Ep 10: #2 What is our Joint ICS Structure? - "10 Questions from the Mayor" Series

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Episode 10: #2 What is our Joint ICS structure? - "10 Questions from the Mayor" Series

10 Questions for the Mayor to ask the Police and Fire Chief Series

Question 2: "What is the integrated Incident Command System (ICS) structure (i.e. org chart) that you’ve developed as part of the joint response policy?"

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to our next installment in our podcast series. We are doing a mini-series here for mayors, city managers, county administrators called Ten Questions to Ask Your Police and Fire Chief. Our first podcast, we covered the question of, can you show and review with me our joint a hostile event response policy? So today's question on this one, what is the integrated incident command system structure, in other words, the Org Chart, that you chiefs of police, fire, EMS, that you chiefs have developed as part of the joint response policy?
My name is Bill Godfrey, one of the instructors with C3 Pathways, retired fire chief. I have with me today Adam Pendley, assistant chief with the Jacksonville Sheriff's office, also one of our instructors. Adam, thanks for coming in.

Adam Pendley:

Yes, absolutely.

Bill Godfrey:

So one of the things that, and this one is actually kind of a simple question for the mayor or for the city manager is, show me the Org Chart. If the police chief and the fire chief can slap down an Org Chart in front of them and say, "Yeah, we've worked it out," then you're probably in pretty good shape. But if you get a blank stare or you get some squirming in the seat, then you probably need to drill down and ask some more questions. But talk a little bit about, Adam, on the law enforcement side, some of the places where we need to be linked up ahead of time to establish the lanes and the lines of communication.

Adam Pendley:

Sure. This is kind of an extension of that first question about policies, but visually speaking, an Org Chart that actually shows a unity of command and a span of control is a good area to see immediately whether you're still working in silos. If the fire, EMS department has an Org Chart that does not include any police representation, or vice versa, the law enforcement Org Chart does not have any medical branch represented in its Org Chart, then that might be a red flag that your agencies are still working within silos.
But if you have an Org Chart that shows that an active shooter event, especially early in the event, is primarily going to be a law enforcement event with some very important tasks happening as you move into operations lower in the Org Chart, but you have a very well-represented medical branch that's working on triage and transport, but that in the Org Chart it shows that it's okay for the medical branch to work for the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction for the active shooter event, that shows some level of cooperation. It shows that you're not working in silos. You're willing to work well with each other.

Bill Godfrey:

I agree with you. I think, to me, one of the first places that I look is when we talk about rescue task forces ... For those that that may be listening on our elected official side, the rescue task force is a combination team made up typically of some medically trained people, EMS, so EMTs and paramedics, that are escorted by a security detail, usually law enforcement. So what you're commonly seeing is this rescue task force, which is a mixed discipline team of law enforcement and fire EMS personnel, now, their job is to go down range and take care of patients that have been injured. So their job is medical, but there's a security component to it.
One of the first questions that I ask people when I'm talking to them, especially on the fire, EMS side, is explain to me how your rescue task force is structured. Who's talking to who? What are the lanes of communication? So you've got a law enforcement element on the team. Who are they on the radio with? You've got a medical element of the team. Who are they on the radio with? How does that fit? How does that roll up into the command structure to where ultimately you've got an incident commander or a unified command, which I think is where you were going with what you were commenting earlier. I think we want to hit on that before we wrap up this question, but to me that's one of the very telling places to look is have you really integrated that rescue task force and those lanes of communication.

Adam Pendley:

Sure, absolutely. I think if you're at a table having that conversation, and you're a city manager and you're having that conversation with your chiefs, the Org Chart helps you walk through those questions. So show me where do the rescue task forces work, who are they communicating with, and so on and so forth. But I think also it allows you to open up questions like, in our emergency plan, what delegation of authority do you need to make this work? Do we need to have an understanding that, at least early in the event, it may be driven by a law enforcement incident commander? But as the incident progresses and the active threat has subsided and you're moving more into rescue and clearing and reunification and survivor services and family assistance, that maybe the command box of the Org Chart expands a little bit, and it becomes a true unified command, a little more long-term.
Org Charts are just great to drive a conversation and illustrate, again, unity of command, and that is who reports to who, who do I work for, and who works for me, but then also span of control. As the event expands, where are we going to place resources so they're the most effective, where you're not overwhelming a single agency or a single incident commander and you have that shared authority? So once a city manager walks through that Org Chart with his chiefs or her chiefs, they can understand what delegation of authority is needed and where all these pieces are going to fall into place.

Bill Godfrey:

Absolutely makes sense. I think the other thing that the Org Chart allows the mayor or the city manager to look at is, where are the linkages? So you mentioned unified command, and we often talk in our classes about the difference between unified command and unified management. Unified command is a very specific term that has a specific definition within the National Incident Management System and the way we use it. We see a lot of of national guidance that says, it's got to be unified command.
On the streets over the last, I don't know, 10, 20 years now, unified command has kind of morphed from what it was originally intended to be into this notion that each discipline is going to kind of run it's discipline directly, and that they're just going to share information in the command post. Of course, as we've seen in training and exercises and in studies that we've done on the real life incidents, that's a disaster in the making.
If you stovepipe your communications, whether it's stovepiping vertically through the command post or stovepiping all the way through dispatch, when you don't have your two command posts together, there is a breakdown. It slows communication down. It introduces errors and mistakes that occur, and it's a breakdown.
So one of the other things that I would say is when you're looking at the Org Chart, ask the question, show me where we're working together. Where are we working laterally across the disciplines? You should see two, three, four touch points across the org structure where we're working together and talking together and sharing information before it gets to that unified incident commander level.
That, of course, is what we call the idea of unified management is where we have come together across our disciplines to really work this thing together as opposed to stovepiping it by discipline through unified command. I think, to me, that's another really important touch point, especially given some of the national guidance we've seen come out recently.

Adam Pendley:

Yeah, absolutely, and it's a starting point. I think it's fair to say that there's an asterisk here, that your Org Chart is going to change based on the size and scope of your incident. I say frequently in training scenarios that you should let how much incident you have drive how much ICS you need. You should never let how much incident command system you're using drive how much incident you have. What that means is that your Org Chart is going to develop as the incident develops.
However, if you're sitting at a desk in a pre-planning sort of way, an Org Chart can be very telling as far as how the agencies are willing to work together.
Like you mentioned, Bill, the touch points across laterally and to make sure that everyone is a unity of effort and unity of management moving in the right direction. So I think those are great points. Even if the astatic Org Chart does not necessarily become part of the policy, as you discuss the policy, you can draw out an Org Chart so you can ... It's just another visual way to identify gaps as the process develops.

Bill Godfrey:

I think it's a really good point. This one, gang, is not really a complicated topic. Again, I think it's a pretty straightforward way for the elected official, the city-county administrator, to be able to evaluate a very technical area where they may not have the background, but at least they can get some understanding of how much preparation has been done and how much everybody's going to be working together.
Adam, thank you for taking the time to weigh in on this one. This one's going to be short and sweet. Please join us again for the next one. Our next question up is, how does your joint response policy fit with our mutual aid partners' response policies? In other words, what good does it do us to have a great policy that we've trained on if it doesn't match up with our neighbors? So tune back in for that one. Thank you.

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