Episode 04: Command Post Integration
Jul 2, 2018
Discussion of Command Post integration in Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM)
Episode 04: Command Post Integration
Discussion of Command Post integration in Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM)Bill Godfrey: Hello, and welcome to our next installment of talking about active shooter events. My name is Bill Godfrey from C3 Pathways. And today's segment we are going to talk about integration in the Command Post. How do you bring law enforcement, fire EMS together and how do you make that work. And then, some of the common problems that we see. I mean, in a perfect world, we want one Command Post. We want all the disciplines together in that one Command Post. Actually, communicating with each other face-to-face. Sharing information, updating each other as the incident goes. And then also, coordinating with the troops downrange.
But, that doesn't always turn out to be such an easy thing to accomplish and we're going to talk about that. With me today, we've got Tom Billington, Fire Chief. Stephen Shaw, Sergeant. Ron Otterbacher, Division Chief. Retired Sheriff, Kevin Beary. Fire Chief, Joe Ferrara and Fire Chief, Mark Rhame. Welcome guys, good afternoon.
So, Ron let me kick this to you to talk about, it seems like such a simple thing to say. Getting everybody into one Command Post. Why is it turn out that, that's such a problem for us?
Ron Otterbacher: Usually it's because we don't train before we have the incident. It's so important to train and understand what each other needs. It's also important to train so you know who you're dealing with and, you've got the ability to communicate. We see oftentimes where, we'll be co-located but it doesn't enhance communication whatsoever because, each person's got their own focus and they don't understand what the other person may need or what their agency may need or what their needs are for that tactical situation.
So, I think training is the key to bring that familiarity together. The other thing is, introducing yourself to the people you work with because, it's a lot harder to just blow someone off if you know who they are. And it's evident all the time when we do these scenarios is, once they know each other and they've got an understanding of what's needed, they progress rapidly.
Bill Godfrey: So basically, just the simplicity of introducing yourself to your counterpart in the Command Post and having a name to go with it?
Ron Otterbacher: Absolutely. That face and that name goes a long way. Then, three weeks down the road after you've had the training, if I need something I call the Fire Chief and say. "Hey, I need this can you help me out?" And they'll say. "Yeah."
Bill Godfrey: It sounds simple. It certainly sounds simple but, far too often we see a lot silos in the Command Post. Steve, you were talking about this a little earlier offline, before we got started. You know, what are the challenges that you see? What's the ruts that we're falling into?
Stephen Shaw: I think as we go around the country and we do these scenarios, we're introducing people to new models and people kinda get ... They get in the Command Post and the co-located and we're working on the same incident. Police have their job, fire has their job, EMS has their job. And then you add in people like emergency management, outside political people, things of that nature. And everyone just kinda gets stuck in their lane or as we refer to it, a silo. And everybody just kinda does their ... They're focused on their task, their mission and they're worried about doing their job to the best of their ability and they forget about the people that are standing literally, a foot away from them.
We're all here together, police, fire, EMS working together and in the Command Post a lot of times, you're so focused on your task that we see people ... We keep saying 'silo' themselves. Law enforcement officers, we gotta work on the law enforcement side. Fire fighters gotta work on the fire side and they don't communicate with each other very well.
Bill Godfrey: Mark, how do we fix that? What are some of the tricks that responders who are on the job working in the field, you know, you find yourself in the Command Post or maybe even, just trying to get into the Command Post. How do we fix this?
Mark Rhame: Well, I agree with one thing Ron said right off the bat is, that we've gotta train. But it's also got to be in policy. You know, it's easy to go out there and get together every once in a while and say. "Hey, let's do this." And we practice that integrator response or integrated Command Post. But you've gotta put it in policy, there's gotta be some enforcement on one side of it that says. "From the management, the top management, all the way down to that brand new fire fighter. This is what we're going to do in this scenario." So, not only do we place it in policy, but we train and we work with our partners across the table. Whether you're a fire fighter, whether you're in law enforcement or EMS, or EM whatever it happens to be. You gotta understand what those policies are, what those procedures are. Who's going to be ultimately in command because, it's written in policy. And you train on it on a regular basis.
One of the pitfalls we have on a regular basis is that, you look at these training events that we have, there's a lot of middle ranks and maybe even, lower ranks and brand new employees but you don't see the management people. Who have to adopt this also and push it down from the top. That this is the way we're going to behave when we arrive on scenes.
Bill Godfrey: So Kevin, Mark's talking about this issue of the Command Posts' policies and the training. And absolutely right on the mark with that but, we've seen all over the country these incidents where we end up with multiple Command Posts, you know, the law enforcement Command Post is over here. The fire Command Post is over there. And EMS is setup over there. How do we fix that? How do we legislate that problem into going away? And it seems like such a silly thing to have to tell everybody to get into the same Command Post, but we've seen it over and over again, how do you fix it?
Kevin Beary: Well, in law enforcement the Chief of Police and the Sheriff need to have their policies mirror the policies of the EMS as well as, the fire. In other words, they're going to have to get together and write an active shooting policy to be able to get those Command Post people to work together, arrive on the scene, and locate themselves in somebody's Command Post. And you can have runners and radios and telephones to communicate back and forth to your individual CPs, but one Command Post needs to have all the players in it where they're talking with each other and they're making the decisions to save lives.
Bill Godfrey: You know, I think that's a great point. Tom, we were talking yesterday about some dysfunction that we sometimes in the Command Post, and Kevin's talking about trying to get everybody ... Well, we're all talking about trying to get everybody together and talking. What are some of the common breakdowns that you see in the Command Post from the ... That just introduces dysfunction or causes the dysfunction?
Tom Billington: Well, one thing is most of your people in the Command Post are senior people that have been in the business for many years. Training and policy is not the time to meet your counterpart. Break bread with them, have lunch with them, have meetings. When you have somebody come in your Command Post, you should know their first name, their abilities, and have a good relationship with them. And that's where some of the dysfunction comes from. We're not talking to our neighbors, the person down the street. And when you get on scene, that is not the time to discover what they can or cannot do for you.
So, it's as easy as making sure ... Especially if you have a large organization or a large county or city, that you are meeting with the law enforcement or fire together. You're doing meetings together and eating lunch together. And that's how you can avoid some of that dysfunction. I've had instances where I've been in a Command Post with two fire agencies and they don't talk to each other. And that can happen to anybody. So, we have to reach out to our partners and get a relationship going and that should avoid a lot of the dysfunction right up front.
Bill Godfrey: So Joe, let's assume we can get everybody into the same Command Post. We get them co-located. They introduce themselves to each other, in some cases hopefully, they know each other. How do we make sure that the mission that they execute moves forward? How do they know what lane is theirs? How do they know when they're out of their lane and when they're crossing over. Or, does that matter? Does it matter if they stay in their lane? Where does that piece of it fit and is that an important part of keeping your Command Post operating effectively?
Joe Ferrara: Well yes, I think it does matter if they stay in their lane. You know, fire we have our disciplines and we know, we're subject matter experts in those areas as well as, you know, EMS has their lanes, and law enforcement. Now you know, the important thing to remember in an active shooter event, this is a law enforcement event. This is a crime in progress. And to back up a little bit, when we've lost integration, or we've started the event without integration. So let's be realistic, law enforcement's going to set up a Command Post probably, on this event. Fire's going to set up a Command Post. Somebody's gotta step up, and this is where we get out of our lanes. And it's okay in this circumstance. It's okay for law enforcement to reach out to fire and say. "Hey, let's get this together and let's work together on this incident." So that's the one time, I believe, where it's okay for law enforcement to cross over and get with fire.
But once you're integrated, once you're together in the same command Post, I think it's incumbent upon the Incident Commander, to set those expectations and say ... One way of doing that possibly is you have a medical branch, you have a law enforcement branch. So those two directors have specific lanes and specific responsibilities to stick with. I think the Incident Commander becomes the traffic cop, so to speak that makes sure that those specific branches are staying in their lanes, because if you're going to ask each person not only to run their respective tasks and incidents. And now, you're going to ask them to make sure. "Okay, make sure there's a check and balance." I think that's a role of the Incident Commander here.
Bill Godfrey: That's an interesting point Mark, we're talking about you know, staying in the lanes. How does that effect communication? Is both your verbal face-to-face communication but perhaps, even more importantly, radio communication. Does staying in your lane or wandering out of your lane effect your radio communication? Can it improve it or make it worse?
Mark Rhame: Well, I think one of the things in regard to radio communication is, and we preach this and talk about this when we do classes is that, clearly on the radio we need to know who those people are. And we talk about, you gotta lose your normal identity on a day-to-day basis and clearly identify what position you are. And that will tell everybody that's listening to that radio channel, what your role in this incident is. Example being that, if you're a patrol office and you're 109 normally, and you take command and on the radio you're now Command. Everybody clearly understand that your command including, in the Command Post that you are the Incident Commander. If you are normally the Chief 100 of a fire department on a 24-hour shift but when you step into that Command Post, you become the medical branch on the radio, you are medical branch.
Clearly, that defines to every single person that's listening to it, whether it's on a radio or face-to-face or you talking to some other person exterior or outside customer or interior customer, when they come up. They clearly know what your position is in that Command Post and I think, that's very, very important that we all practice that policy and make sure that everybody clearly identifies what they are in that Command Post and what their role is.
Bill Godfrey: So, talking about radio comm Steve, how does that effect dispatch. You know, you've got presumably, law enforcement, you know, these days there very few law enforcement agencies that are using the same channel as fire EMS, they're usually split. Often, they have separate dispatch centers. Where's dispatch's role in this? How does that fit into this piece of it?
Stephen Shaw: I think if you include dispatch in your training and you include dispatch in your policies as you're discussing these things. It can help mitigate some of this. A lot of people are going to revert back to what they're kind of used to doing. But if you have dispatchers who have been involved in training and are involved in decision-making they can say. "Well, Chief 100, I think he actually means that he's medical branch" for example. And they can ask that over the radio. There's been instances where fire has set up an incident Command Post and police have set up an incident Command Post and they're unaware of each other's existence. Dispatch would know that both of those are in existence and can remind them that they're there. Clearing up radio channels, all this stuff, if you include dispatch in your training and your decision-making, all those things can be kinda mitigated ahead of time as the event is unfolding, if some mistakes are made along the way.
Bill Godfrey: So, we've talked about the silos and dysfunction and the importance of co-location, the training together, the policy development, relationship building and know it. Ron, what are the key tips that you would give to that Sergeant or Lieutenant or that Captain, on a law enforcement side for how to interact with their fire EMS counterparts to manage the event? Whether they're the law enforcement branch or whether they're Incident Commander, paint that picture for how that fits together and what that outta look like.
Ron Otterbacher: First off is, like we've said several times here, get to know your counterpart. At that scene may not be the best time to sit there and figure out that you've never met, you've never worked with each other, you don't know what each other's expectations are. The second thing is, train together and make sure you set training that involves everyone. If someone is going to take the role of Incident Commander, medical branch, law enforcement branch, whatever it may be. They need to train together prior to an incident. Like Mark said earlier, a lot of times we'll have staff people or general officers and you know, agent company officers and everyone else, at this training but there won't be any Command staff members there. If they're going to run the incident, they need to train for the incident.
Just because you have a title, doesn't mean that you're able to control that incident like it should be controlled. And that's been evident in some of the past incidents we've dealt with throughout the country.
Bill Godfrey: Mark, on the fire EMS side, what ... Or really, just all around. What are the things that you think are the tips that can help them make a Command Post function a whole lot better?
Mark Rhame: Well, from a fire and EMS standpoint is, one of the first things they've got to realize and we've talked about this previously is it, this is a law enforcement environment. It is a murder in progress, a crime in progress, that we are supporting the mission of law enforcement. Very important mission of saving lives but frankly, it is a crime in progress. So, fire is really gotta get that into their mindset when they walk into these environments. When they go into the Command Post, when they take a role there, that we have a leader who is going to be on the law enforcement side, and we're there to work as their partners, to work as a team. To make sure that the mission is accomplished. At very first, we're going to stop that killing and then, we're going to stop that dying but as a team effort.
If they go in there with that mindset that. "No, I am the Incident Commander or this is a going to be a unified command and I own half of this room." They're probably going to fail. There's not going to be the relationship that's necessary and needed in these events. You gotta allow law enforcement to step up and identify that mission right up front and that's stopping the killing. Taking down the threat and then, allowing a joint effort between both parties, law enforcement, fire, and EMS on going in there and stopping the dying. And it's gotta be that joint effort. Otherwise, we're going to continue this same practice we've been doing for years and years and years. And people are going to die on the scene needlessly.
Bill Godfrey: You know Mark, you're just kinda touching on it and Otter mentioned it as well. And that's the challenges of, leadership. Leadership not engaging in the training. We send the line folks to training. We send the line level supervisors to training. But the senior leadership, so often, and we see that ... And I don't think it's unique to law enforcement or fire or EMS or dispatch or emergency management or anybody. I think it's kinda universal. Senior leadership is busy. There's a lot of demands on their time. But, all too often, they don't make it to the training. And, that can have some prices to pay to it.
Kevin, what's the real world outcome? In fact, I'm going to have you give us the final word on this. What's the real world outcome and the impact of the senior level leadership who's going to want to take charge, not having been in the training? And not having the experience of working with their line people through exercises and scenarios? What's the real world impact of that?
Kevin Beary: Well, the real world impact on leaders that don't want to go to training. Whether it's EMS, fire, or police, is that you're going to be inadequate and inept in a major mass casualty shooting event. And, quite frankly, it's 2018. It's time to check the egos at the door. We're seeing all these mass shooting events all over the country and quite frankly, all over the world. And it is time that, as leaders of all those disciplines, they've got to get involved. They gotta put the Deputy Chief in charge for three days. If you've got attend the ASIM class and if we don't do that, all we're going to do is see the next mass shooting incident and more people are going to die because, you didn't take the time to concern yourself that you need the training as well as, all the mid-level and low-level employees of your own agencies.
Bill Godfrey: Succinctly put and a very sobering thought for all of us. And with that, I think, we're going to leave that one there. Thank you for taking time with us guys, appreciate the sit down and look forward to the next time.
Original Source: https://www.c3pathways.com/podcast/command-post-integration