Just over a year ago, I posted my article Incident Command Training Sucks, which to date has been viewed almost 2000 times on the WordPress blog platform, alone. Since then, I’ve written several more times on the necessity to change the foundational ICS training curriculum in the US to programs that are focused on application of ICS in initial and transitional response instead of just theory and vague instruction. I am greatly appreciative of all the support these articles have received and the extra effort so many have taken to forward my blog on to the attention of others. These posts have led to some great dialogue among some incredible professionals about the need to update ICS training. Sadly, there is no indication of action in this direction.
A recent reader mentioned that it often ‘takes guts to speak the truth’. It’s a comment I appreciate, but I think the big issue is often complacency. We settle for something because we don’t have an alternative. Also, I’ve found that people are reluctant to speak out against the current training programs because there are so many good instructors or because the system, foundationally, is sound. My criticisms are not directed at instructors or the system itself – both of which I overwhelmingly believe in. I’m also not being critical of those who have participated in the creation of the current curriculum or those who are the ‘keepers’ of the curriculum.
Much of the existing curriculum has been inherited, modified from its roots in wildfire incident management, where it has served well. While adjustments and updates have been made through the years, it’s time we take a step away and examine the NEED for training. Assessment is, after all, the first step of the ADDIE model of instructional design. Let’s figure out what is needed and start with a clean slate in designing a NEW curriculum, instead of making adjustments to what exists (which clearly doesn’t meet the need).
Another reader commented that ‘The traditional ICS courses seem to expect the IC to just waive their hands and magically the entire ICS structure just would build beneath them’. It is phrases we find in the courses such as ‘establish command’ or ‘develop your organization’ that are taken for granted and offer little supporting content or guides to application. The actions that these simple phrases point to can be vastly complicated. This is much of the point of Chief Cynthia Renaud’s article ‘The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders to Function on the Edge of Chaos’. We need to train to application and performance – and I’m not talking about formal incident management teams, I’m talking about the responders in your communities. The training programs for incident management teams are great, but not everyone has the time or ability to attend these.
I’m hoping that my articles continue to draw attention to this need. Perhaps the changes that come as a result of the final NIMS refresh will prompt this; hopefully beyond just a simple update to the curriculum giving us a real, needs-based rewrite. As I’ve mentioned before, this is public safety, not a pick-up game of kickball. We can do better.
© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP
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