Montgomery County Forms Countywide Incident Support Team

The Montgomery County Incident Support Team in Pennsylvania discusses the creation of this group to develop a trained team available to assist with the major management of emergencies and advisory teams.


Imagine this: You are the incident commander at a developing major fire, a destructive storm, a transportation crash with a significant number of injuries and vehicles involved, an oncoming flood, a significant crime scene or even a line-of-duty-death funeral. You look around and have a few...


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Operational issues became the next set of questions, including when the team would be dispatched, how frequently the team would respond and how team members would be identified. It was determined that this would be accomplished via a question to the incident commander by the dispatcher, at the first 20-minute mark of the incident, and at the same time queries are made for utilities, the American Red Cross and standby companies. In addition, the team would automatically be dispatched on Hazmat Level 2 incidents and with request for the county communications van.

At the discretion of the communication center, a radio frequency that is not being used on the incident would be assigned. Once the MCIST is on location, assignments would be made at the discretion of the incident commander. The team would respond in a vehicle with appropriate identification and each member would have a vest and protective clothing. Upon arrival at the incident, each team member is to immediately report to the incident commander for assignment, or be recalled by the incident commander if not needed at the time. The MCIST is required to follow the orders of the incident commander and the incident commander is not obligated to use the team. If the department fills all the roles on the emergency scene and does not need the MCIST to respond, the team can be placed on recall when dispatched.

An effective organization must also be progressive and the MCIST is no exception. The latest initiatives include interfacing and integrating with police and EMS incident support teams; jointly training with police, EMS and county staff on NIMS 300 and NIMS 400 to better understand individual roles and responsibilities, and closely coordinating with the South East Pennsylvania Type 3 Incident Management Team.

As with everything in the fire service, time will tell whether the MCIST program is successful. In this case, the program's first dozen responses included a multi-property structure fire, a commuter train accident with tens of injuries, support to law enforcement at a school incident involving a shooting, a drowning, line-of-duty-death funerals and support to a major public event. The approach worked and while there will always be areas to refine, the fundamental approach seems workable and efficient.