With NIMS and ICS, Practice Makes Perfect

The University of Rhode Island shows how campuses can become proficient in ICS and NIMS by using them in planned campus activities.

There is a lot of talk these days about implementing the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and using the Incident Command System (ICS). However, colleges and universities have been slow to pick up on this, often leaving them as formalities on paper and possibly only requiring certain trainings of their public safety officers. NIMS and ICS implementation usually stops there.

Administrators might think that ICS is something that is only used for the “big one.” The truth is that ICS is intended as a standard response management system for everything from the smallest call to the largest scale disaster. Furthermore, it is perfect for planned events.

The best way to learn NIMS and ICS and be up to speed is to practice them during everyday situations, such as concerts, fairs, road races and sporting events. If used properly, they will streamline operations, especially when multiple resources, departments, agencies and organizations are involved.

NIMS and ICS are for Everyone
While the University of Rhode Island (URI) hosts its own full-time transporting EMS agency charged with responding to the more than 1,000 9-1-1 emergency medical calls that occur on its campuses each year, schools that do not have in-house EMS can still use this system for such an event. “Work with your community agencies, ensure that your public safety officers are integrated into the response system and ensure that other key departments such as facilities are linked into it as well,” advises Dr. Robert F. Drapeau, director of public safety at URI. “This system also works well for managing the traffic and security nightmare that events bring.”

So, what key advice can URI offer for utilizing NIMS/ICS at a large-scale event?

1. Communicate

Before the Event: We start with a general incident briefing in the morning and then the various sections and units do their own more detailed briefings to get everyone on the same page for everything that pertains to them,” Vice Cmdr. Joshua Manfredo, URI’s deputy chief of emergency medical services says. “We follow through on any changes and make sure everyone is updated as needed as the event progresses.” This prevents common problems such as self-dispatching, multiple resources for one incident and confusion among responding units.

During the Event: The EOC should have the ability to communicate across multiple radio types and, consequently, with multiple departments. This direct communication enables quick response to all calls.

With Other Resources: “Think of your non-traditional responders such as event managers, building managers, facilities and group leaders,” Drapeau advises. For example, with the Seaside Classic (see sidebar on page 21), the EOC was able to communicate with the tournament leadership to coordinate between the event staff and emergency and non-emergency responders. This cut down on unnecessary calls routing through 9-1-1 or the university’s public safety dispatch center. It also allowed the medical aid station to advise the tournament staff if there was a sudden influx of dehydrated patients. Tournament leadership implemented a hydration policy that lead to a break for the players to rehydrate.

2. Support Your Personnel
Dedicated ICS functions outside of the operations section can also help everything else run smoothly. “A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to have someone coordinate communications, equipment/supplies, food, breaks, and the like,” says Manfredo. “The incident commander is usually tied up taking care of other things and can’t dedicate the time needed for these important tasks. It can be a tremendous morale booster when the little things are taken care of properly.”

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