An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies From the 1970 and 2003 California Wildfires Stephen Messer American Military University In partial completion of the requirements for EDGM 541: Mass Casualty Incident Management Professor Slobodan Pesic
An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
Abstract In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security presented an incident management system to emergency services agencies and personnel. This system known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was heralded as a nation-wide incident management system (USDHS, 2004) that would resolve the major issues identified during previous catastrophic events. The intent of this study is to examine the effectiveness of the Incident Management System as it has been applied during large-scale disasters in the United States. By examining the relevant literature, this study seeks to explore the effectiveness of the Incident Management System by examining case studies of the 1970 wildfires in Southern California and comparing the management issues identified at that time with the management issues discovered during the 2003 wildfires in Southern California. This study will determine if the implementation of the Incident Management System by the California practitioners resolved or lessened the impact of the management issues identified in 1970. The wildfires of 1970 revealed serious problems in the management of a large, catastrophic wildfire in which multiple agencies and levels of government responded. From this disastrous fire, the responding agencies in southern California cooperatively developed “FIrefighting REsources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies” (FIRESCOPE, 1988) to address the management issues. In 2003, southern California was again ravaged by a series of firestorms. These storms tested the incident management system that had developed after the 1970 fires. The analysis of the issues discovered during these two catastrophic wildfires suggests that the incident command system did lessen the managerial issues of the 1970 fires. However, major issues still remained to be resolved in mutual aid, incident command, communications, and multi-agency cooperation. This study may be used by emergency management practitioners and decision makers to enhance mitigation efforts and preparedness efforts. It may assist emergency management planners in the development and implementation of an more effective management tools and technology that will address any shortfalls in the National Incident Management System. keywords: incident command system, wildfires, FIRESCOPE, NIMS
this study seeks to explore the effectiveness of the Incident Management System by examining case studies of the 1970 wildfires in Southern California and comparing the management issues identified at that time with the management issues discovered during the 2003 wildfires in Southern California. 2008.is well understood” by responders. 2004) that would resolve the major issues identified during the response to the bombing of the Alfred P. By examining the relevant literature.. This study will determine if the implementation of the Incident Management System by the California practitioners resolved or lessened the impact of the management issues identified in 1970. This system was a central component of the National Response Framework (NRF) unveiled by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. 2008) Through the mandated requirements of the NRF. 2008) The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was extolled by Secretary Chertoff as a system that “. the United States Department of Homeland Security presented an incident management system to emergency services agencies and personnel.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies From the 1970 and 2003 California Wildfires
In 2004. 2008). The severe wildland fires that struck Southern California in 1970 were selected as a case study due to these fires being the large-scale incidents that prompted California to develop and implement the incident
. The intent of this study is to examine the effectiveness of the Incident Management System as it has been applied during large-scale disasters in the United States. the incident management system that had been originally designed to support the response to wildfires in California. Oklahoma on April 19. 2001. which required the use of NIMS by emergency response agencies (USDHS. 1995 (OKCEM. and that it “allows first responders from different jurisdictions and across different disciplines to work together within a common framework. 1996) and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11.. David Paulison during a press conference held on January 22. (Chertoff & Paulison. had now become the incident management system for use by diverse agencies and all levels of government during response to and recovery from natural and man made disasters. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.” (Chertoff & Paulison. This system known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was heralded as a nation-wide incident management system (USDHS.
” (Johnson. and leadership philosophies existed regarding how to manage major. 2003) Additionally. it was the incident management system used during this incident that provided most of the system that was adopted by the USDHS less than a year later. How did the implementation of the Incident Management System change or impact the management problems identified? If the problems identified after the catastrophic wildfires of 1970 in Southern California are not resolved by the implementation of the Incident Management System during the wildfires of 2003.. then the use of the Incident Management System will not improve the management of large-scale disasters. The Wildfires of 1970 When Southern California figuratively exploded into flame during the late summer and fall of 1970. Additionally. (CGOES. large scale disasters. the sitting Governor of California established the Office of Emergency Services in the Governor’s Office as part of the State Office of Civil Defense in order to provide direction and responsibility for large-scale events in California. What were the significant management issues identified during and immediately after the Southern California wildfires of 2003? 4. 2003) The California Disaster Office was again reorganized
. incident management systems. (CGOES. a patchwork of laws. 2009) All fifty-eight counties and most municipal governments were linked together by these mutual aid agreements. In 1956 the Office of Civil Defense was renamed the California Disaster Office with a focus directed toward response to natural disasters. in 1950. plans. all fifty states had passed state laws establishing policies and procedures for disaster response that were as unique as the individual state legislatures that wrote and adopted them.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
management system from which NIMS evolved. (Rowley. Earl Warren. How were these issues addressed by California? 3. 2010) In 1950. What were the significant management issues identified during and immediately after the Southern California wildfires of 1970? 2. The California wildfires of 2003 were selected for their close resemblance to the 1970 fires in the land area affected. 2004) This analysis will seek to answer the following questions: 1. et al. In the United States. (USDHS. California took “unprecedented steps and established mutual aid agreements between counties.
2010) The State Fire Disaster Plan established a process for coordination of local.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
into the Office of Emergency Services with the passage of the Emergency Services Act of 1970 by the California Legislature. feeding on dry coyote brush and pine trees and whipped by a strong northeast wind. swept to the ridge top and leaped into homes perched on the steep hillside above San Francisco Bay.” (Rowley. This plan. 1971) Phillips. 1971) From this somewhat inauspicious beginning on September 25. badly damaged 37 others. In less than two hours fire completely destroyed 36 homes. Southern California had been experiencing severe drought conditions for over six months with little to no rain falling over much of the chaparral and pine covered mountainsides. 1970 the wildfires exploded across the southern portion of California until they were brought under control thirteen days later.. state and federal firefighters waited for the shoe to drop. the author of California Aflame describes the initial event that was to trigger what became known as the “Fire Siege of 1970. state and federal fire suppression forces. Santa Ana winds were moving across the chaparral covered landscape at forty and fifty miles per hour with gusts sometimes exceeding hurricane force. The relative humidity was often less than ten percent with the Santa Ana winds acting as a huge evaporator further dropping the humidity to between one and two percent. and desolated 230 acres of valuable watershed. “.” (Phillips. 1970. (Schroeder & Buck. The weather conditions during late August and early September of 1970 were creating the “perfect storm” for wildfires. On September 28. 2010) The Emergency Services Act required that all emergency response agencies in California “operate under a State Fire Disaster Plan which is coordinated by the Fire and Rescue Division of the Office of Emergency Services during a major wildland fire. 1970) “The conditions for a major wildland disaster were present in California and the State's local.it is estimated that over 10. (Rowley.” “It all started when a man set his match intentionally to tinder-dry grass along the Fish Ranch Road in the hills behind Oakland.000 structures
. along with other progressive wildland fire management policies placed California as a national leader in both wildfire management and large-scale disaster interagency coordination. The average temperature during that period was around one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. at the height of the fire suppression operations. Within minutes flames. However.000 personnel and 800 units of fire apparatus were in use from many agencies battled the fires that went on to burn 1..” (Philips. the historic fire season of 1970 would quickly expose the short-comings of these efforts.
1980) The fire protection agencies were overwhelmed by 773 wildfires that burned approximately 580. positional titles. communications. 1988) These impedements did not suddenly appear during the 1970 firestorms. “The fires completely destroyed 722 homes when they burned isolated residences or spread from the hills into urban communities.” The scope and severity of these wildfires is staggering. and organizational procedures. One of the most significant incident management issues that quickly became apparent during the fires was the difficulty of coordinating and controlling “.
.the vast numbers of firefighters and other emergency responders. 2010) Estimates provided by Phillips show the number of professional firefighters actively engaged in fire suppression activities as 19.500 firefighters from over 500 different departments.000 more. Suppression costs and damages together were estimated at 233 million dollars. “This incident was consistent with five decades of research on organizational response to disasters. training and experience provided evidence that a more robust mutual aid system with some type of capabilities typing was needed. which repeatedly found that major disasters require coordinated response by many organizations.. et al.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
and damage 2. and multi-agency coordination. (Chase. 1986) Even though a mutual aid system had been established prior to the 1970 fire season.” (Phillips. Sixteen lives were lost.E. “A continuing siege of major wildfires over the chaparral region of southern California severely taxed the capabilities of the region's fire protection agencies and caused major damage to structures and wildland resources. it soon became apparent that the lack of a central coordination facility greatly hampered the ability of agencies to effectively support each other without significant coordination being done during the crisis.” (Rowley.” (FIRESCOPE. incident management. much valuable time is lost while trying to overcome differences in organizational design..” (Lindell. (Drabek. 1971) Thirty-two of these fires were classified as large fires that “accounted for 93 percent of the total acreage burned and 89 percent of the homes that were completely destroyed.000 acres. attributed directly to the fire activity.” (Phillips. emergency response training. Unfortunately. 2005) These issues were substantiated by T. 1971) 1970 Wildfire Issues This series of fires exposed major problems in the areas of “mutual aid.. The wide variety of equipment. Drabek in his ground-breaking study of how human systems function in disaster situations.
1970 the primary headquarters located in Los Angeles County moved to Riverside.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
Additionally. The makeup of this headquarters was not designated in the plan and it grew in an ad hoc fashion as local. coordination and control. 2008) Likewise. 39) One of the most significant problems that developed due to this lack of centralized control and coordination was the inability to gather and disseminate accurate and timely information across the various segments of the impacted region. 2010) Phillips points to the obvious when he writes “GHQ did not operate smoothly at all times. This organization proved to be cumbersome and inadequate. the various agencies organizational structures were “incompatible”. 1971) To control and coordinate this vast number of assets and organizations a headquarters was set up in the Los Angeles county Fire Department Headquarters in accordance with the State Fire Disaster Plan. This required the headquarters to move from California Region 1 to Region 4 with resulting confusion regarding responsibility. On September 28. there were thousands of volunteers and support personnel engaged in the suppression efforts. p. This. Additionally. 2010) There was no formal information system established between these various control and coordination centers with resultant conflicts and issues arising due to each headquarters independently controlling a particular segment of the response effort. terminology and tactical procedures varied to such an extent that coordination of resources was extremely difficult. (Rowley. Sager demonstrates this problem by pointing to different agencies using different titles for personnel doing the same job. (Sager.” (California Aflame. and federal agencies sent senior leaders to this location. state. other “headquarters” were established at the Division of Forestry Headquarters in Sacramento and at Regional and District Headquarters throughout the affected areas. along with the inability to conduct “centralized planning” prevented managers from establishing “rational priorities in allocating scarce fire suppression resources and coordinating individual agency requests for aid. 2008)
. (Sager. (Phillips. California due to a significant increase in firefighting forces being shifted into San Diego and San Bernardino Counties.” (Chase. 1980) This led to the overtaxing of some resources while other resources were underutilized. In addition to an inability to adequately coordinate the allocation of fire suppression resources. (Rowley.
This funding was provided to initiate research and development aimed at alleviating the problems apparent during this disaster. Among the various issues that arose was the amount of traffic being placed on the system and “the many radio frequencies involved. 1980) A more strategic problem was discovered by investigators examining the fire response when they discovered that “. and communications (Moynihan. CDF Division Chief when he stated “One department could not talk to someone from another department over the radio systems. during the 92nd United States Congress.the fire agencies could not communicate because they didn't share radio frequencies and used different terminology and radio codes. incident management.” (Chase.” (Chase. This often critical attention upon the wildland fire management personnel and practices of southern California provided impetus to the local. 1972) Chase is more succinct when he states that “coordination lacked a centralized information and coordination source.” (Sager. Congress further tasked the group at Riverside to concentrate on “developing advanced airborne fire intelligence methods for detecting and mapping fires. yet stated that “All agencies recognized. 2008) The significance of this problem was demonstrated by Bill Plough. management concepts.000 dollars was appropriated to “strengthen fire command and control systems research at Riverside. that a number of problems significantly hampered the effectiveness of this cooperation. 2004) Intertwined with the problems of mutual aid. In its findings regarding the 1970 fires.” (Chase. 900. and federal agencies to come together to discover how to better integrate their efforts by developing a common language.” (Eckles. You had to flag them down and talk face to face.. however.. 1980) Addressing The 1970 Wildfire Issues The impact of these fires and the resulting organizational and technological issues that surfaced attracted national attention. Agencies were required to meet this need on an individual basis. the Task Force on California’s Wildfire Problem complemented the efforts made by agencies from all levels of government. Colorado. and Fort Collins. 2009) In 1971..An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
Adding to the difficulties in managing this series of large fires were significant issues regarding communications. 1980) This directed focus would impact the research
..” (TFCWFP.. state. 1980). California. and communications was a series of issues involving multi-agency coordination.” (Chase. including real time telemetry of information and display at fire command control centers.
state..” (Chase.. 1988) Chase presents the intent of the FIRESCOPE system development as found in the unpublished charter of FIRESCOPE “The intent of the research design effort was to "make a quantum jump in the capability of southern California wildland fire protection agencies to effectively coordinate interagency action and to allocate suppression resources in dynamic. [and] provide multi-agency training. The initial analysis identified five major components that would make up the FIRESCOPE system. Though all partner agencies had not agreed
.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
conducted in subsequent years. to all incidents which exceed..” (Chase. develop improved methods for forecasting fire behavior. testing. In order to facilitiate progress on these Congressional recommendations. This analysis conducted in 1972 found that the solution to the wildfire management dilemma would “necessarily address not only advanced airborne fire intelligence methods.” (Chase. 1980) was accomplished. municipal fire departments. multiple-fire situations.” (FIRESCOPE. 1980) Though a complete system including organizational structure. 1980) The Pacific South-west Forest and Range Experiment Station was given overall direction of the project with cooperation from the major wildland fire protection agencies. equipment and training was not accomplished during the initial five year grant cycle of FIRESCOPE. 1980) A charter containing these items was approved in March 1973 under the auspices of the Firefighting Resources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE). the basic operational concept which called for a “. 1980) The intent of FIRSCOPE was to “design and provide the procurement." (Chase. and federal governmental agencies. The initial implementation of FIRESCOPE occurred from 1977 to 1979... develop standard terminology. The program began in 1972 with the intial aim of discovering which areas would be most the most productive study areas. or threaten to exceed. Provide multi-agency communications.. operating under common procedures and organizational structure. but fire information systems generally and their effective utilization in planning and coordinating action on both single-and multipleagency fires or similar emergencies. and implementation of an operation fire suppression coordination system.. ” (Chase.timely commitment of adequate multiagency resources. These components were: “coordinate multi-agency resources during major incidents. all of “the major agencies involved in wildland fire protection in southern California agreed to cooperate in a research and development program that would address the problems of the 1970 situation.. the capability of any single fire protection agency. local.
Chase reported that “The major elements of the ICS. The fire protection practitioners of Southern California saw ICS as reducing their coordination problems and increasing the effectiveness of their responses.voluntarily adopting the ICS. an inter-agency agreement on radio frequencies. uniform organizational structure. and Aguirre 2006. 1980) When the funding from the initial grant ended in 1982 approximately sixty percent of the planned system had been developed and implemented. communications vehicles.” (Chase.. an incident communication plan system with an integral Fire Information Management System (FIMS).. (Moynihan.. and are currently being implemented in the FIRESCOPE area. 1988) The participating fire protection agencies continued to develop and refine the system in the years that followed the initial implementation.crisis responders. common terminology. designated and functional regional multi-agency Operations Coordination Centers (OCC).An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
upon every component of the FIRESCOPE system.” (Moynihan. multi-channel radio caches. fire professionals from outside of California began to recognize the possible benefits of this management tool and they began to adapt
. have been tested and adopted by all partner agencies. hazardous material incidents. In his 1980 examination of the ICS portion of FIRESCOPE. the basic concepts had been agreed upon with all partner agencies having fully implemented the FIRESCOPE ICS. Buck. Trainor. (FIRESCOPE. as well as large scale natural disasters such as earthquakes. and a common Incident Command System (ICS). Moynihan saw this expansion of ICS use beyond its designed intent as the beginning of a second stage in ICS development. Cole 2000. a common mapping system of orthophoto maps. 2009) with “. an airborne infrared monitoring system. rescue situations. (Bigley and Roberts 2001. Moynihan 2008) This perception of the benefit of ICS usage during wildland interface situations led many of the fire protection agencies to begin using ICS during urban structure fires. 2009) As FIRESCOPE ICS became the standard throughout the fire service in California. a computer based fire behavior modeling system.. the FIRESCOPE research and development cooperative had achieved significant progress toward the quantum leap forward envisioned in its charter with the development and implementation of seven major system components. at least in part because they perceived it as a tool to solve the problem of interorganizational coordination common to most crises. These accomplishments included automated weather stations. and uniform procedures for incident operations. namely. In a report prepared by FIRESCOPE in 1988.
government and fire protection officials throughout Southern California recognized that the weather conditions prevalent throughout the area presented the potential for a catastrophic wildland-urban interface fire. Several key factors were coalescing to bring about the worst fire conditions in modern history. 2004) They predicted the arrival of the Santa Ana winds and the developing severe fire weather before it impacted the region. with the active support of the National Fire Protection Association. a forecaster for the National Weather Service (NWS) reinforced the Predictive Services’ warning when he announced “If the winds are strong enough. Brad Doyle.” (Blackwell & Tuttle. the Santa Ana winds of forty to fifty miles per hour coupled with high ambient temperatures and extremely low humidity turned the Southern California area into a “tinderbox. A drought had plagued Southern California for the past several years.” All that was needed was a match to be struck. 2004) Also. An outgrowth of the lessons learned from the 1970 fire season was the development of a fire intelligence section at Riverside..An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
the system to meet the needs of incident management across the United States. Forest Service moved additional air assets into Southern California in preparation for the possible disaster. three additional fires had ignited in the
. the U.” (Blackwell & Tuttle. 2003 the match was struck when a fire ignited on a range at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego County. The 2003 Wildfires As the fire season of 2003 drew near. (Blackwell & Tuttle.” (Blackwell & Tuttle. This section called Predictive Services “closely monitored the weather and fuel conditions in the region. California. By the beginning of the 2003 wildfire season. FIRESCOPE had “. This drought coupled with a devastating bark beetle infestation produced a significant increase in dead and diseased trees. As Predictive Services had accurately predicted.. On October 21. 2005) The ability of the FIRESCOPE ICS was about to receive its largest test since its inception. the fire will begin to advance rapidly.become the de facto American national standard making body. in response to the predictions of Predictive Services. California. Before the day was over. but these conditions obviously magnify those concerns.S. 2004) This intelligence initiated the movement of fire resources from northern California to southern California before most of the large fires started. Every fire is potentially dangerous. 2004) Santa Ana winds of thirty to forty miles per hour coupled with high ambient temperatures and extremely low humidity made Southern California vulnerable to a major conflagration.” (Hannestad.
igniting homes and businesses great distances from the main head of the fire. Blackwell and Tuttle identified six factors that added compelxity to this incident: multiple large fires burning at the same time. The extreme fire behavior surprised even veteran wildland fire control specialists.000 acres of land were burned with over 4. earthquakes. the wildland-urban interface issues. Piru Fire. et al. (Keeley. Paradise Fire. et al. et al. over 750. (Blackwell & Tuttle. it was discovered that even though a mutual aid system had been developed. One of the fires. a great deal of involvement by both elected officials and the media. Cedar Fire.000 acres in four hours. Simi Fire. 2003) burned their names into the history and collective consciousness of the people of Southern California. this paper will examine the same four general areas identified after the 1970 wildfires. 2004) 2003 Wildfire Issues The fire siege of 2003 presented the fire protection agencies and all levels of government with a situation that challenged the plans and advancements made in California through FIRESCOPE. 2003) This type of fire growth was unprecedented with fires igniting up to three-quarters of a mile ahead of the main fire.. fourteen major fires swept across Southern California. By the time the fires were controlled.. most of them killed when the firestorm outran them as they tried to escape sixty foot wall of flames. The fire siege of 2003 had begun. The first area of examination is mutual aid. These fires began as wildland fires but quickly extended into urban areas burning over four thousand homes and businesses. Over the next three weeks. and other natural disasters. it had not been fully implemented and without significant coordination
.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
region.. and the economic expenses. several factors were present that significantly added to the difficulties faced by the emergency response agencies. 2004) In addition to the multiple fires. Padua Fire. known as the Cedar Fire. 2003) In his 2004 study of the firestorms of 2003.cumulatively. During the 1970 fires. “grew from 500 to 31.the costliest disaster to befall California exceeding previous fires. Mountain Fire. (Clark. large fires exceeding span of control plans. and fires burning in both urban and wildland settings simultaneously.000 homes destroyed. policy differences between agencies. and Otay Fire” (Clark.” (WFLLC. Keeley stated that these fires were “. Many of these fires such as the “Grand Prix Fire. Old Fire. Twenty-six people were killed. fires involving multiple jurisdictions.. In order to determine if ICS as developed through FIRESCOPE had lessened the problems discovered after the 1970 wildfires. the single largest event in California’s recent history..
According to MCS. fire weather severity and fuel loads for Southern California.. (MCS. 2003) The mutual aid system worked much more efficiently in 2003 than in 1970. it is important to note that several things were done prior to October 21.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
prior to an event. this group’s accurate and timely predictions allowed fire officials to initiate the staging of high-value assets. the mutual aid system worked so efficiently that many responders found themselves away battling the fires while “someone else was fighting fire back on theirs. agencies found it difficult to successfully provide mutual support. This group provided real-time and near-time intelligence regarding weather conditions.” (MCS. It worked so well.reported that the mutual aid and the mobilization system caused many to be on assignment elsewhere while large incidents were in progress on their home units. 2003) Though this may seem to suggest that the mutual aid system had not reduced the issues discovered in 1970. 2009) Cole provides supporting evidence to this by
. One such development was the implementation of the Predictive Services Section located at the Operational Center in Riverside.” (MCS. As MCS discovered. In addition. 2003 directly related to incident management that developed out of the issues of 1970. As discussed earlier in this paper. Shortly after the 2003 wildfires. that further refinement was needed in order to solve issues arriving from its efficient mobilization of forces. responders were well trained and experienced with the ICS. Mission-Centered Solutions (MCS) was contracted to conduct research into the 2003 fires.” (Moynihan. Another development that was operational prior to the fire ignition in 2003 was that “by and large. California.. MCS found that responders “. the issue of units being away while fires were burining in their primary response territories actually demonstrates the success of the mutual aid system. 2003) This caused many responders to question “whether mutual aid agreements or the mobilization system ought to have a provision to keep resources at their home units during severe fire conditions or to reassigned resources back to their home unit when the situation requires.” (MCS. the reason for the responders criticism mentioned above is that units were aggressively dispatched to support engaged fire suppression forces very early as incidents began. and engaged once in the other jurisdiction. 2003) This suggests that the mutual aid system had become much more efficient than the one used in 1970 allowing units to be quickly dispatched to other jurisdictions. The second general area of inquiry identified after the 1970 fires was the area involving incident management. In order to adequately cover this area. they benefited from planning and training made under somewhat realistic circumstances. During this research.
knowledge and confidence in ICS. (The Guidance Group. 2003)
. it is of great importance that the responders who participated in the 2003 MCS study “.”(MCS. (SDFD 2004) MCS supports the findings of the San Diego Fire Department by recognizing that the speed of the fire changed the developing situation so rapidly that unified command could not keep up and “plans rarely remained valid beyond six hours.... 2003) The evidence seems to suggest that the use of ICS during the 2003 fires provided a framework that allowed significant improvement in incident management.expressed a strong them that the Incident Command System (ICS) provided the critical foundation for trust between agencies and effective interagency cooperation. Recognizing that the ICS used during the 2003 fires was the refined ICS developed through FIRESCOPE after the 1970 fires. the fire was moving at such a rapid rate that the standard process by which agencies would establish a management structure was too slow.” (MCS. helicopter loading points. 2003) A study entitled Lessons Learned 2003: Success and Challenges from AAR Roll Ups conducted in 2004 by The Guidance Group found that during the chaotic first hours of the major fires when suppression forces were often isolated and overwhelmed. resource needs.. It should be noted that on several occasions. 2000) The fire chief quoted above identified another development that originated in the incident management issues of 1970. One fire chief suggested that such planning meant that he could focus his “mental energy” on the more dynamic aspects of the fire. A majority of responders who participated in the MCS study expressed support for mandatory...including volunteer organizations and public utilities.” (MCS. reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed.” (MCS. 2004) Likewise. backfiring locations. and evacuation plans.planning exercises were helpful to the extent that they prepared for predictable needs. it was the trust between agencies provided by the commonality of the ICS that allowed difficult decisions to be made and carried out. and that such plans foster a sense of confidence within the ICS. “.” (Cole. including staging areas.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
stating that “. personnel who had completed ICS training saw ICS as valuable and that “their knowledge of ICS affected command and control and their ability to interface with the larger incident organization. 2003) The MCS study also found that agencies who had trained all their personnel in ICS were much more effective than those agencies who had not conducted such training. standardized ICS training for all agencies involved in response.
it was found that “long-term lack of resources” seriously impacted the San Diego Fire Department’s ability to respond during the Cedar fire because of the low-level of funding due to shortcomings in training and equipment. The MCS study found that both the numbers of fire personnel and equipment was inadequate.” (The Guidance Group. 2004) The evidence suggests that the use of the Incident Command System was productive when the responders were trained in the system and the event allowed for the command structure to be established.” (MCS. all requests for resources had to be manually transferred from MIRPS to ROSS.” (Moynihan.” (Blackwell & Tuttle. In contrast to this were the coordination problems that occurred during the Cedar fire when unfamiliar agencies were brought together in a unified command. (Blackwell & Tuttle. Due to the inability of these two systems to integrate. 2003) Field Commanders stated that this cumbersome system was “24 to 48 hours behind in processing orders. 2004) It is apparent that the incident command system developed after the disastrous 1970 fires allowed responders to more effectively control and coordinate the response to the complexities of the 2003 fires. from
. 2003) These delays were the result of an interoperability issue that existed between the state of California’s Multi-Agency Incident Resource Processing System (MIRPS) and the national Resource Ordering Status System (ROSS). the concept of span of control was not effectively implemented. The result of these shortages had a serious impact on the plans that were developed prior to the event “because adequate resources were not always available to implement them. Evidence provided by several of the Area Command Teams (ACT) of 2003 suggests that maintaining span of control continued to challenge incident managers.” (MCS. 2009) In the 1970 fires. However. (SDFD. 2004) A significant issue that was demonstrated during the 2003 fires was what responders described as “unnecessary and unacceptable delays in resource ordering. This was particularly true when the agency personnel had “limited or no background in ICS. 2003) Additionally.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
A direct correlation to the responders’ familiarity with ICS is the finding that unified command can be highly successful during complex events if the participants are confident of the system with a clear understanding and definition or role. (MCS. A major component of incident management that was identified as a serious issue during the 1970 fires was resource management. 2004) This was particularly true when the participants were from similar organizations. The ACTs from the 2003 fires reported that maintaining appropriate span of control was their “most difficult challenge.
and those questions never were
. Stay flexible and adapt operating procedures. ICS did not improve the leaders’ ability to manage the incident. 2004) Several of the Incident Management Teams (IMT) stated that their “most notable success” (The Guidance Group. One IMT stated that this was their greatest challenge.” (The Guidance Group. 2003) there was still significant problems with the communication system. After the 1970 fires.” (MCS. From the 1970 fires. like other areas. emergency response agencies had determined that major wildfires required effective multi-agency coordination. 2004)Though it was noted that communications was more effective in 2003 (MCS. and radios. though improvement had been made in this area of the incident command system. repeaters. One of the foundational characteristics of the ICS as used in 2003 was the standard usage of plain text for radio transmission. (Eckles. (The Guidance Group. a consistent perception among responders was that “Developing a working relationship between members of the IMT and personnel of other key agencies increases understanding of agency specific missions and contributes to effective implementation of operations. (FIRESCOPE.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
this evidence also suggests that when responders were not fully trained in ICS or the event escalated and changed at a pace that did not allow the command structure to become established. Another significant issue that arose during the 1970 fires was the inability for responders to communicate between units from different agencies. 2004) MCS found that “Respondents indicated unanimously that resolving the communications interoperability problems between the municipal and county 800 MHz and state/federal VHF systems should be the number one priority of management. the evidence is mixed regarding multiagency coordination. “Questions regarding jurisdiction and the role of the IMT became an issue during structure protection decisions. 1988) In the after action reports of the 2003 fires. (Eckles. Some of this was due to transmission towers and repeaters being destroyed by the firestorms. the FIRESCOPE system established a state-wide emergency communication system complete with transmission towers. This allowed easier communication between agencies. 2004) was the establishment of effective working relationships with personnel from other agencies and local governments. One of FIRESCOPE’s primary objectives was to increase the effectiveness of agencies ability to rapidly coordinate and work with other agencies. They indicated that this issue affected safety and operations more than any other. 2004) However. communications remained a significant management issue. 2003) Thus.
the firestorms of 2003 presented the fire suppression forces of southern California with a test of immense proportions. The use of a satellite based communications system could be investigated in order to remove the issue of transmission tower loss during events. In this test. Perhaps the most significant issue with interoperability. (MCS. From an operational perspective.S. this event demonstrated that the FIRESCOPE ICS had not resolved all of the management issues of 1970. and incident management could be lessened if all persons and agencies involved in response to major incidents received standardized training in the incident command system. NIMS could provide a solution to some of the management issues. 2003) This hindered the effectiveness of the response. Advances in telecommunication technology could provide some of the solution. Though some research has been conducted in which ICS has been examined using wildfire events and other types of disasters. and multi-agency coordination. Conclusion From the evidence gleaned from the 1970 Wildfires it was apparent to the emergency response agencies in Southern California that serious issues existed in the areas of mutual aid. communications. (Moynihan. it was found that there was a tendency in the higher levels of government to incorporate the knowledge of local responders when involved in conversations regarding strategy and objectives. Though great advancements had been made in the major issue areas identified after the 1970 wildfires. 2004). 2000)
. Department of Homeland Security adapting the FIRESCOPE ICS in 2004 as the National Incident Management System (USDHS. incident command. in particular interoperability and multi-agency coordination. (Cole.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
resolved. communications. more research must be done to determine if the issues discovered in 2003 will be magnified when this ICS is used for catastrophic events beyond the large wildland fires it was designed to manage. 2009) further research needs to be conducted. 1988) was developed and partially implemented. However. From this cooperation the “FIrefighting REsources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies” (FIRESCOPE. the FIRESCOPE ICS was found to significantly improve the management of a catastrophic wildland-urban interface fire event. A cooperative of fire suppression and government agencies formed to develop a system to address these issues. With the U. (The Guidance Group. Further work needs to be done to develop and implement communication systems and strategies that will enable emergency responders from disparate agencies to quickly and effectively communicate. 2004) Additionally.
this study explored the effectiveness of the Incident Management System by examining case studies of the 1970 wildfires in Southern California and comparing the management issues identified at that time with the management issues discovered during the 2003 wildfires in Southern California.Though the use of ICS has significantly improved the ability of emergency managers to respond to catastrophic wildfires. the emergency management practitioner may accept that the use of ICS will improve the management of large-scale disasters. The analysis of the issues discovered during these two catastrophic wildfires suggests that the problems identified after the catastrophic wildfires of 1970 in southern California are lessened but not completely resolved by the implementation of the Incident Management System during the wildfires of 2003.
. Recognizing that major issues still remain to be resolved in mutual aid.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
This study sought to examine the effectiveness of the Incident Management System as it has been applied during large-scale disasters in the United States. incident command. By examining the relevant literature. communications. and multi-agency cooperation.
J. New York: Springer-Verlag. (2005). H. California Fire Siege 2003: The Story October 21-November 4. U.. & Brown. C. & Leonard. Chase.. F. 2010. Hannestad. Remote Sensing Imagery Support for Burned Area Emergency Response Teams on 2003 Southern California Wildfires. (December 2003). PA: National Fire Academy. FIRESCOPE: A new concept in Multiagency Fire Suppression Cooperation. A. Lindell.. International Workshop on Emergency Response and Rescue. 2008). K. The San Diego Union . Cole. and Federal Policy. R. (May. Zajkowski.. R.. A. E. (2000). Emmitsburg. (1986).. Crisis/Response Journal vol 1 (2) . REMARKS BY HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY MICHAEL CHERTOFF AND FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR R.). Oklahoma. & Prater. The US Fire Learning Network: Springing a Rigidity Trap through Multiscalar Collaborative Networks. from ecologyand society. Blackwell. Howitt. A. (n. Human System Responses to Disaster: An Inventory of Sociological Findings.S. D. Johnson. CA: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Belgium: International Community on Information Systems for Crisis Response And Management. CA: Governor's Office of Emergency Services.ecologyandsociety.. (1970.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
Works Cited Anear. Journal of Forestry . Chertoff.
. Emergency Management in California. Rancho Cordova. Washington D. Agriculture. T. Los Angeles.d. Stn.C. S. 2003). M. Brussels. Eckles. (2005).. (1988). J. Sacremento..J. OK: Oklahoma State University. E.. G. (2004).. 2003. A Command System for All Agencies.org/vol15/iss3/art21/ CGOES. PA: National Fire Academy. T. January 22). Perry. (Oct/Nov 2004). The Incident Command System: 25 Year Evaluation by California Practitioners. 26-31. Organizing Response to Disasters with the Incident Command System/Incident Management System. DISASTROUS LAGUNA FIRE OF ’70 RECALLED. Keeley. W. Parsons. (2009). A. Salt Lake City. A. FIRESCOPE. (2010). 40-42. T.org: http://www. K. A. & Lannom. Proceedings of the 2nd International ISCRAM Conference (pp. J. Stillwater. Butler. Oct. DAVID PAULISON AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE NATIONAL RESPONSE FRAMEWORK (January 22. Berkeley. H. UT: United States Forest Service. CA: FIRSCOPE CA. 9). CA: Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Exp. & Moritz. W.. A. Retrieved Dec 6. Lessons from the October 2003 Wildfires in Southern California... (2008. M. FIRESCOPE: Past. The Evolution of United States Wildfire Management Policy California. Overly. K. D. Clark. 2004). 19-28). (Oct. (1980). & Tuttle. R. Present and Future Directions A Progress Report. Dep. Drabek. Incident Command System: A Developing National. International Workshop on Emergency Response and Rescue. Emmitsburg. & Paulison. C. M. Forest Serv. Improving Interoperable Communications for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Divisions.
Moynihan. (1970). (January. USDA. WFLLC.html USDHS. P.October4. (2003). Phillips. Cleveland National Forest.: United States Dept. OK: Department of Central Services Central Printing Division. AZ: Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. (1996). B.An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies
Mission-Centered Solutions. D. D. Washington.htm OKCEM. Southern California Firestorm 2003: Report for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. Dept. (2004). from Wildfire: http://wildfiremag. Laguna Fire. (2008). D. From Forest Fires to Hurricane: Case Studies of Incident Command Systems. Retrieved Dec 11. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory .Cleveland National Forest. Oklahoma. Rowley.c. Madison. USFS. 2010.: U.uninets.net: http://www. & Buck.about.wildfirelessons. Retrieved December 13. Lessons Learned 2003: Success and Challenges From AAR Roll Ups.: USDA. Oklahoma City. 2010. P. 2008).C. (2010). Murrah Federal Building Bombing 19 April 1995 in oklahoma City. M.C. (n.pdf
. 1970. The Fires that created an Incident Management System.com/od/forestfire/ss/top_fires_na_8. Division of Forestry. D.1950 to Present: http://forestry. Moynihan. from Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center: Scratchline: http://www. Washington. D. of Conservation. D.uninets. 1970 Laguna Fire-One of California's Worst Wildfire. Department of Homeland Security.net/documents/Scratchline7_fall03. 1970. D. CO: Mission-Centered Solutions.pdf.net/~dsrowley/The%20Fires%20that%20Created%20an%20IMS.S. (1972). Fire Weather (Agriculture Handbook Series). Retrieved 08 Dec. The Network Governance of Crisis Response: Case Studies of Incident Command Systems. from www. Regional Fire Analysis. 2010. California aflame! September 22 . (2003). The Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management After Action Report Alfred P. National Incident Management System. Washington. National Incident Management System. September 26. (2009). California: State of California. Nix. D.net/~dsrowley/The%20Fires%20that%20Created%20an%20IMS. 1970. Retrieved Dec 14. (1971). C. D. The Guidance Group. USDHS. (2004). of Conservation. Recommendations to Solve California's Wildland Fire Problem. (1970). (2010).com/cal_wildfire/laguna/fire.). Retrieved Dec 11. Southern California 2003. Sacramento. California . WI: IBM Center for the Business of Government.uninets. S. United States Forest Service. Case study proposal.cccarto.d. 2010. Laguna Fire Disaster . Sacramento. Forest Service. from ccarto. (2009). 2010. Command Confusion. 2010. from Google Docs: http://www. Sager. Division of Forestry. Parker. of Homeland Security. C.pdf Rowley.September. Task Force on California's Wildland Fire Problem.com: http://www. CA: State of California Dept. (2010). from Tragic and Destructive North American Wildfires . Retrieved Dec 8. B..com/command/command_confusion/ Schroeder. Tuscan.
An Examination of the Effectiveness of the Incident Command System Using Case Studies