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Holy cow batman...NIMS

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  • #16
    Sorry for the 'book'... but I GOTTA vent about this....

    NIMS training irks me... they should either call it the "All chiefs and no indians" system, or the "Scapegoat System"... either one is applicable.

    Granted, there's a need for order and chain-of-command... he11, all of us should be pretty used to that by now... but this NIMS system is so heavy on red tape, bureaucratic BS, acronyms, and assorted governmental horse manure that calling it 'DISGUSTING' would be giving it a compliment.

    First thing... Everyone has to have a special title, an "office", and underlings... "Incident Commander", "Deputy Commander", "Operations Section", "Planning Section", "Special Operations Chief", "Bases", "Helibases", "Camps"... This one talks to that one, that one reports to this one... OK, now that we have the kingdom set up... and all the Gods are on high... who's left to man the incident? Putting a governmental hierarchy on an incident scene sounds like a disaster waiting to happen... Simple, straightforward chain-of-command seemed to work pretty well for the last umpteen years of emergency response... leave it to the government to complicate things. This might work OK in an area that has an overage of manpower to devote to it... but in my area, sometimes during the day, it might take THREE DEPARTMENTS to get enough people together to minimally man ONE INCIDENT. Sure... we can have an Incident Commander... as long as he doesn't mind manning the pump, manning the radio, and filling air pack bottles along with it. Sure I can be the Operations Chief... as long as I can do it from the end of a hose line with an SCBA mask on. Public Information Officer? Sure... he's the guy up on the roof with the K12 in his hand... This system falls apart when manpower is at a premium.

    Next, they talk about "Plain English", and "Understandable Communications"... and follow it up with so many acronyms that they need a dictionary at the back of the manual to explain what all the acronyms mean!

    Next it's about "keeping it simple"... "streamlining processes"... "reducing workload"... and about halfway through, you get to the "forms section". The FIRST ONE they show is an EIGHT-PAGE DOCUMENT. From the above, that's gonna be easy for me to fill out, as long as I can find a flat surface that isn't on fire to write on, and my pen doesn't melt while I'm writing.

    And all through it, they keep discussing "responsibility" and "accountability"... ohhhh yes... the government LOVES accountability (unless it's their own, of course). I keep getting the distinct impression through taking all this "training", that all told, they're less interested in running an incident, than having the names of everyone in charge (with one guy at the top) on an incident, so if something goes wrong, they'll know whose hide they can fry for it. And judging by all the finger-pointing that went on in government after Waco, after Oklahoma City, after 9/11, after Hurricane Ivan, after Hurricane Katrina, etc... etc... It seems to me that they're REALLY looking for a structure to hang someone on if need be.

    And to cap it all off, since I think they pretty much know if it was "optional" training, most of us would take one look at it and laugh our ***es off, they got enough backing to FORCE it on us by saying, in a semi-veiled THREAT, that 'noncompliance may affect future availability of grant monies and other benefits'. Typical big-government processes at work.

    I'm not saying the whole thing is bad... there's a lot of good ideas in it, but the overall delivery is poor at best. I think I can almost TELL, just from the ideology and verbage, where the good ideas that came from past incidents, off firegrounds, and from people who are actually out there DOING, are; and where the governmental flunkies and bean counters filled in the rest.

    Like a good little grunt, I complied... over-complied actually... but it still doesn't make it right. Just one guy's opinion, I guess... unfortunately, it's shared by quite a few others.

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    • #17
      I300 classes have been available for at least 10 years. I know, I have a couple guys that took it that long ago.

      And no offense to the GMan, but reading his post makes me think he is not realizing the use of NIMS. If he really worries about filling all those positions at every incident, he's very confused. I'm also willing to bet that MOST of us will never have an incident where we use 1/2 of the NIMS guidelines.
      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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      • #18
        Word up bones!!!

        You are so very right.
        Always confident, ever vigilant.

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by Bones42

          I'm also willing to bet that MOST of us will never have an incident where we use 1/2 of the NIMS guidelines.

          We do it every summer in Ca. We have been ICS trainined for 20 years.

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          • #20
            I am always impressed by the large scale fire operations on the west coast. Here in New England, outside of the occasional vacant mill fire, you would be hard pressed to see a major ICS structure like the west coast uses. In my area, a 100 acre grass\brush fire is a big wildland event and it would take 20 or 30 fire fighters to handle-no bases, no camps, and no air operations.

            The biggest challenge I see with NIMS is getting other agencies on board. The FD has used ICS for years and the police and EMS understand it and sometimes even use ICS concepts. Involving public works, the school department, and other town agencies is where the problem lies. We trained all 15 of our public works road crew employees in 700 and 100 last August. They do not use ICS in day to day opertions and never will. If I called them into an incident 6 months from now, I would not expect them to be comfortable using ICS and would have to use 'just in time' training to explain their roles, responsibilites, and the chain of command to them. This is the same as we have been doing for many years, without the 700 and 100 certificates.

            NIMS compliance is more than the class and certificate. We have revised our SOP's and the local emergency operations plan to meet most of the NIMS requirements. It will be a long time, if ever, before we meet all of the NIMS requirements, such as communication interoperability.

            Some of the NIMS terminology is not realistic. Who is the desk jockey that decided the first floor of a structure is division 1 and the basement is sub-division 1? Under NIMS terminology, division C is the rear of structure and division 3 is the third floor. Anyone see a potential problem here?
            -------------------
            "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
            -----------------------------------------------
            Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

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            • #21
              Under NIMS terminology, division C is the rear of structure and division 3 is the third floor. Anyone see a potential problem here?
              Um, no, that is what we have been using for years. What do you call the third floor and the rear?
              "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Bones42
                Um, no, that is what we have been using for years. What do you call the third floor and the rear?
                We call it the third floor or the rear
                -------------------
                "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
                -----------------------------------------------
                Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by KenNFD1219
                  We call it the third floor or the rear
                  Sounds like plain English to me. Here we call the back side the rear and the third floor is referred to as Sky--Not much over two stories!!

                  earl

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                  • #24
                    I agree with Bones.....Exposure C IS the rear of a house and division 3 is the 3rd floor. Thats been standard for YEARS
                    Buck
                    Assistant Chief/EMT-B

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      No offense taken... ICS seems to work very well on larger incidents, and we use it. NIMS just takes it a few steps too far. I know not every position (or really ANY of them need to be filled... it's just that out here, we barely have enough manpower to crew an incident... even a fairly minor one, so multi-tasking becomes normal procedure. The last garage fire we had a couple months ago was crewed by our department, our surrounding mutual-aid departments, and THEIR mutual-aid departments... not because it was that big of an incident... just because each department had only a couple people each to spare.

                      Normally, we have a ton of equipment and apparatus on scene, and half of it just gets parked off to the side. All it becomes is a way to get to the incident, not a tool for handling it. No sense having 5 trucks operating with 1 or 2 guys on each truck... we get the scene set up, and everyone just uses the apparatus that's already set up to handle the incident.

                      If all the manpower we have is involved with handling the incident, there's no one left to just stand off to the side at "a reasonable distance, but in view of the whole operation" and direct the operations. Our interoperability comes from our mutual-aid... we make sure that each department carries fittings that either connect directly to another company's fitting types, or that the correct adapters are on the trucks to make the connections work. We've had a mutual aid system operating since the 70's, without any prompting from the Fed to do so. Here, it's not an option to make the job easier... it's a necessity to handle the emergencies that come along with limited manpower.

                      Every time a "higher-up" comes around, their suggestion is to consolidate departments into a larger, better-manned one... and that would work if the geography wasn't so wide. As it is, each department handles smaller incidents in their area on their own. For larger ones, the second- and third-alarm mutual aid companies are called for assistance. Consolidation would most likely cause a slower response getting apparatus on scene, would cause smaller areas to lose even more of their identity, and would likely cause unnecessary friction in the ranks.

                      We use a basic protocol sheet at the 911 center... small incidents: tone out the local company and wait for a scene assessment before tapping out additional units. Car accidents automatically tone the local department, the rescue (via mutual-aid if the department doesn't have one), and the BLS ambulance, then wait for a scene update to tap out ALS or more departments. Structure fires automatically tone the local department, AND the designated second-alarm company (and any other units that may be required by their call sheet).

                      Our basic method of command is that the department whose area the incident is in has command... if they can't crew, the first company / chief on scene handles command until it's turned over to the local department or until the assignment is completed. Very bottom-line, very basic, common-sense ICS... we usually can't spare any more manpower to do anything more elaborate than that.

                      The biggest sticking points for me on NIMS is that it is typically 'governmental', almost military, in structure...containing enough doublespeak, paperwork, and acronyms to make even the dullest bureaucrat grin. It's heavy on accountability... VERY heavy... almost to the point that it seems that they're looking to make sure that any blame that has to be taken will stay at the bottom of the food chain, rather than working it's way up to disturb the (dubious) governmental "business", like it did after 9/11 and after Katrina. I have no problem with accountability... every scene that I wind up being in charge of becomes my responsibility... and if I'm not in charge, I take orders like any other responder. But add in more steps, more procedures, and more paperwork, and missing something important becomes a lot easier, making it much more likely that I could be blamed for something going wrong. That, and it predicates much of it's form on 'volunteers' in the outlying areas. The government and FEMA still have not realized that in many areas, volunteerism is taking a huge downslide, creating more of a burden on small outfits, to the point that the EXISTING volunteers don't want to do it anymore. THAT's a problem, and it's one that I have not seen addressed, or even MENTIONED in NIMS as a potential future problem.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        The Mountain vs The Mole Hill

                        I think some folks are reading too much into NIMS requirements. The training is required so everyone has a basic understanding of what to do in a large scale, multiple district incident. Yes, to be eligible to receive federal grant funds in the future, you must be compliant. You also certainly have the option of not taking the classes too.

                        And many of you are right. Small rural departments in remote locations may never have a need for anything other than one incident commander, however if you really think about it, NIMS is just a glorified version of the basic ICS proncipals we all use, and have used even before most of us ever heard of the term "incident command". We all just called him Chief.

                        It is thinking outside the box when employing some of the NIMS standards. All of our volunteers, even traffic control, have completed 100 and 700, or are almost done and officers have completed 200 and 800 because we want the free money in the future. Plus the training hours also benefit the members. When we have discussed the NIMS training at drills, I have said more than once, don't get caught up too much in the terms and wording (like base, camp, etc.) This system is mostly for the Big One. Routine calls will always be handled as we have in the past. The fires will go out, but NIMS gives us knowledge and an understanding of more formal systems. It isn't really that big of a deal, in my opinion.
                        Glenn Rainey
                        Colington Fire Department
                        Dare County, North Carolina
                        The Outer Banks

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Good point Glenn. For those of us in the trench or on the pipe, we still do what we are told by the command layer above us. The training and testing is a "big-picture" introduction into how everybody else fits as the scene escalates. It won't be perfect, never will be. Having the groundwork and basics structure in place is certainly a step in the right direction.

                          earl

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                          • #28
                            I don't deny that having a basic knowledge of the "command structure" at a big incident is a good idea... a lot of people I have spoken to have a problem with the delivery, not the curriculum... basically "forcing" municipalities to comply, under the threat of losing grant funding, isn't really the way to make friends and influence people.

                            I think a lot of it could have been avoided by simply restructuring part of the program so it reads "Curently, noncompliance will not cause denial of grant monies, but requests from municipalities who are compliant will have precedence", basically meaning that you may still be eligible for grant dollars, but if you are noncompliant, your request will come AFTER municipalities that are compliant. As we all know, getting in last or late usually means that your request may be approved, but there might not be any money left to fill it. It just alters the perception of what is being said to be less hard-edged.

                            I'm not rebelling... I currently have IS1, IS3, IS5, IS100, IS200, IS301, IS700, and IS800 under my belt, probably with more to come.

                            My other issue is that no one at the higher levels can seem to give me a straight answer about what (if anything) is being done to make "Volunteerism" worthwhile anymore... since "volunteers" seem to make up a substantial portion of their planning, I think it's an area that should be under serious consideration. People aren't nearly as apt to offer their time for "free" anymore, especially since just to BE ABLE to volunteer anymore requires a lot of time and training that cuts into "personal time" before they will even be allowed to respond to an incident. As the requirements to be a "volunteer" keep growing, it's making it less attractive to the general public. Many small-town departments are just keeping their heads above water the way it is, let alone expending more time and funds to take on the full burden of making "volunteering" attractive.... in fact, the smaller departments that have to lean even more heavily on their members to get business taken care of, look even LESS attractive. A bystander coming into an organization like this sees a lot of time and work, for little, if any, gain. It might be time for some help from the upper echelon. I suggested something like a small tax break to volunteers who are up-to-date with their training and compliance... doesn't have to be a HUGE break... just a little something to "sweeten the pot", as it were. They're quick to REQUIRE compliance, and quick to WITHHOLD benefits if you do not comply... but there's nothing on the other side of the equation... there's no real added "benefit".. the only "benefit" is that they won't throw out your grant requests.

                            The government is running other programs that do just that... look at the Clean Air Act... People who agree to purchase and drive an alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicle are allotted a tax break... and all they're REALLY doing is just buying a car. No training, no expending of personal time to take courses and participate in exercises, and no additional risk of personal injury. Yet, people who are willing to volunteer, complete the necesary/required training during their "free time" (which seems to get slimmer and slimmer all the time), and then voluntarily step into danger don't seem to be considered for anything like that. The last couple letters I sent to the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA concerning this didn't even garner a rubber-stamp "we have received your letter" response... for all intents and purposes, I believe they were simply ignored.

                            I'm not even asking that they DO anything about it right now... All I am doing is politely placing suggestions and posing intelligent questions... all I really want is some sort of intelligent answer, an acknowledgement that this is a potential issue that could be considered, or at least some tangible reasons why it should NOT be considered as an issue. If they cannot manage to do THAT, then I question just how well they are actually "managing" anything.

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