Having already proven their worth in various parts of the country, All-Hazard Type 3 Incident Management Teams (IMT) are now catching on in other areas — and their growth within the last five years is punctuated by the creation of the All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association, incorporated in December 2010.
Incident management teams are nothing new, but the All-Hazards IMTs were derived from the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS), both of which started principally after the breakdowns in the response and recovery efforts to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The concept is to assemble a trained team that can immediately respond to a major, widespread emergency or catastrophic event anywhere in the nation, and help manage any incident that would extend to multiple days. That could include a tornado, flood, terrorist event or a planned mass gathering.
After Katrina and Rita, there was a sense of urgency to develop All-Hazards teams — but not necessarily the Type 1 and 2 teams developed for wildland firefighting. The credentials and experience for Type 1 and 2 teams take decades to develop, according to Steve Grainer, president of the All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association.
“Basically DHS and FEMA said, ‘We don’t think we want to wait that long, so we’re going to foster the development of the All-Hazard [Type 3] IMTs.’ It doesn’t matter whether it’s a so-called All-Hazards Type 1 or 2, it’s a function of experience and practice,” Grainer said.
All hazards basically means any incident or event, and that the teams are composed of individuals from various disciplines, including police, fire, public health, public works, emergency medical and even lifeguards in Southern California.
“Basically it’s all discipline as opposed to all hazards,” Grainer said. “An IMT can manage any kind of hazard if it’s a well prepared team.”
FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Team Leader Mike Byrne said the agency is working toward developing more Type 1 teams to deploy to large, catastrophic events, but for now, the growth is in Type 3 teams. The development of the All-Hazards association, he says, is indicative of the value of the All-Hazard Type 3 teams. “People realize they are multipurpose project-execution-capable and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we want a job done,” he said. “You need that core structure to be in place.”
What’s in a Team?
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the Type 1 IMT is a self-contained team of 35 to 50 people that require decades of experience and training. Type 2 is a self-contained, All-Hazard or wildland teams, ranging from 20 to 35 individuals and are deployed to manage regional incidents like wildfires. And Type 3 teams typically have 10 to 20 trained personnel.
“A reasonable, well constituted All-Hazards Type 3 team is going to consist of 30 to 50 individuals. I’ve seen some organizations that call themselves a team of a dozen folks,” Grainer said. “That’s good for a day or two. Optimally a well developed team is at least three deep in every one of the key command and general staff and significant unit level positions.”
At a minimum, a Type 3 team should consist of: an incident commander; operations section chief; plans section chief; finance section chief; and logistics section chief. It also can include a communications unit leader; food unit leader; medical unit leader; supply unit leader; public information officer; liaison officer and safety officer.
Grainer, who also is the chief of Incident Management Programs for the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, said the number of teams around the country is unknown, but the association is planning to send out a survey this year to get an idea. “We’ve got folks all over the place,” he said. “Here, in Virginia, I’ve got probably seven or eight jurisdictions that say they have a team, but ask them what their team is composed of and what their qualifications are, and they start backtracking. Are there a lot of teams? Yes. But what are their qualifications? That starts to trim the numbers back a little. Some are very good.”