I think we all know how dry Incident Command System courses can be, yet we complete them because they are important and necessary. When I enrolled in ICS-300 through the Colorado Department of Public Safety, I expected more of the same. However, instructor Jim Krugman led our class through interesting discussions and exercises and provided an enriching experience. Mr. Krugman is the Training and Exercise Coordinator for the Denver Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He previously spent 36 years with the USDA Forest Service, largely with Fire Operations. This course was conducted over two days, May 11 and 12, at Front Range Airport.
Attendees were assigned to one of five teams, each with a similar mix of genders, agencies and backgrounds. This proved invaluable when working through the tabletop exercises as each team member brought a different perspective and set of priorities to the exercise. I was assigned to team five and when we began the first tabletop exercise, one gentleman was very insistent that the railroad be given a spot in the incident command structure. This caused Mr. Krugman some frustration and none of us knew until the second day (when introductions were done) that my fellow team member was an employee of one of the railroads. The resulting discussion was lively and extremely informative, however. We learned that railroads take their right-of-ways very seriously and, strictly speaking, consider themselves the only valid authority for any event that occurs in their jurisdiction. The takeaway from this discussion is that any incident that involves or is in proximity to a railway will need to consider the railroad authority in some capacity. For example, Incident Command would need the cooperation of the railroad to move railcars out of danger during a fire.
Saturday, we reviewed ICS fundamentals, Unified Command and Assessment of an incident or event and establishing objectives. The lectures were broken up with group exercises and presentation of each team’s assessment or approach to the incident. While some of the assessments were quite similar there were others that were creative and unique. Generally speaking, every team provided valuable insight into some of the challenges and weaknesses in others. By the end of the course on Sunday, it was clear that many of the teams incorporated some ideas presented by other teams. This type of learning experience is extremely valuable because it reminds all of us that none of us has all the answers. It is through collaboration and careful listening that the best solutions of all are found.
I also highly recommend Jim Krugman as an instructor. His approach to ICS course material keeps it fresh and interesting for his students. His many years of experience in the field also enable him to provide practical examples throughout the course.