Incident Command Training

I’ll be attending incident command training for police administrators at a location in the Metro Area for the next several days. I completed the first training session yesterday. I took this definition of Incident Command from the United States Coast Guard. It’s about as good a definition as I’ve found:

WHAT IS ICS? NIIMS ICS is a standardized response management system. It is an “all hazard all risk” approach to managing crisis response operations as well as non-crisis events. NIIMS was originally designed by a group of local, state, and federal agencies with wild-land fire protection responsibilities, to improve the ability of fire forces to respond to any type of emergency. A new training curriculum was completed in 1994 to better reflect the “All Hazard All Risk” capability of NIIMS (floods, earth quakes, oil spills, fires, planned events etc..). It is organizationally flexible and capable of expanding and contracting to accommodate responses or events of varying size or complexity. NIIMS consists of 5 major subsystems that collectively provide a total systems approach to all-risk incident management. These five subsystems are: Incident Command System, Training, Qualifications and Certification, Publication Management and Supporting Technology BENEFITS OF ICS The adoption of NIIMS ICS provides many advantages: 1. A flexible, standardized response management system that will allow for the cultivation of response management expertise at all echelons of Coast Guard command. 2. Provides for an increased support of trained personnel during major incidents. 3. NIIMS is a “public domain” system that allows unrestricted distribution by commanding officers to improve the capabilities of, and unify the local response community into a more effective organization. 4. Applies to any response situation (“all hazard all risk”). 5. Provides for a logical and smooth organizational expansion and contraction. 6. Maintains autonomy for each agency participating in the response.

It’s a good school. As a police administrator, it’s important to refresh and update my knowledge of tactical operations and joint emergency operations training. This particular school centers on managing tactical situations and also spends some time on personnel support.

One of the interesting sections of training today happened when the instructor asked us as administrators, how many of us had issued a direct order to one of our staff members in the last 30 days. Only a few hands went up. The instructor said that part of the failure of public safety entities during a time of crisis has been brought about by contemporary management principles whereby staff members are more empowered with participation and discussion of activities during non-critical activities.

He told us that we fail our staff if we don’t do a good job of differentiating from daily police activities and emergency, critical issues during training and daily operations. It was the instructor’s position that in a critical risk incident, situational leadership methods, involving the giving of direct orders and having them followed, is essential to saving lives and handling the situation. He discussed the need for training and reinforcement. He told us that if we care about our officers, we as chiefs and senior command personnel must work harder on this aspect of training.

It was a point well taken.

Additionally, the instructors spoke of the problem of police supervisors and administrators not wanting to disengage from the direct activity of a critical situation and instead, manage from a detached manner from a command location. A comment made by the instructors today made an impression. They said that if you are “playing the game” in other words, actively involved in the field portion of the activity, you can’t lead and manage the situation in the manner in which your officers and the community deserve and expect.

The instructors said that our concern for the safety of our officers demands that our supervisors and senior command staff be leaders and not players. It’s easier said than done. We were also told that if we don’t establish roles and responsibilities on a daily basis, it is difficult to do so when an emergency takes place. An example used by the instructors was the fact that when fire fighters arrive at the scene of a fire, an officer always advises their arrival and that they are taking charge of the incident. We were told this rarely happens in the police culture. We were told such simple procedures go a long way toward building confidence in communication and understanding of roles and responsibilities during a critical incident.

It is a theme that I regularly share with our supervisors. It is important that our supervisors be supervisors. We owe it to our staff. It’s not always popular and it’s not always the easiest way to work with our staff but it is the responsibility we assume when we accept a promotion and the pact of trust we make with our staff and our community.

As a chief, it’s a responsibility I take seriously.

About Gary Smith

Chief Smith has served over 31 years in the criminal justice field. He is currently a consultant assisting public and private organizations better establish community goals and ethical conduct with the members of their organizations. Chief Smith serves as a facilitator, lecturer, professor and other capacities both inside and outside the criminal justice field.
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