Effective Use and Management of Staging Areas

red cross team setting up onsiteBy definition, Staging Areas are established for temporary location of available emergency response resources, whether tactical or support.  Staging Areas can be located anywhere on the incident where personnel, supplies and equipment can be temporarily housed, parked or moored while awaiting an operational assignment.  Staging Areas may also include temporary feeding, fueling and sanitation services for various emergency crews.

Staging areas are established by the Operations Section Chief (OSC) to enable positioning of and accounting for resources not immediately assigned.  The OSC assigns a manager for each Staging Area and requests Logistics Section support, as necessary, for resources located in the Staging Area.

An incident can require several staging areas, often for different kinds and types of resources.  As the OSC, consider the following best management practices when establishing and operating Staging Areas:

Involve other members of the IMT in the selection and management of Staging Areas:  While the OSC identifies the need for and location of the staging area, the Logistics Section Chief (LSC) must provide logistical support.  The Safety Officer (SOFR) has to assure that the staging area will be free from unacceptable hazards and provide a safe operation and the Finance Section Chief (FSC) must assure that the procurement process is in place for this facility.

Location, location, location:  Staging areas can contain tactical or support resources.  Staging Areas that are used for holding tactical resources should be located close to the incident ground but still out of harm’s way.  If a security perimeter is in place, keep the Staging Area within this perimeter.  Staging Areas that are primarily holding support resources may be located a bit further from the tactical operations. 

Name and identify the staging areas:  Staging Areas need to be named geographically to help responders quickly understand the location.  Mark and sign Staging Areas so responders can find them easily.

Provide management staff for the staging area:  Don’t delay in filling the Staging Area Manager Position.  If you expect resources to respond directly to the Staging Area, make sure the Resources Unit is aware of this so that they can establish check-in at the facility, and if the Staging Area is to be established to stage support resources, the Supply Unit may also want to assign an R&D Manager to the Staging Area. 

Establish a Chain-of-Command: Staging Areas can be assigned to report directly to the OSC, the Deputy OSC, a Branch Director or other operational position as designated by the OSC.  Make sure that you establish and make clear where the Staging Area fits within the operations organization and who has the authority to move resources in and out of the area.

Provide enough room and proper layout:  When establishing the Staging Area, allow for enough room to accommodate the expected resources.  A Type I Engine or piece of heavy equipment will require from 400 to 700 square feet of parking space!  Also, carefully plan for traffic flow; if turning around within the Staging Area is required, you must provide an area with a minimum diameter of 80’.  Look for sites which can support a one-way in and one-way out system.  Establish security and check-in at the entrance. 

Provide for personal comfort and support:  Establish shade/rest areas away from the equipment parking.  Eliminate the hazard of a crew sleeping or resting near their apparatus.  Provide food, water and sanitary services, as necessary.  Provide lighting for night operations.

Brief resources:  As resources arrive at the Staging Area and check-in, it is incumbent on the Staging Area Manager (STAM) to provide them with a briefing.  The STAM must ensure that resources understand the operations around the Staging Area and the expectations on getaway times, and are prepared to go to work immediately if called upon by Operations.

An outstanding tool for managing the Staging Area on an incident or event is the EMSI Staging Area Manager Job Aid.  This document provides the Staging Area Manager with a wealth of information and checklists for establishing and managing an efficient and safe staging area.  Order this job aid and many other at www.imtgear.com