed that they have ‘been trained in ICS’, therefore all is well in the world. Responders, in the broadest sense, at supervisory levels within every community should be trained not only in what ICS is but also how to implement it. Not every community, for a variety of reasons, has reasonable access to position-specific training, so the core ICS curriculum absolutely MUST do a better job in teaching them how to implement the system.
This also goes further than just training. ICS, like so many other things, is a knowledgebase that tends to degrade over time. Without practice, you tend to lose the skills. This is how people who are on Incident Management Teams or those who work regularly in an ICS-based Emergency Operations Center are so well practiced in the system. In the absence (hopefully!) of actual incidents, planned events and exercises go a long way to keeping skills sharp. Even those, however, can get costly and time-consuming to design and conduct. Enter the hybridization of scenario-based training, which is something I’ve written on in the past. Not only do we need to include more scenario-based training in everything, we need to include a scenario-based ICS skills refresher course as part of the core ICS curriculum.
While I continue to have various thoughts on what there is to be done with the ICS curriculum as a whole, here is my current vision…
ICS-100: (What is ICS?) Pretty much keep this as is, with options for on-line and classroom delivery. The purpose of this course is to serve as an introduction to ICS concepts for those who are likely to come into contact with it and work in lower levels within the system. This is levels one (knowledge) and two (comprehension) of Bloom’s taxonomy. It shall serve as a prerequisite to further ICS classes as it provides much of the fundamental terminology.
ICS-200: (How do I work within the system?) Tear down/burn down/nuke the on-line version and never look back. Simply making it ‘more accessible’ doesn’t mean that it’s good (it’s not). The purpose of this course is to expand on knowledge and begin to approach functionality. I expect content to reach deeper than what is currently within the course. Without looking at specific content areas, I envision this course to be mostly level two (comprehension) of Bloom’s taxonomy with some touches on level three (application). Perhaps the only level one content that should be introduced in this course are some fundamentals of emergency management. Some of the content areas currently in the ICS 300 absolutely need to be moved into the ICS 200 to not only make the ICS 200 more impactful, but to also set up the ICS 300 as being fully focused on implementation of the system. Expanded content may mean taking this course to a duration of up to three days (it even feels taboo writing it!). ICS 100 (taken within six months) is a prerequisite.
ICS-300: (How do I manage the system?) The most recent update of the ICS 300 course begins to approach the vision for what we need, but more work needs to be done. This course needs to be much less about the system and more about how to IMPLEMENT and MANAGE the system. This course is firmly rooted in level three (application) of Bloom’s taxonomy, with perhaps some level four objectives, which gets into analysis (troubleshooting and creative solutions… because that’s what emergency management is really all about!). Much of this course is scenario-based learning centered on implementation and management of an incident through the use of ICS. Less instruction, more guidance. And because, at this point, ICS isn’t the only thing at play in real life, concepts of broader incident management are also applied. ICS 200 is naturally a prerequisite, and should have been taken within a year.
ICS Implementation Refresher Course: This would be designed as a post- ICS 300 course, taken every year or two. Reasonably, this can be accomplished in a day of intensive scenario-based training.
ICS-400: (A prerequisite for position-specific training). Eliminate this from the core curriculum. Seriously. Most of the current content of this course is not needed in the core ICS curriculum. Time is better spent in a more intensive ICS 300 course than teaching people about some (largely) obscure applications of ICS which are usually only ever performed by incident management teams. The current content is largely fine, it just has such little impact on local implementation of ICS and is really rather awkward within the continuity of the curriculum.
Thoughts and feedback are always appreciated. If we are to succeed and build a better mouse trap, it will be through dialogue and sharing of ideas.
© 2019 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP
2 thoughts on “A New Vision for ICS Training”
I agree completely. Most folks don’t actually take those online courses. They simply get the answers from someone else who actually does. There needs to be a new way to ensure that this knowledge is retained and applicable.
I also think that an ICS Implementation Refresher course should have some elements of applied improvisation training as well. I am an EM doctoral student at JSU in AL and I am beyond fascinated with the incorporation of improvisation into ICS. I think improvisation is an annex to planning – a culmination of ICS courses, training, interdisciplinary access to other professionals, and real world experience brought to bear when an unplanned event or a cascading event or sequence of events occurs. I am going to continue this study and figure out just where I can do my deep dive with it.
I look forward to your future comments and blogs. I just found this today sitting at my desk (FEMA Region IV) and thoroughly enjoyed several of your editorials.
Hi Kim, Thanks for the great feedback. YES – Applied Improv is something we are missing a lot of in public safety. While some people have broken into it, it’s still largely unheard of (I’m presently in the midst of designing a course that we expect to push out next year). I’m certainly interesting in hearing some of your perspectives on it. Thanks for reading!