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How to handle any emergency

Day 2 of the FEMA-sponsored Integrated Emergency Management Course

Apr 30, 2013

Familiar to emergency responders, the incident command system is “a flow chart for managing emergencies” that is transferable anywhere, and adaptable to virtually any situation, FEMA instructor Bruce Marshall told his audience.

He proved it by “marrying” a couple of surprised audience members, gathering up the wedding party – bride, groom, best man, mother and father of the bride, and wedding planner – and quizzing audience members about who filled which role in the incident command system, first a month before the wedding, and second on the day of.

It was key to understand, he said, that their roles changed as the situation did; for example, once planning was no longer required – on the day of the wedding – the wedding planner moved into the role of operations officer, while the mother of the bride took over as incident commander, since the bride was too occupied with getting married to handle that role any longer.

Marshall also provided a simple glossary of terms: Incident commander, decides stuff; public information officer, talks about stuff; Safety officer, stops stuff (specifically, unsafe actions); Liason officer,coordinates with other agencies; Operations section, does stuff; Planning section, plans stuff; Logistics section, gets stuff; Finance and Administration, pays for stuff.

This afternoon, participants will participate in their first formal exercise.

It will be a train wreck, Marshall informed them – not the scenario, but the process of acting it out.

“It's designed that way,” he said, partly because the group will be learning how to use the equipment and fill their roles. By tomorrow however, when the second exercise takes place, things will be running more smoothly, he said, and by the final exercise on Thursday, the group will have become a tightly-knit team.

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