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The six step incident management program
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014 - 13:58

Incident Management is a key component to the success of your business. When it comes to incident management, the best defense is a good offense. In order to reduce mitigation and risk, a well-structured incident management plan should be prepared.

We recently did an incident management program survey, from the survey; there emerged a decidedly mixed picture of the industry’s use of ICS.  While much progress has been made, a significant number of companies never use an incident management program or use it only sporadically. And among those companies that have adopted ICS or are moving toward it, significant obstacles remain, as open text responses to the question “what is the single biggest challenge you face with ICS” demonstrate. 

Answers to that key question yielded six areas in which companies find an incident management program particularly challenging: 

  • Training:  ICS requires a new way to think about business operations, requiring people to take time out of their busy schedules to learn about ICS and train on it and to keep that training up to date. 
  • Reversion to non-ICS operations: Even though companies adopt ICS and train on it, people often revert to the normal day-to-day way doing things when an incident occurs. One respondent indicated though his company has implemented ICS, senior management tends to take over during an event. 
  • Cost:  Companies are expected to implement an incident management program but they fail to budget for it, yet this relatively small investment could help them avoid the enormous costs of sub-optimal incident response year after year – a business case that champions of ICS learn how to build. 
  • Communication:  Many respondents indicate that during an incident they lack adequate communication with the field or people they don’t normally work with, pointing up the need for technology-enabled systems that provide fast and effective communication both internally and externally.
  • Technology:  As with communication, many companies appear to need a technology solution to help guide them through the incident management program process.  It should be easy to use, providing appropriate prompts during the process, and it should be widely distributed in the company.
  • Damage Assessment: Though quickly getting an accurate big-picture assessment of what has happened is critical for making smart decisions, a number of respondents say it can be challenging – a challenge that can be compounded inadequate communication. 

You need to be able to detect an incident even before the customer spots it.  Whether it’s a minor or major issue, being able to anticipate and identify the issue before the customer spots the issue, will help you provide great customer service and stay on top of things.

Also remember you need to monitor your resolution to make sure it is fail-safe and that everything is working perfectly. Follow up is incredibly important to your customer service success. Call the customer and make sure everything is working okay, ask if they need any assistance or have any questions at the moment.

All of these different steps will help your business gather necessary data and help you determine what’s working and what isn’t. Effective Incident Management helps your business improve and provide excellent service.

Do you currently use an Incident Command System or have an Incident Management Plan in place? Please share how it helped your business mitigate risk, below.

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7 responsibilities of an incident commander
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, May 12, 2014 - 13:58

In a catastrophic event (e.g., major earthquake, hurricane, or terrorist attack), State Government may assume primary responsibility for incident command. A common belief among many States is that the structure of the State EOC is adequate for managing medical and public health response. In reality, however, this may not represent an ideal arrangement since the ESF structure and function are designed to support incident management (hence the name, Emergency Support Function). Thus, States that assume primary incident command authority should establish a separate incident management team, incorporating ICS principles, to manage response functions.

As an incident commander the stress that you’ll experience when called to a large-scale incident is momentous. Everything you think you know or have experienced gets foggy as soon as you say, “On scene and assuming command.” Your mind is racing a million miles an hour as you think about things such as: What is the imminent danger? How many casualties do I have? How many casualties could I have? What resources do I have on scene? How many ambulances do I need? How quickly will mutual aid get here? Is my Incident Action Plan effective? Do I need to adjust my operational period?

The Incident Commander performs all major ICS command and staff responsibilities unless the ICS functions are delegated and assigned.

There’s no simple solution to successfully mitigating a large-scale incident. Nothing can replace experience, but consider that people often prepare for and succeed in positions in which they’ve never served. However, I do think that the first step before taking any position, is that the person fully understands the reasonability of it.

The Incident Commander is specifically responsible for:

  • Ensuring incident safety.
  • Providing information services to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Establishing and maintaining liaison with other agencies participating in the incident.
  • Is responsible for all activities and functions until delegated and assigned to staff.
  • Assesses need for staff.
  • Establishes incident objectives.
  • Directs staff to develop the Incident Action Plan.

The bottom line: You must be ready to execute the duties and responsibilities of an incident commander for a large-scale incident. This is not only applicable to yourself, but to anyone in the department who may be in the position of having to assume incident commander. Through the proper preparation, you’ll find that your organization will be ready to mitigate any incident, no matter how large.

The role of State political leaders in incident management should be clearly understood.[7] The Governor bears ultimate responsibility for the safety and well-being of the State population. For events with potentially serious medical or public health implications, the Governor may declare a public health emergency; this generally activates the formal State public health response. The Governor may also temporarily suspend relevant State laws or regulations that impede response activities. Preparedness planning should identify regulations that might need to be revised or temporarily suspended and the legal procedures required to carry out these actions.

Many companies are becoming more familiar with aligning management systems for quality, environment, health & safety, and food safety. An aligned management system brings together all of a company’s existing systems into one management structure, allowing businesses to efficiently and effectively improve performance, satisfy regulatory requirements, and reach organizational objectives.

The Incident Command System (ICS), a nationally and internationally recognized and standardized process of leadership and management of incident response, can—and should—also be part of an aligned business management system.

Learn more about incident commander training and other important facts by watching my video blogs or checking out our ICS survey.

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Why was ICS developed?
By John Kullmann Posted on Friday, May 9, 2014 - 13:58

To set the context for this blog, ICS began out of necessity in the 1970s, when the fire service started to realize they needed uniformity in the way they operated such as communications, utilities, planning, etc. Out of this brainstorming came Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies or "Firescope”, the standardized fire service for the State of California. Out of Firescope came the Incident Command System or ICS for short. The ICS was made for 3 purposes; preparing for a disaster, responding to a disaster, and recovering from a disaster.

Since ICS worked so well, it became popular throughout the nation and everyone started adopting ICS as their standard also.

ICS is the systematic tool for the command, control, and coordination of an emergency response. ICS allows agencies to work together using common terminology and operating procedures for controlling personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications at an incident scene.

The incident command system was created to identify:

  1. Nonstandard terminology.
  2. Lack of organizational flexibility to expand and contract.
  3. Nonstandard and nonintegrated communications.
  4. Lack of consolidated action plans.
  5. Lack of designated facilities.

The ICS is considered part of the broader incident management system as outlined in the Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS covers the entire incident management process, including command structures like ICS as well as preparedness activities, resource management, and communications and information management.

What some people fail to realize is that…Transportation agencies are an integral part of ICS because of their role in monitoring and controlling traffic flow in response to a disruption in roadway system operations. Private towing companies play an indispensable role in incident removal and restoring the affected road section back to normal operation.

The system has demonstrated that it can scale up to handle disasters that mushroom over large areas and even multiple states. But the ICS was designed to scale down as well as up. Few practitioners have addressed the question of how to use the ICS to manage an emergency within a single institution—until now.

Traditionally, preparedness actions for public health and medical emergency or disaster response have focused on the operational (tactical) knowledge and skills required by individuals to respond. This has resulted in training programs developed primarily for such topics as victim triage or the characteristics of specific hazards (e.g., chemical or biological agents). Though this knowledge is important and has relevance, much of it is easily accessed during incident response and does little to maximize the capacities and capabilities of existing structures. In other words, teaching and training on these topics provides little in the way of strategic knowledge that improves the ability of individuals to respond as part of a cohesive system.

Management systems exist in most professional disciplines, but they have a wide range of primary objectives. Many businesses, for example, have developed systems with the primary objective of maximizing profits. The use of a well-described management system helps to optimally leverage available resources. It allows disparate personnel and resources to organize in a manner that allows them to achieve a desired outcome. Equally important is the ability of management systems to prevent discord and confusion among personnel, particularly when engaged in activities under stressful conditions. In emergency or disaster response, the primary objective of a management system should be to organize and coordinate disparate response assets to effectively address the incident issues, while minimizing risks (physical, financial, etc.) to responders. This was a primary motivation for the development of the Incident Command System (ICS).

The ICS was originally developed to help coordinate the multiple agencies and types of response personnel acting to control wild-land fires. The physical and financial risk in wild-land firefighting can be extreme when multiple agencies come together. Disparate organizations are able to work together effectively using ICS because, among other reasons, it establishes a common terminology and advocates a management-by-objectives philosophy.

The decision to participate in ICS is based on an understanding that, by doing so, an agency or individual can expect the following:

  • Enhanced collective security
  • Increased information sharing
  • Decreased confusion among responders due to coordination of response actions.
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3 crucial steps in the American incident command system process
By John Kullmann Posted on Friday, May 2, 2014 - 13:58

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazards incident management approach.  ICS is flexible and can be used for incidents of any type, scope and complexity.  Incident command system allows its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents.

Incidents that affect your business partners, the local infrastructure and your service providers can have just as significant of an impact to your organization as a direct hit by a fire or hurricane.

Let’s take a quick look at how the impact of a disaster can affect Americans:

Impact to Americans

  • Millions without power
  • Food Shortages
  • Fuel shortages
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Public transportation disrupted
  • Public health emergency declared by HHS
  • Food and water safety issues
  • Millions of people affected

Impact to American Businesses

  • Loss of work place
  • Inability to activate workforce
  • Employees cannot get to work or have 3 times as long of a commute
  • Information systems were destroyed by Sandy floods
  • Operating or processing facilities servicing clients nationwide were impacted and along with them their clients

Incidents are prevalent in all types of organizations and whether you are at the center of the storm, or your business partners are, it is imperative organizations are proactive in mitigating the risk of incidents through Incident Response.

While Business Continuity Planning seeks to establish recovery activities after an incident has occurred; Incident Command Systems is the program, processes, technologies and actions that allow an organization the ability to respond and act during an incident in order to mitigate risk to the organization, its employees and business partners.

It should be pointed out that an incident command system organization does not match the administrative structure of any single agency or jurisdiction. This was done on purpose to ensure that incident management would not be compromised by or confused with existing agency structures.

It is also important to note that incidents are either natural or man-made, and require emergency service personnel in order to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or the environment.

  • Incident examples include:
  • Fires
  • Hazardous material (HAZMAT) incidents
  • Search and Rescue Missions
  • Oil spills
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorist/WMD events
  • Planned events such as parades

An American Incident Command System is very flexible and can grow or shrink to meet the changing needs of an incident. This makes it applicable to both small and large incidents.

An American Incident command system allows its users to adopt an organizational structure to fit any situation regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

This was done on purpose to ensure that incident management would not be compromised by or confused with existing agency structures

Every incident requires a certain number of incident functions to be performed:

  1. The problem must be identified and assessed.
  2. A plan must be developed and implemented.
  3. The necessary resources must be procured and paid for.

Today, incidents demand so many resources and skills that one local, state, or federal agency couldn’t possibly provide them, so an incident command system provides a way for many agencies to work together smoothly under one management system

Success in any kind of incident response activity hinges 100% in your ability to effectively plan, track, and communicate with all parties involved in the response effort.

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Developing an Effective Incident Action Plan in 2014
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, April 28, 2014 - 13:51

To limit the number of responsibilities and resources being managed by any one individual, an incident action plan requires that any single person's span of control should be between three and seven individuals. If more than seven resources are being managed by an individual, then that person is being overloaded.

Every department that has anything to do with an incident knows that each incident is different from the last. Every incident can present unexpected conditions and circumstances that can escalate the situation. In 2014 it is important for all departments to understand what the standard is and what is expected from each person to insure that an effective incident action plan is met.

Objective Standards for an effective incident action plan in 2014 goes as follows:

  • Does it make good sense (feasible, practical, and suitable)?
  • Is it within acceptable safety norms?
  • Is it cost effective?
  • Does it meet political considerations?
  • Does it address/consider alternative strategies that may be employed?

An incident action plan expands the command structure by delegating responsibilities, which can empower otherwise junior employees to make decisions that exceed the authority of their day-to-day jobs.

Even though more than 75% of respondents say their companies provide greater authority to junior employees “always” or “sometimes,” this is an aspect of an incident action plan that appears good in theory but is often difficult in practice, suggesting that such decision-making needs to be formally incorporated into training exercises.

Frequently, response professionals and newly promoted company officers provide good size-ups but lack the ability to create an appropriate incident action plan. When they fail to develop a plan based on the needs of the specific incident, these respondents usually resort to what they did at a similar incident, or what they’ve seen and heard most frequently. Oftentimes, the string of words, clichés or phrases that are relayed from the initial-arriving company officer to those responding have nothing to do with the overall operational priorities, strategy and tactics.

We recently did a survey and what we found was that 10% of companies train quarterly comes as something of a surprise, and among those who responded “other” several say they train monthly.  As these companies recognize, regular formal training remains a critical success factor for all incident action plan functions, no matter how the training is conducted.  During an incident, an incident action plan must be followed out of deeply ingrained habit – there is no time to open old training guides.  Given this imperative, job aids and just-in-time computer-based training can be a great help.

What should be your incident action plan priorities in 2014? They most commonly include:

–Life safety.

–Incident stabilization.

–Property and equipment preservation.

–Return to business-as usual

Clearly, the overwhelming majority of companies that use an incident action plan in 2014 understand that one of its great advantages is its ability to scale to the incident. In order to scale ICS, people must know their roles, be properly trained, be aware of scaling trigger points, and have enabling tools and technology to manage the process. As one respondent noted, “One of the inherent characteristics and strengths of ICS is its modular nature. 

Steps to Build an an effective incident action plan in 2014 are:

  • Assess the incident situation.
  • Report the current status of the event.
  • Establish strategic incident objectives.
  • Ensure that necessary resources are available to complete the tasks.
  • Assign all objectives.
  • To a team or an individual.
  • Determine the Operational Period.

Find out more about our ICS survey by going to our website, reading other blogs or watching our videos online.

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How to understand an ICS management plan
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 - 10:11

An ICS management plan is changing the way the nation operates, reaching beyond first responders, emergencies, and disasters. Furthermore, after hurricane Sandy and other tragedies, there will be almost no public tolerance for neglecting an ICS management plan.

Government officials, in addition to their first responders, should know the basics so they are not left behind.

An ICS management plan is a national model for incident management that is divided into five components: Preparedness, communication and information management, resource management, command and management, and ongoing management and maintenance.

Of those, the Incident Command System, or ICS, is a large part of command and the ICS management plan. It outlines a methodology and organizational design to effectively manage an incident or event. It divides the major functions into four “sections:” operations, logistics, planning, and finance/administration.

That should all sound familiar to most administrators: ICS management plan is derived from the principles of business management. In fact, the courses in ICS that are provided to first responders are essentially a series of “crash courses” in business management tailored to public safety with common terminology.

Think about it: running an incident or an event is a lot like running a college or university. There is usually:

  • an Academic Affairs or similar unit, which would be analogous to the “Operations Section” in ICS;
  • Facilities/support services, dining halls, health clinic, etc., analogous to the “Logistics Section” in ICS;
  • a Business/Administrative unit, analogous to the “Finance/Administration Section” in ICS; and
  • Institutional Advancement or some other executive-level strategic planning function, analogous to the “Planning Section” in ICS.

Why do you need to know about an ICS management plan? We live in a complex world in which responding to emergencies, from single-car accidents to large-scale disasters, often requires cooperation among several agencies. In an emergency, you and other personnel from your agency may be called upon to help with the response. Given the current movement toward using an ICS structure for emergency response, it is likely, therefore, that you will function in an ICS management plan.

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How can emergency management software help my business?
By John Kullmann Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 15:10

Emergency management software is used to manage the logistical, fiscal, planning, operational, safety and community issues related to the incident/emergency or planned event. An Incident Management Team will provide the command and control infrastructure that is required at an incident or planned event that stresses or exceeds local resources. The emergency management software does not replace your command structure it reinforces it by filling data, needed and positions within your own emergency operations center.

When dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of lives are on the line, response needs to be as quick and efficient as possible. No data should be overlooked, and no time should be spared.

Emergency management software should offer enterprise disaster planning and management systems that enable a real-time, common operational picture across the entire enterprise. Having the proper emergency management software will help to maintain complete and accurate records at all times to ensure a more efficient emergency response and recovery. Certain records may also be required by regulation or by your insurance carriers or prove invaluable in the case of legal action after an incident.

Here a few core operational considerations of emergency management software.

  • Direction and Control
  • Communications
  • Life Safety
  • Property Protection
  • Community Outreach
  • Recovery and Restoration
  • Administration and Logistics

 Having access to the most comprehensive and update information available is critical when it comes to making effective decisions in the wake of a disaster; this is the main reason why emergency management software is important.

Beyond helping operationally, emergency management software will save a time and money. Please join the fight and tell us how emergency management software can help your business by leaving a comment or watching our video blogs.

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How important is ICS to the future?
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, April 7, 2014 - 00:00

Currently, it is difficult to enable shared incident data, situational awareness plus collaborative command and control across all participating responders and agencies, particularly when the communication environment is compromised by infrastructure outages.

ICS provides collaboration and communication capabilities across all echelons of responders; enhances the quality and accessibility of sensor data; and integrates location data for resources, vehicles, and personnel.

During an incident, ICS provides an information backbone that manages and distributes incident data, including real-time vehicle location feeds, airborne images, video, weather, critical infrastructure, and terrain information.

In California, for example, an electro-optical/infrared camera on an Initial-Attack aircraft supplies full-motion video and ground-based camera control for real-time incident assessment within ICS. This example illustrates how ICS may be leveraged as a technology test bed for evaluating new sensors, communication devices, and concepts of operation.

ICS technology is displayed by using a web-based, open standards platform that allows users with the proper permissions to log into a map-based environment accessible via an ordinary web browser and Internet connection. New ICS offer graphical tools, including virtual whiteboards, for dynamic interagency collaboration that facilitates a coordinated response.

Using these tools, responders are able to quickly form teams, send messages to one another, and remotely share maps and drawings that enhance the management of the incident.

The future of ICS should include:

  • Establishing a test bed for operationalize ICS for all-hazard response at a regional level
  • Integrate ICS with current DHS emergency-response initiatives
  • Transfer baseline functionality to an independent, open-source organization
  • Extend ICS capability to regional partners

An industrial firm that relies on such limited training is leaving itself short-changed when the needs of a catastrophic emergency demands more. Make sure you ICS plan is prepared for what the future holds.

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Why an incident management plan fails
By John Kullmann Posted on Monday, March 24, 2014 - 17:41

The primary purpose of an incident management plan is to restore assets or operations within defined Recovery Time Objectives (RTO). Plans that are not focused on restoring services or assets are irrelevant at the time of a disruptive incident. Incident management plan which is intended to facilitate Incident Response should be designed for execution. 

 These ‘actionable’ plans contain 3 basic elements – Who, What & When:

  • Who is assigned responsibility to complete the task? It is extremely important that Incident Managers know who is responsible for executing the task to ensure that those resources are available.
  • What is the sequence and order of tasks? What tasks have precedence; those which need to be completed prior to starting other tasks? Once this sequence is known, it is possible to identify critical tasks that require more focus our resources to ensure that successor tasks are not delayed.
  • How long will each task take to complete?  Since the focus of the plan is to restore assets within a pre-defined RTO, understanding how long completion of each task will take is critical to managing the incident response.

 

 During the incident management plan phase, as plans are being built, the responsibility for executing each task should be assigned to a group or team based on the ‘skills’ required to complete the task. This will ensure that there are adequate resources available to whom to assign the task.  To reduce the risk of resource inadequacy even further, include geographically-diverse members in the group or team – just in case.

 

No matter how well an incident management plan is constructed.  No matter how often incident management plans are tested. When multiple plans are concurrently activated, and many responders are involved in the restoration process, issues are bound to arise.  The planning process must define issue-handling, escalation and resolution protocols to ensure that restoration processes can continue smoothly and that the resolution of issues will be handled on a timely basis.

 

To facilitate a robust and effective incident management plan, the process in an organization must develop plans that are truly flexible, viable and executable. Planning and building plans with Incident Response in mind is critical to building a resilient organization.

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Incident commander software you never heard of
By John Kullmann Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 23:53

To be successful, an incident commander and his or her team must be able to rapidly set up strategic staging areas for emergency personnel, allocate appropriate resources, and deploy appropriate tasks to Public Works.

 

Developed for the U.S. Department of Justice, the software Incident Commander can train up to 16 players simultaneously, with users assuming roles as either the commander or members of the operations team. The game simulates various crisis scenarios, including a natural disaster, a school hostage situation, and a terrorism incident and can be customized with the addition of new locations, buildings, structures, crisis events, and emergency agencies to more accurately portray local community situations.

 

Incident Commander provides the small-to-medium-size jurisdiction with an effective, low-cost training simulation that not only better prepares first responders for a crisis, but does so in an entertaining and engaging medium.

 

Joseph Barlow, an Adams County, Illinois Emergency Response Team member who was deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and helped set up an 800-bed hospital for citizens displaced by Hurricane Katrina, notes, "I ended up being the logistics officer for the entire facility. It just so happens that I had spent the week before using Incident Commander in depth. The lessons learned by playing the simulation fed directly into the practices of setting up an incident command structure and then operating within that structure."

 

For example, the severe storm recovery scenario, users must deal with broken water mains, gas leaks, destroyed buildings, obstructed roads, and injured civilians. Rapid deployment of responder squads is further complicated by downed trees blocking roads.

 

 

Incident Commander allows users to be detailed in a fast-paced environment that simulates the life and death decision-making that first responders face in emergency situations.

 

 

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