Response: Response includes mobilization of needed emergency services and first responders. Incident commanders on the scene assess the situation and call for the development of an incident action plan that identifies needed resources. This plan could incorporate a role for public transportation providers in meeting evacuation needs.
Recovery: Recovery includes helping those in immediate need of food, housing and medication. During this phase the clean-up process begins along with the rebuilding effort to return the affected areas as back to normal as possible.
Mitigation: Mitigation efforts attempt to prevent hazards from developing into disasters. Mitigation identifies likely hazards and their impact with the idea of moving community residents away from the hazardous area. This can be done through the use of building codes, or property zoning regulations away from flood plains as well as, at times, property acquisitions.
NIMS and ICS
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was first conceived by the California Division of Forestry when responding to wildfires in southern California in the 1970s. It was initially created to establish consistent, standard terminology and to efficiently manage the expansion of wildfire incidents. Over the years, fire service agencies throughout the country have adopted the use of the incident command system and have used it and trained with it.
More recently, the first secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, defined NIMS this way: “… a consistent nationwide approach for federal, state, tribal and local governments to work effectively and efficiently together, to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size or complexity.” In 2003 Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-5) mandated the use of NIMS by all responding agencies. HSPD-5 also required the development of a National Response Plan (now called National Response Framework).
Participants in the “Connecting Communities” workshop review the fundamental principles of NIMS and the Incident Command System (ICS). These principles show that direct, effective command and control are essential at every type of incident. The key to success is to have a coordinated incident command structure in which all of the players integrate their resources to address the problem in a safe and effective manner. In simple terms — you need an ICS structure.
NIMS is a core set of doctrine, principles, terminology and organizational process that ensures effective, efficient and collaborative incident management at all levels. NIMS also provides a framework for interoperability and compatibility while striking a balance between flexibility and standardization. While most of the law enforcement, fire service and emergency participants in the workshop regularly use and are certified in NIMS, most public transportation providers are not familiar with the use of ICS or NIMS.
Public transit professionals are certainly encouraged to go to the FEMA website where they can become certified in ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800. Participants will come away from the workshop with a practical understanding of command structures, including unified command, command and general staff positions, as well as their duties and functions. Most importantly, public transportation providers — who could be a critical element and integral part of the incident response and recovery — will understand where they fit into command structure as well as to whom they report in the overall command of the incident.
Los Angeles 1992 Civil Disturbance
In April of 1992 riots broke out in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict. Watching Abrams tanks and armored personnel carriers patrol the streets near my office is a sight I will not forget. During the riots there was looting, assault, arson and murder. Tragically, 53 people lost their lives with thousands injured and billions of dollars in property damage.
The Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD, now called LA Metro) was an integral part of the response to this incident. In those days SCRTD regularly participated in what was then called “disaster drills,” what we now call full-scale exercises. The disaster drill usually dealt with an earthquake hitting the Los Angeles area. The working relationships established during those disaster drills between police, fire, local emergency management and SCRTD personnel laid the groundwork for the efficient use of SCRTD resources during the riot.