In a recent water search and rescue tabletop exercise, while we identified there was an incident commander (IC), safety officer, public information officer, logistics, administration and individual sections.
I pointed out there was no 1 person responsible for operations. For other exercises, it was the IC who took this role.
However, if we look at span of control, where it is mentioned that only 3 to 5 people report to any one person, the IC can quickly get overwhelmed.
So, it was recommended that someone take the role of Operations Section Chief. This person was the "man on the scene" working with the IC and the teams.
The exercise and communications was much improved as a result of changing one persons role.
It is amazing the difference one person can make.
The IC and operations chief were both able to identify how many resources they had and were. The leaders at all levels knew how many people they had and accountability was not an issue with the responders.
For larger incidents, as mentioned in the debrief, consider two big sheets of paper, one with the ICS organizational chart along with who is in what role. And another that is a map of the location, you can see where the staging area is, where the incident is, traffic flows, etc. This is a very simple no cost tip that can have a big impact.
The only potential issue with accountability was with medical, when asked of medical, how many patients were arriving on the boat, they may have said 3. However, 5 patients got off the boat. It appears the potential breakdown in communication was there were 3 red patients, 1 green and 1 black. So, the 3 were the red victims.
So, while we often say, give only the information someone is asking you, in this case, it might make sense to say, there are 5 victims total, 3 red, 1 green, 1 black and 0 yellow.
Also, in an early posting, we discussed location, location, location, keep the medical area out of the sun. If you have a building and this is a disaster, take over the building as appropriate. As learned in previous drills, the medical area needs to be clearly identified along with sections for red, yellow, and green patients. This was done and has become second nature to these responders.
At the beginning of the drill was a real incident where they need to apprehend an illegal fishing vessel. The drill was delayed, this was taken care of. And then we proceeded.
One other suggestion would be the staging area. Folks here are very eager to respond, get close to the scene and "do the most good for the most number of people" and quickly. However, improved staging and a dedicated staging leader in the staging area will make the response even more effective. In some of the pervious exercises, there was a "roaming IC", this was corrected and did not occur during this drill.
As a recommendation to the National Disaster Coordinating Council, this group did an excellent job using the resources at hand. However, if we look at the number of victims in the exercise and the response time, it will quickly become clear that more assistance would be needed.
Those agreements should be in place and thoroughly understood and exercised before a disaster.
Again team, job well done! They have been very receptive to the recommendations and quick to implement them.
Pictured before are some of the responders who provided safety for the exercise, along with the Regional Coordinating Council.