Xtreme FD, LLC

Training – Planning for a Natural Disaster

 By, Alan Rufer, MBA
January 22, 2011

 It happens every spring and lasts throughout the summer. Storm watches and warnings are a part of life in the Midwest. Flooding, lightening strikes, hail, and tornados are just a few of the concerns associated with storms. Fortunately most of the incidents you are alerted to can be handled within the normal response protocols. However, what will you do when that “Big” one hits?

 There are many thoughts and theories when it comes to training. Some believe that the limited time available for training should be planned around the types of incidents that you are most likely to respond. While others’ feel that an equal amount of time should be spent planning for the “What ifs” or the “Big” ones. I feel that the best answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two thoughts.  It would be irresponsible to put your head in the sand and hope that you don’t get called to such a large scale incident. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to spend a large amount time on an event that does not have a high percentage of frequency.

I am an advocate of the “what if” exercises. Over the years I have found these to lead into very productive conversations, often revealing strengths and shortcomings. These however work best in small groups. If these groups expand beyond 3-5 people they often become unproductive. For this reason, I don’t feel using the “what if” scenario or planning for a specific event such as a tornado, flood, or a large fire is a prudent use of training time. Instead, I would leave the planning of specific events to the command staff of the department and focus the training on the Incident Command System (ICS) and your process for implementing it. The best way to increase the likelihood of a large scale event running smoothly is to use ICS during the small scale events. Knowing how ICS expands and contracts will allow you to utilize it for any incident you respond to.

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