Incident Commander Training, Essential for Everyone
In the 1970’s, California was suffering from catastrophic wildfires. There were numerous fire battalions fighting multiple fires simultaneously, and virtually no communication between them. This caused teams to be pinned down by consuming fires with no means of escape.
This process unfolded for years until a better system was developed. The new system not only required communication between the different agencies, but also included an element of planning with other agencies. The focus was to bring the various agencies together (fire department, police department, EMS, etc.) to meld into one team in an emergency situation.
In order to really become efficient, table-top scenarios and even mock drills were a necessary element. Additionally, it became very important to know where the Local Emergency Response Committee Emergency Response Plans were as well as Emergency Action Plans. And so the Incident Command System training program was born. The Incident Command System (ICS) is a management system designed to enable effective and efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.
Some ammonia refrigerated facilities rely on their own security personnel to direct their employees in an emergency situation. But the problem with this method is that the security personnel are not properly trained on ammonia emergency response procedures and do not know what their roll is under ICS. But why is it necessary for all employees at your facility to participate in ICS? In an emergency situation, your team lead may not be available or even be on site in during a hazardous situation. Someone will have to step up and take charge until a more qualified individual arrives on the scene. Thus, it is in the plant’s best interest to have multiple (or even all) employees take part in the Incident Command training system. This is usually accomplished during ammonia awareness training and reviewing the emergency response plan. 24 hours a day 7 days a week, someone at the plant has to be trained to take charge, implement the ICS system and get people to safety.
When I am on my survival trips, I have confidence because of my practice and preparation. When I encounter wildlife out in the woods, I know how to handle that danger. On occasion, I encounter a bear when I’m in the woods. Because of my preparation, I know the bear’s mannerisms and how to read the situation when it approaches my campsite and thus, I can make good split-second decisions that could save my life.
The same is true in a hazardous situation at your facility. Understanding the role of an Incident Commander requires hours of training regardless of whether you are a responder or a non-intervention personnel. Everyone at the plant needs to feel comfortable and confident in making split-second decisions in an emergency situation. That comfort level only comes with hours of practice and preparation. Many facility accidents occur due to lack of training.
With proper Incident Command training and knowing how to function within the ICS, you will be aware the facility hazards and then start to plan for them. Remember, you will only respond the way that you practice. So practice within the ICS to make sure that you understand your role and can support the facility in whatever role they assign to you.