Mission Accomplished, Not Yet

It's essential we follow the Unified Command structure, and proceed.

I used the Iraq example because it is one thing to have a strategy to win the initial war. It is yet another and even more important, to have a clear understanding and a strategic view about how to successfully rebuild and reconstruct in the aftermath.

Using that analogy -- here we are. The battle is won. Now, we must have a strategy to protect our gains and win the war as quickly as possible and without extensive losses.

Our respected opponents have not been idle as it is quite evident by their many newsletters and activities. While we were planning to win in Minneapolis, they had their contingency plans developed to be activated in the case of their defeat. And they have started those efforts as we speak. That is only logical and prudent on their part.

For us though, it is very important to recognize that we don't have time to bask. We must start preparing our strategies, and adjust our tactics. We have to be ready for the future battles looming behind the horizon. To succeed, we in the fire service need to be better organized. We must focus on developing the leadership and organizational capabilities necessary to succeed in the local battles of the future for the many years to come.

Our opponents are well funded and quite organized. Obviously, we have limited funding resources. To compensate for that and to keep up with our opponents as a very minimum, we must make up the difference with our organizational capabilities and efficiencies. We must maximize the rate of return on our efforts and our limited resources. The best way to do that is coordination, consistent and succinct public information messages, distribution of all the tasks and responsibilities, avoiding duplication of efforts, etc.

To do that using an incident command system (ICS) analogy, we need to establish a "Unified Command" to address these long-term challenges. And we need to develop an incident action plan (IAP) to enable us to succeed in our future battles at the local levels.

And this is as complex as it gets. This challenge is much bigger than any of our organizations alone. We need all of the major fire service players involved. ICS is a team approach that could result in successful accomplishment of our missions. It is adaptable, expandable, versatile, task oriented with a great degree of responsibility, oversight and accountability.

So why not look at this just like another major incident? To address the national fire problem, it is our professional obligation to step up to the plate, take command, and use all our tactical and leadership skills and experiences to best protect our communities. With that being said, why not use the ICS approach that the fire service is intimately familiar with? After all, just because it is not a major fire or hurricane, it doesn't mean that we can't utilize the useful ICS concepts, right?

The "Unified Command" can be a board of representatives from the various national fire organizations. No, not merely our fire or building code experts, because most of them don't have the strategic perspectives or the organizational muscle to pull this through. But, just like the "Unified Command" concept in the ICS, those board members must not only be highly trained and well-informed about the issues, but also be the decision makers for their representative organizations.

As a suggestion, I think it would be best if we could get representatives from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS), International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the International Code Council (ICC).

I might absolutely be wrong. But I personally believe that the "Unified Command" at the helm should be put together from the fire service public sector side rather than private sector. That way, our respected opponents could not use the accusations of financial gains or profit as our motives as they have repeatedly done in their newsletters in the past.

I believe that perceptions are very important in our future battles at the local levels.