There are many teams in the Southwest, and Texas teams have been managing wildfires, floods and events for several years. Some of those teams have recently managed incidents like the Texas wildfires in 2011, the Alabama tornadoes and the storms in Indiana, to name a few.
Patrick Repman, who heads the Permian Basin Type 3 IMT in Texas, said the team was created to help manage the influx of refugees after Katrina and Rita. Since then, the team has been used to assist a neighboring community during a refinery explosion; aided a community facing potentially catastrophic flooding; and help when a plane carrying both Mexican and United States officials crashed during a reconnaissance flight over the Mexican border.
Teams generally manage resources brought in for the incident and more, including:
• maintenance and upkeep of assets, including food, water, sanitary needs, fuel and equipment;
• tracking costs and other data related to the use of resources;
• provides orderly and manageable systems for the supervision of assets or span of control;
• providing information sharing and management;
• provides a systemic approach to ensuring safety of the resources and the public; and
• provides basic and detailed planning for operational needs, forecasting trends and probabilities and recording the incident scenario as it progresses.
Guidelines or Standards?
There are guidelines for the necessary training and experience someone needs to join a team, but to a large extent, it’s hypothesis, according to Grainer. Candidates are encouraged to complete certain core ICS and NIMS courses, and to take a course detailed to one of the various positions in a team. A candidate should also initiate a position task book, which is a mechanism whereby a person is evaluated and his or her capabilities and understanding are documented during real operating conditions.
The problem so far with the task book is that there aren’t enough people with the proper experience and qualifications to evaluate others.
“This is one of the challenges — standardization,” Grainer said. “When we say standardization, we also have to acknowledge the fact that we’re not going to be able to adopt a national standard until we know where we want that standard to take us.”
Byrne said standardization is already happening. “We’re saying, if you join one of these teams, here’s a core set of things you need to know to be able to certify or qualify for say, plan session chief. That means you have to have a certain experience that’s been demonstrated and you have to have gone through a certain amount of training. What can you imagine is more NIMS compliant than that?”
The core courses provide standardization across the country, Byrne said, so anyone who has received certification can travel to an incident and know where they fit in and what to expect.
California, with its history of wildfires, has developed a number of efficient Type 1 and 2 teams, but is behind the curve on developing Type 3 teams, according to Brian Fennessy, assistant fire chief of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Fennessy said developing a Type 3 team has come with certain hurdles, namely credentialing and qualifications. “Incident management teams have for so long been fire-based, and the qualifications and standards really kind of surround the wildland fire community qualifications. It’s difficult to get a law enforcement officer to meet what the fire community views as say, operations chief qualifications.”