1. #1
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    Question IAFC Launches National Mutual Aid Strategic Plan

    LON SLEPICKA
    Firehouse.com News

    DALLAS -- The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) held a press conference at Fire-Rescue International at the Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, Texas, Friday, to announce the launch of a new publication, A National Mutual Aid System for the Fire Service: A Strategic Vision (MASTF). The strategic plan was developed by the IAFC Mutual Aid System Task Force and is a first-of-its-kind resource for the fire service.

    Chief William D. "Bill" Killen, CFO, IAFC President 2005-2006, spoke at the press conference of the underlying reason for this system; "In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, the IAFC recognized the need to do a better job of organizing and deploying our resources in disasters."

    One could ask the question, why bring equipment and responders from New York City to New Orleans days after they were initially needed when a national mutual aid system with an inventory database, if it had been in place, could dispatch the same from neighboring states in hours?

    From that premise, IAFC produced a strategic plan that creates a framework for states to be a part of a formal agreement that allows the deployment of fire service-based resources across state lines. It recognizes that every emergency is a local phenomenon but there will be events that exceed the capabilities and resources of the local community, and the next level of responsibility becomes Intrastate Mutual Aid.

    The result of a year's worth of effort by the IAFC's Mutual Aid System Task Force (MASTF), A National Mutual Aid System for the Fire Service: A Strategic Vision identifies six key issues regarding fire service mutual aid and provides recommendations to address these issues.

    The six issues covered by the strategic plan are:

    1. The use of a national point of contact for interstate deployments: MASTF recommends that requests for mutual aid be disseminated to the FEMA regional office where the state is located then transmitted to the state that are part of that region. The FEMA regional office would become the first line of federal support outside of the state.
    2. Policies and procedures to enable rapid deployments: Intrastate assets can be immediately deployed and moved to the affected site within 12 hours.
    3. The aspects that make a department and its members eligible to participate: A national system of responder credentialing remains in the works.
    4. Educating and training participants on the system: MASTF believes that a concerted effort has been placed during the last few years to train all relevant personnel in the NIMS requirement and training on the mutual aid program is only an extension of that training.
    5. The linkages with other services that will connect the systems together: The need exists for a high level of cooperation between other agencies both inside and outside of the traditional public safety model.
    6. Who will be responsible for funding the development and monitoring and supporting the system: To be determined.


    The goal established by MASTF is to provide the training materials to 75 percent of the IAFC member organizations within six months of production. Ultimately, all fire departments would receive the training information within a year.

    The new IAFC Mutual Aid/Emergecy Management Committee will serve as the organizational home for activities and programs in this area, to continue development of national guidelines, policies and procedures. The IAFC Mutual Aid section will provide information as the program progresses and will have downloadable documents for fire departments.


    I am interested in knowing your thoughts on this. Is this a step towards creating a national fire service? The six points described above raise key issues. The most critical of course being #6. Where is the money going to come from for this? I have more than a few questions to ask but will hold back for now. Hopefully, this topic will generate a good, lively discussion.

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    Default hmmmm interesting.

    Honestly It looks like some of the self-concerned from the IAFC were upset to have been left out of the loop as it were and want to reign in the power and influence for themselves.

    I can't help but think this comes from the same bitter persons who were upset at the FDNYs role in NO. But as before that was the decision of the NOFD and the ultimate decision rested with them...not the FDNY and not FEMA.

    This program as I read the press release seems to bring up issues of each city and states ability to decide on their own what resources they want and from whom. In the NO case they would have been told who they are getting and from where from by the idiots in FEMA.

    Proposing some new bureaucracy sounds like some "desk commando's" lining up a series of federal jobs for them after they retire from the fire service....but that might just be the cynic in me.

    FTM-PTB

    As for "National fire service" won't happen in my life time or my childrens either.
    Last edited by FFFRED; 09-17-2006 at 11:11 AM.

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    One could ask the question, why bring equipment and responders from New York City to New Orleans days after they were initially needed when a national mutual aid system with an inventory database, if it had been in place, could dispatch the same from neighboring states in hours?
    With 1 call from the Chief of New Orleans he got resources in less then 24 hours. 1 Department response, with an Incident Management Team + 300 firefighters for 6 weeks on a 24/7 call.....
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    Thumbs up Well.............

    I guess I am in a position of Respectfully disagreeing with some friends. IF this idea is carried through in a cohesive manner, it has great potential. BUT, the key to success is doing it right. Right, in my opinion, means including everybody, From the "Big City" to East Podunk VFD. If you need help, you should get the closest available help, that is capable of doing what you need, without regard to anything else. I am aware of cases where a Large Fire in Town "A" required more resources than were available. They called for help from Town "C" who responded through Town "B" to get there. Towns B and C had the same capabilities, just the "powers that be" in Town A had some stupid dislike for Town B. THIS is the kind of stuff that must be stopped if REAL Nationwide Mutual Aid is going to happen.
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    After watching the choas in New Orleans firsthand ...

    This type of thing can easily be done, and should be done, primarily at the state level. The state of Louisiana had absolutly no database on what departments could send what apparatus and manpower. There was truly no foresight at the state level that situation would ever come up. There was no contact prior to Katrina with any neighboring states or any larger fire departments in the region (Houston, Dallas, SA, etc.) as to what resources they could provide in the event of large scale disaster such as Katrina.

    In my view, this type of program is truly not needed at the federal level but it can be more effiectivly carried out at the state level, through each state's Emergency Management Office. If each state was to collect availability data from thier state's fire departments that wished to participate in cross-state mutual aid, all the state needing aid would simply have to do is make a single phone call (for example LA EMO to TX EMO) to find out what is available in a neighboring state . If they can't get what they want or need, they simply make another phone call to another neighboring state to see if it's available there. IMO, that is the role of each state's EMO. One year after the storm, the state of Louisiana is still struggling to collect data, and while a plan has been developed it falls wofully short in terms of addressing how departments are going to be contacted, organized and dispatched. One year after the strom there is still not a USAR team in the state, though this region is attemtping to organize one, in spite of the rivalries and vollie/career issues that are slowing down it's formation.

    I have no problem with the FDNY coming down to NO after Katrina, but was it the most efficiant choice? The fact is that there is a possibility those same resources could have been provided within the region, if there was a mechanism for that to happen, which to me is the best course of action.

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    Sherry.. a national fire service will never happen here in the United States.

    Some fire departments can't even talk to each other, much less respond to each other mutual aid because Chief 'A" and Chief "B" had an argument 20 years ago and they still hold a grudge, Career FD "C" won't call the neighboring VFD "D" because they don't consider them professional, VFD "E" would never call Career FD "F" because "them city boys don't know squat about how we fight fire", and so on and so on...

    In Massachusetts, there is a statewide fire mobilization plan set up in the late 1950's after a series of forest and brush fires devastated the Southeast section of the Commonwealth.

    My community is part of a 22 community mutual aid network, with responses for up to 10 alarms already predetermined. The mutual aid plan is updated regularly.
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    The state of Louisiana had absolutly no database on what departments could send what apparatus and manpower.

    ... If each state was to collect availability data from thier state's fire departments that wished to participate in cross-state mutual aid, all the state needing aid would simply have to do is make a single phone call (for example LA EMO to TX EMO) to find out what is available in a neighboring state


    Those two are related --

    The problem following the wake of Katrina was NOT a resource problem, we have plenty of resources.

    It was an information management problem.

    The solution isn't trying to maintain phone trees, etc.

    It's building a database that can receive resource pledges, and match them to resource requests. Place those requests into a set of orders (respond with XX unit to YY muster location...). Yes, follow up in the end with either a verbal confirmation -- or I wouldn't be objectionable to a secured electronic acknowledgement.

    In this day when simple Instant Messaging systems are ubiqitous, there's no reasons we should have to rely on telephone calls that at best are tracked on post-it notes that can get lost. Force the handling of large scale incidents into an electronic system that will flag un-answered requests.

    Building such a database isn't easy, but it's not technically challenging -- it's simply applying known principles and practices to this problem. It wouldn't even be that terribly costly.

    -----------
    To the issue of FDNY, I have no problem with like resources being called to cover like areas.

    It's not that fire apparatus and firefighters stop working out of their element...but they'll work better in the elements their used to. I'd no more prefer to have FDNY establish a rural water supply, then have some suburban company dealing with a high-rise multifamily dwelling.

    In a situation like New Orleans, it's also not out of the question to create a tiered response -- perhaps you're calling in resources like FDNY which will be detailed specifically for fire protection issues; meanwhile smaller departments from nearby states are being used to fill in roles that require less multi-company coordination at incidents -- such as providing water rescue boat teams, or being staged in a regional staging area and used to relieve units at fires that become surround-and-drown.

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    Default Mutual Aid

    Different rules but same problems downunder and with a very busy summer on the way it will be interesting to see how we handle it. Mutual aid in Australia between the states is an interesting exersize.
    Extracting the politics from an operational decision is the biggest problem no matter how the rules are defined. To provide adequate mutual aid support for an extended time can be a problem if the nearby resources are limited. They may very well have their own hurricane or adverse weather conditions. Sometimes it may be easier necessary to step up resources to fill to fill areas depleted of resources like the military would do. The trouble is everyone is flying different coloured flags and everyone wants to fly theirs for the media to see.
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    I don't know why people keep trying to re-invent the wheel, first DHS / FEMA now the IAFC (well actually I do they want to put themselves at the top).

    Taking the 6 points, most of this already exists in the wildland community and has for decades.

    The six issues covered by the strategic plan are:

    1. The use of a national point of contact for interstate deployments: MASTF recommends that requests for mutual aid be disseminated to the FEMA regional office where the state is located then transmitted to the state that are part of that region. The FEMA regional office would become the first line of federal support outside of the state.

    Already exists and probably wouldn't take much to expand beyond wildland, in fact they already have done this on non-wildland incidents in the past. NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) in Boise, ID tracks all the incidents, all the resources and decides who goes where.


    2. Policies and procedures to enable rapid deployments: Intrastate assets can be immediately deployed and moved to the affected site within 12 hours.

    Federal wildland agencies mobilize within 2 hours as does the California Department of Forestry. Obviously it varies due to distance / time of the request but usually resources are on the ground working within 24 hours of the request.

    3. The aspects that make a department and its members eligible to participate: A national system of responder credentialing remains in the works.

    The foundation is already there in the Interagency Qualification card (Redcard), it would only require the addition of non-wildland qualifications to the system.


    4. Educating and training participants on the system: MASTF believes that a concerted effort has been placed during the last few years to train all relevant personnel in the NIMS requirement and training on the mutual aid program is only an extension of that training.

    I thought NIMS was supposed to be doing this, unfortunately even FEMA is not compliant. From talking to many who went to NO many CDF and USFS employees ended up teaching ICS classes to FEMA officials.


    5. The linkages with other services that will connect the systems together: The need exists for a high level of cooperation between other agencies both inside and outside of the traditional public safety model.

    This exists in regards to wildland incidents but seems to be badly lacking for other incidents.


    6. Who will be responsible for funding the development and monitoring and supporting the system: To be determined.

    Sounds like FEMA's job to me. FEMA is best at writing checks and staying out of the way so others can get the job done. Unfortunately they tend to try to run things and they have little practical experience.


    Wildland Incident Management Teams (Federal and California Department of Forestry) have successfully been supporting non-wildland incidents for at least 15 years, I believe their first use outside wildland was the Mexico city earthquake in the late 80's, since then they have responded to hurricanes, floods etc, most recently the shuttle crash, newcastle disease (chickens), 9/11 (3 teams responded to WTC and the Pentagon), and New Orleans (more than 4000 Federal wildland firefighters responded to Katrina).

    Wildland firefighters got the interagency thing down in the 70's, what is taking the structural community so long?
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 09-18-2006 at 02:56 AM.

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    Lets see ... Politics, Pride, Not wanting to change "my" system to fit into a national model and national command system ......

    Hell, we are talking about a fire service that sometimes .. well maybe often, has problems working and communicating with folks next door. Now you want them to work with and communicate with folks 5 states away ,,, damn ,, you're a dreamer!!!

    Should I continue?
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 09-18-2006 at 06:51 AM. Reason: spelling

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    Thumbs up On The Right Track........................

    NonSurfin' has raised some excellent points, and I certainly agree with him, except for two points that I'd like to make here:

    1. The "Red Card" system has been in effect for years, and it works. I have one concern about it, and I'd have the same regard for any credentialing system: Replacing Brains with Brawn. In my opinion, the red card system should be focused more on training and experience, and to name names - the "Pack Test" should be reworked or abandoned altogether. No, I don't think that we should have people in wheelchairs rolling along the Fire Line in the Rocky Mountain wilderness, but the current system isn't right either.

    2. Participation MUST be available to every organization that wishes to participate, (IF they meet standard requirements that ALL participants have to meet) unlike current wildland Firefighting operations where a number of Federal agencies completely ignore rural VFDs. As one who is employed in wildland Firefighting, I'm well aware of predjudices against Structural Firefighters IN SOME AREAS.

    Other than that, I do think there is already a framework in place to build on, and that this program is needed. Now.
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    Default Build on experience

    The Florida Fire Chiefs' Association has been doing this for years on the state level and I am sure that most states have (or should have) a system like this.

    Each year (minimum) and as events are seen unfolding, chiefs verify available assets for deployments. When the county or municipality in need informs the state what their needs are, the FFCA contacts the resources that are needed and they are on the road within a couple of hours.

    We have done this for at least the eight years that I have been associated with my current department. We have been on wildland/urban interface incidents, hurricane response enough in the past three years to know that the system WORKS. Why do some people find it neccessary to reinvent the wheel?

    This system is not perfect but it does work. It involves everyone from the large metro departments to the East Podunk VFD. It utilizes available assets in a very timely manner. There is no mad scramble when the brown smelly stuff hits the air cirulating unit.

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    Forget FEMA, just expand the role of NIFC and each of the GACCs and it's done.

    Birken

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    like non surfer says --- why reinvent the wheel --- swallow some pride and partner up with the bubch in Boise. While they are far from perfect , they do a pretty good job. I noticed one major problem number 3 ---- establishing creditals for responding. They need to establish an "all hazards " level of training. I want to know that the "big city " Fd will be able to blend into a water shuttle and that the country boys know which way a water curtain points. I think you are going to see a lot of resistance to establishing and enforcing a standard. The red card system is far from perfect, but it gets the basic job done --- I know that while they may not know all the local quirks and tricks --- a team from say Mississippi will deliver a basic level of service whether they are in Nevada or Florida.

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    Thanks for the input guys. You answered some of my questions. Nonsurfin- Good points. I do have a few a few questions on some of the points but will have to come back a bit later with them when I am not distracted and can put my thoughts in order.

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    They need to establish an "all hazards " level of training.

    Nah.

    Stick to the basics. Whether it's a city academy or NFPA 1001 training, just get the skills into the FF's hands. Don't worry about the varying tactics, strategies, and evolutions that you'll simply forget...train for your district, not some hypothetical.

    Form up jurisdictions with like hazards to protect like hazards were they have the most experience to back up the training.

    As far as fitting in urban units into a rural operation, or rural units into an urban operation...that's something Chiefs & Company officers get clear on scene what they can do and what their to do.

    With major unit relocations like this, there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON companies should be thrown together for the first time at an incident.

    You have the time to form up task forces equivelant to a 1st alarm or greater, to check out each other's equipment and get a feel for what the other guys can do, and to have a tailboard meeting by the OIC of the Task Force to provide the standing orders for the task force. You can get on the same page quickly...and well in advance of actually operating. And let those units operate as a Task Force instead of individual units -- being outside your area, with what can be assumed to be a seriously damaged infrastructure -- is no time to have a single resource trying to operate alone, not knowing whose coming in to help them out.

    In a catastrophe situation, you'll seldom ever need beyond that Task Force level, since you simply won't have the resources to pull 2nd, 3rd, etc alarms -- incidents within the broader disaster will be handled solely by those initial resources...and they'll either do it, or they'll punt to surround-and-drown.

    I do like Birken's comments, and scaling up part of the wildland system sounds like a good starting point.

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    Sounds like warm fuzzies to me.

    Great idea, makes you feel good but it won't happen until everyone treats their neighbors with respect and loose the egos. Politics need to change and we have to drop the attitudes before any of this can work. Like Hwoods says....there is a great base to start from and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

    Hopefully I will see that in my lifetime.
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    During Hurricane Rita, I was surprised to see water tenders from Oklahoma and Montana sitting outside SE Texas fire stations. I was wondering "Did we run out of water tenders in Texas?" I am sure that if the right calls got made, there could have been a water tender strike team on scene within four hours or less of the request.

    It seems the locals called the county EOC who then called the state EOC who then relayed the request direct to FEMA without attempting to access in-state assets. Who knows who paid for the water tenders and how much.

    We definitely need to address the availability of intrastate resources to both provide rapid response to emergencies that overwhelm local mutual aid resources and to be good stewards of the taxpayers money.

    Credentialing and training requirements shouldn't be a problem if we can just agree on a manageable, testable training criteria, regardless of volunteer or career status.

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    I think this was a good start.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods
    NonSurfin' has raised some excellent points, and I certainly agree with him, except for two points that I'd like to make here:

    1. The "Red Card" system has been in effect for years, and it works. I have one concern about it, and I'd have the same regard for any credentialing system: Replacing Brains with Brawn. In my opinion, the red card system should be focused more on training and experience, and to name names - the "Pack Test" should be reworked or abandoned altogether. No, I don't think that we should have people in wheelchairs rolling along the Fire Line in the Rocky Mountain wilderness, but the current system isn't right either.

    2. Participation MUST be available to every organization that wishes to participate, (IF they meet standard requirements that ALL participants have to meet) unlike current wildland Firefighting operations where a number of Federal agencies completely ignore rural VFDs. As one who is employed in wildland Firefighting, I'm well aware of predjudices against Structural Firefighters IN SOME AREAS.

    Other than that, I do think there is already a framework in place to build on, and that this program is needed. Now.

    I don't have a problem with either of those statements. I understand the issues with the Packtest, I'm rather mixed on it myself. I think it is a good test for the USFS for the work we do, however it may not be appropriate for everybody. The Redcard system is all about training and experience if you take the packtest out, and it really should be a simple fix to add in structural specialties.

    As far as #2 that is how the system is already designed, it is supposed to be open to everyone, but yes there are some cases where resources are not used, there is plenty of blame to go around, some departments refuse to meet the requirements, some don't understand how to put their people into the system and there is some reluctance to use "less capable" (at least from the ordering agencies view point) resources. Like the pack test that could become a thread all its own.


    The whole concept of a national mutual aid system brings up another issue, why is the Fed fire service fragmented into so many pieces. FEMA, USFS, NPS, BLM, USF&WS, DOD etc, the natural resource agencies due to their connection to wildland have become the premier agencies for large disasters, but at the same time these agencies don't want the responsibility, at the same time FEMA has the responsibility and wants to be in charge but doesn't have the ability to do so.

    The fire organizations in the various natural resource agencies are an integral part of those agencies, taking them out would cause some major readjustments to those agencies (some good, some bad), the Dept of Defense Fire services should be heavily involved in national disasters but typically have little or no involvement unless the base itself is impacted (some individual departments get involved but as a whole the DoD emergency services are for DoD facilities).

    Somebody needs to re-evaluate the entire Fed disaster response and the agencies involved, then re-organize as appropriate, re-distribute funds as necessary and re-write agency missions and priorities.

    At times I am very much against a Federal fire service (combining all Fed fire organizations, not jamming every FD in the US into 1), as the fire organizations are closely tied to their agencies other missions, but at other times I think that is the only way to make some of the changes that need to be made. Hope that explains my sometimes contridictory statements regarding a Federal Fire Service.

    As many probably are not aware of just how large such a Federal Fire Service would be, it would be an organization with 30-40,000 fulltime firefighters assuming the combination of agencies didn't result in much cutting or expanding of the current work force.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 09-18-2006 at 11:57 PM.

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    Between IL's MABAS and the NIFC, we already have a large scale mutual aid plan in action. There is absolutely no need to reinvent the wheel.

    As someone said before, it will just take a lot of administrative work to figure out who gets what from where for which call.
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    With the talk about the red card system does anyone remember the talk several years ago about the blue card? It was supposed to be for those departments that would only be assigned to structural protection or structural firefighting duties. I think that this was a start to the national response system as IAFC sees it.
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