Thursday, September 29, 2016

Southwest Fire Response Issue 3: Transfer of Command

One thing that jumped out at me is how the record reflects Acting Battalion Chief (not promoted) Nathan Edler indicated on the radio that he assumed incident command when he wasn't even at the Airport yet.
  • First, the two ARFF units were onsite so, if figures that one of the two ARFF drivers, both Lieutenants, was the onsite incident commander.  
  • One question, is how can an ARFF driver be both an equipment operator and an incident commander?  Fire experts I discussed this with make the comparison of either:
    • The conductor of the symphony also playing Violin at the same time or
    • The pitcher on a baseball team also playing shortstop while pitching
  • The time stamps on the incident report clearly indicate: 8/27/2016 9:37:39 BTC1 ASSUMING COMMAND
  • The time stamps of the vehicle logs for BC1 (Edler) clearly indicate:  ARRIVED 8/27/2016 9:41:13


Captain Nathan Edler, acting as a Battalion Chief, assumes Incident Command almost 4 minutes before he arrives on the scene.

How does that work?  Fire experts I discussed this with say this is the biggest error made in the entire response.

Below is a detail of the transfer of command process from standard fire operating procedures:

Transfer of Command process

A. The first fire department member arriving on the scene will automatically assume Command. This will normally be a Company Officer, but could be any fire department member up to and including the Fire Chief.

B. The first arriving Company Officer will assume Command after the Transfer of Command procedures have been completed (assuming an equal or higher ranking officer has not already assumed Command). IC #1 is usually a Company Officer.

C. The first arriving Command Officer should assume Command of the incident following Transfer of Command procedures and becomes IC #2.

D. Subsequent arriving Command Officers should report their location to the IC, and wait for an assignment. The first arriving Shift Commander ( preferably from the appropriate city that the incident is located in if available) will assume the roll of Senior Advisor and assist the IC. The second arriving Shift Commander sets up the Command Van (CV) and manages the movement of Command to the CV. The Senior Advisor, IC and Support Officer become the Command Team (Incident Advisory Team). The Command Team may assign additional staff such as a Safety Officer (relieves the Support Officer’s ISO responsibility) and a Staging Officer.

E. Assumption of Command is discretionary for Assistant Chiefs and the Fire Chief.

All of the above transfer procedures use the term ARRIVING.

Not four minutes away.

National Incident Management System Training materials are clear on Transfer of Command. 

Lesson 7: Transfer of Command

Lesson Overview

The Transfer of Command lesson introduces you to transfer of command briefings and procedures.

Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
  • Describe the process of transfer of command.
  • List the essential elements of information involved in transfer of command.
Transfer of Command

Transfer of command is the process of moving the responsibility for incident command from one 

Incident Commander to another.

When Command Is Transferred

Transfer of command may take place for many reasons, including when:
  • A jurisdiction or agency is legally required to take command.
  • Change of command is necessary for effectiveness or efficiency.
  • Incident complexity changes.
  • There is a need to relieve personnel on incidents of extended duration.
  • Personal emergencies arise (e.g., Incident Commander has a family emergency).
  • Agency administrator directs a change in command.
A More Qualified Person Arrives

The arrival of a more qualified person does NOT necessarily mean a change in incident command.
The more qualified individual may:
  • Assume command according to agency guidelines.
  • Maintain command as it is and monitor command activity and effectiveness.
  • Request a more qualified Incident Commander from the agency with a higher level of jurisdictional responsibility.
Transfer of Command Procedures

One of the main features of ICS is a procedure to transfer command with minimal disruption to the incident. This procedure may be used any time personnel in supervisory positions change.

Whenever possible, transfer of command should:
  • Take place face-to-face.
  • Include a complete briefing.
The effective time and date of the transfer should be communicated to personnel.

Transfer of Command Briefing Elements

A transfer of command briefing should always take place. The briefing should include:
  • Situation status.
  • Incident objectives and priorities.
  • Current organization.
  • Resource assignments.
  • Resources ordered and en route.
  • Incident facilities.
  • Incident communications plan.
  • Incident prognosis, concerns, and other issues.
  • Introduction of Command and General Staff members.

My Take:  There are things in life you must be onsite for to be in command:
  1. A child's birthday party at Chuckie Cheese.
  2. Conductor of an orchestra.
  3. Umpiring a baseball game.
  4. Singing the National Anthem
  5. Dropping the Green Flag at a race.
  6. Directing traffic when a stop light is out
  7. Drawing bingo numbers
  8. Being a Judge.
  9. Delivering babies.
The Professionals take:
  1. Taking command must be done onsite and has a specific process and procedure.
  2. You can not under any circumstance assume Incident Command 4 minutes away from the incident.
  3. Key decisions must be made regarding preparation and response ONSITE as the Incident unfolds.
  4. Incident Commanders can't make the proper decisions while still driving to the Incident from breakfast.
  5. Nathan Edler made a serious mistake in assuming command offsite in this emergency.
What has Chief Allen done to correct the situation for the future?

I have asked for the answers to the questions posed in my previous post and received this response from the City.

From: "Vernon Stewart" <>
Date: Sep 27, 2016 9:45 AM
Subject: RE: Article on Southwest Airline Response
To: "Maren DeWeese" <>

Hi Maren,

I have spoken with Chief Allen. At this time, we are respectfully declining to respond to this inquiry. If there is anything else that I can help with please let me know.


Vernon J. Stewart
Public Information Officer
Office of the Mayor

Well maybe somebody at the FAA or Homeland Security can answer my questions.


Anonymous said...

"I have spoken with Chief Allen. At this time, we are respectfully declining to respond to this inquiry. If there is anything else that I can help with please let me know."

So the chief has no comment about this? There are a number of things he could have said to a concerned tax paying citizen besides, "we are respectfully declining to respond to this inquiry."

He could have said,
"We are in compliance"
"Our response was by the book"
"There are no concerns with safety"
"We are prepared to respond adequately"
"We are addressing these issues"

Whether they realize it or not, they just responded through their non-response. Now that's transparency for you!

Anonymous said...

I would suggest you forward all of the information you have as well as your questions for the city and their response to the FAA as soon as possible. Someone needs to answer for the screwups the administration is doing.

Anonymous said...

Vernon Stewart replied, "If there is anything else that I can help with please let me know."
Really? "Anything else"? No Mr. Stewart you've been very helpful in providing NOTHING. The next time that I need NOTHING I will be sure to contact you Mr. "Public Information Officer".