Recent large-scale and complex incidents have unfolded before our national eyes, and each one required coordinated multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary responses to successfully handle the event in the response phase through recovery operations. I had the opportunity recently to discuss, in an informal setting, the success of some of the complex multi-disciplinary responses that have consumed the national and, in some cases, international spotlight with some of the key principles involved in the response. The singular theme that has resonated from those conversations and critical element of success was joint interagency planning efforts. That lesson learned should transcend our daily operations and training for events of significant magnitude.
It often has been said that agencies operate the way they train, meaning that in stressful situations, humans revert back to ingrained behaviors that have been practiced and learned. That same analogy can be said of planning efforts. It has been well accepted that successful organizations must have a strategic vision as to where they see themselves in three to five years and communicate that through a formal strategic plan, which serves as the roadmap to achieving that vision.
While reading a blog recently, I came across a quote that illustrated my point:
“Careful preparation and planning is a key step to any endeavor. When we were schooling, our teachers prepared for us a ‘study plan.’ The college football tournament was not won by kicking the ball around, but by adhering to a ‘game plan.’ When we had enough funds to build a house, we prepared through our architects ‘building plan.’ For our business to tick, we put in place ‘business plan,’ ‘sales plan,’ ‘marketing plan’ and so on. There is nothing like being prepared for every possible situation and the earlier we do it, the more assured we are of our success.”
Why would incident management be any different? It is important an incident action plan (IAP) formally documents incident goals, known as control objectives in NIMS, as well as operational period objectives and the response strategy defined by incident command during incidence response planning. It contains general tactics to achieve goals and objectives within the overall strategy, while providing important information on event and response parameters.
Equally important, the IAP facilitates dissemination of critical information about the status of response assets themselves. Because incident parameters evolve, action plans must be revised on a regular basis (at least once per operational period) to maintain consistent, up-to-date guidance across the system.
Such planning efforts align resources, establish incident priorities, ensure communications are pre-established and interoperability is in place and tracks resources for accountability and incident safety. The opportunity to become proficient in incident action planning tools requires routine use and practice during even routine events. These planning documents can be found on website.'s
If you aren't already doing so, use your next event as an opportunity to instill formalized pre-incident/event planning across your multi-jurisdiction and multi-disciplinary response.