I joing an All Hazards Type 3 Incident Management Team and finally finished of my Operations Section Chief task book. The All Hazards Teams are extremely important in times of emergency. These teams go into towns such as Oklahoma City,or Long Island, and develop the plan to help them recover from devestation. The article is about lessons learned on a recent deployment.
Confidence in an Incident Management Team by the workers in the field is critical to success and constant changing of plans and tactics may lead to the questioning your IMT’s ability to manage the incident. It is critically important when your IMT responds to assist another IMT that you spend some time with the team already in place and develop your situational awareness. Once the other IMT leaves it is too late to ask questions. Your IMT may end up playing catch-up and spend considerable time trying to get up to speed.
Before you arrive, have a list of questions that you need answered which may not be covered on the ICS 209. During your in-briefing ask specific questions which may allow you go garner insights into how the incident unfolded, why it was being managed the way it was before your team arrived, and the unexpected challenges their IMT faced during their operational periods. The current IMT may have initially started their operational period with a set of tactics and as often the case, had to make changes and thus creating a hybrid plan. The IMT may have changed their plans on paper, but making the changes in field may take longer and the workers may be still transitioning from the original tactics to the hybrid plan.
During your initial briefings you receive the broad scope picture. Use the shadowing time to garner as much information as you can from the person you are replacing. During the one-on-one time you can find the little unexpected nuances that arose and influenced how they performed during their operational period. You should find out how they initially anticipated managing the incident, what went right, what went wrong, and why. The answers to these questions can help your IMT’s success. Failure to ask the questions can hamper effective transitions from team to team. By anticipating the challenges at an incident and developing your own set of questions your team can make the best use of the limited time with the out-going IMT. The key to your team’s success is the initial conversations that help your team create an in-depth situation awareness of the incident you are taking over.