International “Floodfighter” SAR & Flood Incident Strategic Management Masterclasses

Why attend these Floodfighters Masterclass? We have to go to ‘Post 9/11’, when the National Incident Management System (NIMS), USA, identified a clear requirement to provide a scalable management system that could cope with multi-site, multi-hazard, long duration major incidents, in addition to run-of-the-mill day to day level of emergencies. So, the United States upgraded their existing Incident Command System, to the ‘NIMS’. Bringing together the existing Incident Command Process (ICS) with the US forestry service’s methods for managing large wildfires. Thus, effectively providing the bolt-on support structures needed to keep operations running when the incident dramatically scales up. Essentially, ICS focuses on Operations, whilst NIMS adds in specific training, roles and processes for the Planning, Logistics and Finance functions needed to keep all operations on track. Being a multi-agency, multi-incident toolkit, any American agency involved in emergency management that utilises Federal support must adopt and embed it.

A little while ago a UK Gold Commander, was sent over to the US to look at NIMS and report back. So impressed; were they that, as a Chief Officer, they restructured their fire & rescue service into the four functional areas of Operations, Planning, Logistics & Finance, such that that service was running daily in the same structures it would need to apply during a major incident.

Many of their Tactical Commanders and Technical Specialists were sent to the US so they could talk to NIMS users about their experiences of managing area wide long duration emergency incidents which the UK faces on an intermittent basis – flooding. Talking to fellow practitioners, who have had multiple experiences of dealing with hurricanes, wildfires, etc, gives UK and other nations personnel exposure to eye-witness accounts and provides learning opportunities simply unavailable elsewhere. Many of these officers also attended Floodfighter Masterclasses in the US.

From the European Civil Protection (EUCP) Mechanism perspective, comparing NIMS with the EUCP Mechanism and UK’s JESIP – of the three, only NIMS is a comprehensive toolkit that applies across ALL levels of incident management, from tactical/operational responses on site through to national strategic oversight. It is worth noting it has been adopted by the Australians as AIIMS (the Australian Integrated Incident Management System).

It is entirely understood that there are well established incident management structures in your country, and that it is both difficult and unlikely that a government would import and impose a new system to supplant these existing ways of working. However, we need not detract from the value of the saying – “A wise man learns from the experience of others”. If you want to learn how best to manage major hazardous weather related events – to quote that often stated in the media – only occur “sometimes” now or are “unprecedented” but actually aren’t. They will become very much more frequent in the climate changed future, come and talk to people at this Masterclass who have to face these incidents all the time.

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