Let’s pretend for a minute that you know nothing about baseball. The manager says you’ll be in the starting lineup today at short stop and you’ll be batting 5th in the order. You’ll be facing a southpaw with an ERA under 3.00 with a wicked split-finger fastball. By this time you’d be speechless. What does all that mean? The point of this analogy is that when you are assigned to work a disaster, you are working within a system that is in place—with positions and rules, terminology and slang vocabulary—you are in the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM (ICS). I can tell you first-hand that the nation’s fire service “gets” ICS; law enforce is “getting” ICS; emergency managers are “getting” ICS—but realize that your non-emergency partner agencies and non-governmental organizations (faith-base, charities and non-profits) are not playing the same game as you. They don’t know the positions and they don’t know the rules and they certainly don’t know the vocabulary and terminology. This past spring, we have had dozens of disasters hit and the work is getting done. Imagine how much easier and better coordinated things would be if everyone knew the rules of the game. National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliance has been a requirement now for some time, and frankly, too many people are giving it lip-service and not implementing it as a standard practice. In a recent conversation I had with Charley Shimanski, Senior Vice President, Disaster Services, American Red Cross, I asked Charley why the Red Cross was so reluctant to implement ICS as part of their Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR) matrix. He told me that the Red Cross is moving towards ICS but has other priorities to address first. ICS is a tried and true system of managing small to catastrophic events. Encourage all of your team and partner agencies to take ICS classes and use ICS in your exercises and small events. When you do, it will be a lot more natural for you when you are working shoulder-to-shoulder with other agencies in an EOC or command post. ICS classes can be found online at: http://training.fema.gov/IS/NIMS.asp
Phil Davis, MPA
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