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A Chance for You to be Heard on NIMS and Local Incident Management

Full NIMS Nationally “NIMS Essentials” Locally

A few years ago I was taking photographs and overlying different fire effects that I pulled from other photographs to create simulations. Then a program came out called Photoshop an excellent program unfortunately expensive. In order to be more effective at producing simulations I purchased the $600 program. When I opened the program I found it to be extremely sophisticated. The full program had many applications that with my limited knowledge of photography and of the program I was never able to use. It would have required several courses of study to become competent, and I would have been happy to do just that if photo retouching and photos enhancement was how I earned my living. However my goal was to simply produce more realistic photographs for simulations.

Several months after I purchased the full program the company came out with a program they called Photoshop Essentials. Photoshop Essentials was designed for someone like me, someone who needed only specific basic components of the program. This program was only $100, I purchased it and I still use it today several years later. Both programs are extremely useful, both programs are extremely necessary one for the folks who earn their living involved in very sophisticated photo related activities and the other for folks like me who have very simple needs in regards to photo retouching.

Today I am absolutely convinced that NIMS is the most sophisticated and most effective system available to manage complicated large-scale events. I completely support the presidential directive which mandated the use of NIMS for use at all national and those events which we classify as type one, two or three. I want to be absolutely clear that I fully support and that I am extremely grateful to the folks who developed NIMS. Additionally I have the utmost respect for those individuals and the great care and tremendous efforts that they extend to continually refine it and make it better.

Currently we find ourselves with a dilemma; no one can dispute the effectiveness, and the necessity for NIMS or the critical importance of all command officers being not only aware of but proficient in the use of NIMS. Conversely as I travel around the country which I do weekly, I'm continually addressed by experienced and well intentioned firefighters of all ranks, who feel deeply that they do not understand how to use NIMS effectively on the fireground at the level four and five routine events which they are called on to manage a daily basis.

One solution recently proposed to the NFPA was to create a “NIMS Essentials” standard. The terminology that was suggested was to call the standard the Local Incident Management Standard or LIMS. This proposal has elicited both strong support and strong opposition. The reactions were not unexpected; I would have been surprised if I did not see reactions. I hope that we can go forward with this discussion in the fire service and address people's concerns without creating villains and heroes. There are no good or bad guys here just firefighters with differing experiences and backgrounds. By engaging in discussion and collaborating we always come out better.

Briefly here are the two views. Opponents of this local incident management standard contend that the current all hazards approach NIMS is scalable. The common analogy is that of the toolbox from which you can select the various tools you need depending on the job which you are trying to perform. The folks opposed to the new local standard point to 35 years of effective use of ICS/NIMS on the West coast with great success.

I think we need to explore what west coast ICS in this system looks like, it may very well be “NIMS Essentials”. Opponents also state that the creation of a separate standard for local events type 1 and 2’s, undermines the importance and effectiveness of the NIMS system. Opponents are concerned that a separate standard would erode the point of presidential directive number five which was to create a common framework and terminology for incident management within all of the various practitioners of public safety as a matter of national security.

Those who support the local incident management standard believe that rather than undermine it would enhance and improve the NIMS system by establishing a base or basic footprint for routine events locally. Proponents state that all terminology used in the local incident management standard would be NIMS compliant. Those who support local incident management believe that this would give the local fire chief and firefighters a standard which would have attainable and measurable goals for fire departments of any and all sizes.

They contend that the current NIMS system as it is currently being presented is a top down presentation. They, the proponents of local incident management want to do a bottom up presentation for local implementation of NIMS principles.

I emphatically support the NFPA allowing this discussion to go forward. To stop the discussion at this point would be to say that there is no legitimate issue. That is simply not true, otherwise we would not have the firefighters who are ready and willing to use the system as it currently stands, concerned that they either cannot or do not understand how to do that correctly at the local level.

This does not mean that these individuals do not want to use the NIMS system, what it means is that as it's currently presented it is not clear how this compliance is to be accomplished at routine local emergencies. Simply stating that NIMS is a toolbox, and one can select components one chooses is a gross oversimplification of the issue. And certainly not an answer to the dedicated and concerned firefighters who want to be compliant, effective and part of the solution in complex incident management. Let's develop “NIMS Essentials” like the smart folks at Photoshop did, for 95% of what we do and lets assure that we all are well-educated in NIMS the full package for major events which require using the full program.

To have you voice heard on this matter you need to send your opinion favorably or un-favorably to Codes and Standards Administration, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy,

MA 02169-7471, by October 15, 2008.

In the intrest of fairness I have attached the Cal. Chiefs opposition letter which represents the opinions of many of my closest friends so please read it as well before you make up your mind. There are always many different sides to any fire service issue and they all are to be respected and honored. We should always remeber to apply dignity as the minimum standard in our discussions. If you are concerned take five minutes and simply respond in our own words. Attached are links to theNFPA site and the pdf’s of the proposal and the call for comments.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, God bless America and please be careful out there, Bobby

Download Local Incident Management New Project.pdf

Download AVB LIMS Proposal.pdf

Download CalOpsLetter_10-01-08.pdf

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Comment by Jack Smith on October 13, 2008 at 12:26am
HI Bobby:

Great seeing you in Juneau. Am sure you got a good picture of the remote Alaska perspective.

I concur and have struggled with the whole NIMS thing. Whild we must train to a common standard and terminology, there is also a tendency to go to an extreme. One of the other events we have struggled with is the need to apply the knowledge. If an individual never applies the knowledge of being the Planning Section Chief to the real worlld or a simulated incident, much of the knowledge is only retained to the following morning. It is interesting that we learn about all the tools in the toolboax, but spend little time trying to learn how to use the tools.

Efforts are underway to use more simulations to practice the roles. Believe this is steering towards the local needs discussed by Brian and others.
Comment by Jack Smith on October 13, 2008 at 12:26am
HI Bobby:

Great seeing you in Juneau. Am sure you got a good picture of the remote Alaska perspective.

I concur and have struggled with the whole NIMS thing. Whild we must train to a common standard and terminology, there is also a tendency to go to an extreme. One of the other events we have struggled with is the need to apply the knowledge. If an individual never applies the knowledge of being the Planning Section Chief to the real worlld or a simulated incident, much of the knowledge is only retained to the following morning. It is interesting that we learn about all the tools in the toolboax, but spend little time trying to learn how to use the tools.

Efforts are underway to use more simulations to practice the roles. Believe this is steering towards the local needs discussed by Brian and others.
Comment by Leon Mumaw on October 12, 2008 at 9:14pm
I have read both sides and after having been in the fire service for 34 years I agree that it's what mostof us have been using for a long time. NIMS has just put it down for a set standard that all should follow. there is no need for another version. As some has said we just need an easy to understand way of using this in our everyday incidents and be able to expand on it. What is come back to is training. This should be one of the first things that a new recruit should be trained in.
Comment by Jim Murphy on October 12, 2008 at 6:56pm
Bobby,
I also fully support presidential directive five, mandating NIMS compliancy.

I to am out there on the road teaching on a regular basis and have encountered similar issues, regarding a consistent and proficient understanding of NIMS, even though the departments are in fact “NIMS Compliant".
The FBI would call that a clue!

Part of the dilemma stems from training or lack thereof. When NIMS was introduced, the curriculum delivery approach was “ready, fire… aim.”

Secondly, and equally as important; it is imperative that we as a profession identify what will work and what needs refinement. It makes perfect sense to ask ourselves; are we effectively managing 95% of our call volume? If not, why not?

I am convinced NIMS Essentials warrants further discussion and consideration. This can be accomplished without degradation of NIMS as we know it, and in fact may compliment or enhanced this valuable tool.
Comment by Brian Kazmierzak on October 12, 2008 at 6:33pm
LIMS is all about HAZARD ZONE MANAGEMENT! Something we forget about in NIMS. NIMS is taught all about the BIG incident, what we forget about in NIMS is OPERATIONS and the stuff under that box Divisions/Groups)

Go to www.bshifter.com there is a GREAT download on there called NIMS and ICS. It is one of the best descriptions of the system I have ever seen. If this PowerPoint was used with this arguement, I think less would be against LIMS.

So I guess in the end I agree with both Brandon and Ed to some extent. We need to teach it from the bottom up, and can't let NIMS/LIMS get watered down by handing out the answers, etc.
Comment by Harry Carter on October 12, 2008 at 3:31pm
Bobby:

Thank you for the head's up. My letter of support for Bruno is on the way to Quincy. This is an area which we must pursue.

I guess that far too many in our field are so busy stomping out the daily problems that they fail to see the big picture. Thank you for keeping us informed on the "big picture."

Harry
Comment by Ed Hadfield on October 12, 2008 at 3:20pm
Bobby,

Once agian, I agree...Maybe I should clarify.I firmly feel the problem exisit in our inability to provide the neccessary information to the student learner. The current on-line process may be useful in certain circumstances, and maybe I'm coming across old fashion or a bit ole'school, but nothing beats a good instructor standing before the class, with a quality program that reaches and touches all the learning sense's. Hell, I'm no brain surgeon, but I know if you tell me, show me and make me do it, then critique what I'm doing and make it applicable to where I come from and the resources I have, then crud..I think I'll get it. I feel the discussion need to move forward and forward with realistic goals and benchmarks. Our firefighters need to have good quality instruction taught nationwide with street application based upon there staffing, hazards, and SOP's/SOG's and safety standards. ANyhow, sign me up for the discussion... But lets not change boats mid-stream, lets stay on the boat and adjust our course to achieve our destination..Damn it Bobby, I'm worried about burning down the County tonight and you've got me talking NIMS..Your good..
Hugs and Smiles
Ed
Comment by Bobby Halton on October 12, 2008 at 3:09pm
Brandon,
Thank you that is the point. I was just posting this to Ed so what follows may now be redundant.

Ed,
If I fired you up, good then I am doing my job and thanks for your reply. I favor the proposal for exactly the reasons you so eloquently stated "the current methodology in which the NIMS system is being introduced is confusing to the street firefighter, and possibly we should simply address the teaching curriculum as it relates to the differing ranks. Oh, what a minute, we have done that. Its called ICS 200, followed by ICS 300, folled by ICS 400. In my humble opinion this established the bottom up foundation for fire service professional, and has worked very well for those 35 years."

I clearly stated I again I believe that local street ICS in California is likely the solution. I must tell you Ed, I was not embellishing the statement that and as you know I travel a little, and everywhere I am "continually addressed by experienced and well intentioned firefighters of all ranks, who feel deeply that they do not understand how to use NIMS effectively on the fireground at the level four and five routine events which they are called on to manage a daily basis."

Ed these are all good guys who have had 200, 300 and 400 and are good smart decent firefighters, I submit I have strong issues with the methodology of instruction. Could it be that on-line training with answers provided could be flawed, I don’t know, maybe. I would further submit as a long time friend of Ray's that his methodology is exactly what I would like in an essentials program. And when you and I were trained in the 70’s and 80’s 200 300 and 400 as they are being presented on-line today did not exist.

If we ignore folks who are asking for help in learning by denying that they are having a problem then I think we are in the preaching business and not the service business. You and I are both teachers, we were taught by some of the very best and as I remember they always asked us one final question: Do you understand what we just covered? When we didn’t’ understand we started over, which is fine.

I am not sure how stopping the discussion accomplishes anything, which is what the opposition wants. The proposal is to start a process it is not an admission of failure or fault, or the creation of anything new / different or the creation of a standard, it just allows folks who feel it is not clear to have a voice to be heard and maybe we all get better maybe not. I can’t see the harm in that, I do however see tremendous harm in silencing anyone. I also think you should be involved and then I know we will get a better explanation of basic ICS then it’s a tool box. And I know the level of instruction and learning will be excellent.
Love ya little brother
BobbyDelete Comment
Comment by Brandon Roark on October 12, 2008 at 2:27pm
Bobby,

I like the end result of what is trying to be accomplished here. However, I tend to agree with Ed in so much as more focus being placed teaching NIMS the way it was intended.

If NIMS is like Photoshop, a $600 program, what are we going to lose by "dumbing it down" to a $100 program?

I personally think that one of the major problems with NIMS is the ability for one guy to take and pass the test, all the while printing off each page, and then having that test (with answers) circulate the department. We have approx. 250 guys on the job and all are "certified" to the 200 level or higher. Of the 250 guys/gals I would wager that 90+% of them copied someone else’s test.

If by creating a "NIMS Essentials" you are able to increase the integrity of the program (including material delivery and testing) then I am all for it. If the testing/teaching methods remain the same then nothing will change, and it will all be for a loss.

Getting everyone on the same page is necessary and this maybe the answer; if it is then I am a propionate. If it fails to address the most basic problems with the NIMS program then what the point. It’s kind of like painting over a crack, looks good on the outside but its still broken on the inside.
Comment by Ed Hadfield on October 12, 2008 at 1:07pm
Bobby,

OK you went and did it!!! Got me fired up. I understand the concept, however, as stated, on the west coast, we have been using ICS/NIMS for 35 years. Having grown up in the fire service under one of the pioneers of FIRESCOPE..Chief Ray Picard, I don't see the need to develop another arm of NIMS..We simply and I do mean simply have to do a better job of teaching the system to firefiters nations wide. I will tell you, the current methodology in which the NIMS system is being introduced is confusing to the street firefighter, and possibly we should simply address the teaching ciriculum as it relates to the differing ranks. Oh, what a minute, we have done that. Its called ICS 200, followed by ICS 300, folled by ICS 400. In my humble opinion this established the bottom up foundation for fire service professional, and has worked very well for those 35 years. The beauty of this particular method is the toolbox effect. It doesn't matter if you are the Firefighter/Parmedic working a GSW, or a Chief Officer running a High-Rise, the system establsihes a plan and functional method to mitigate the emergency in a simply straight forward fashion. Bottom line for me is, teach the program to the intent that the founding fathers of Firescope intended it to be. A method which has no rank, no jurisdictional boundries and no geographical locations. Teach from the bottom up so everyone knows what their role is in the event, and have a common base to build upon.

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