ICS Training: A Perishable Skill

As many of those in the incident response field are aware, the time to prepare for an incident is not when one arises. Preparedness professionals routinely schedule training and exercises to ensure that our responders have the skill sets necessary when the need becomes apparent. It is this forethought and planning that enables us to efficiently and effectively respond to the myriad of incidents that are experienced worldwide daily.

In some cases, such as we saw during Deepwater Horizon, it is necessary to provide just-in-time training for our responders. In this case, the size of the incident far exceeded the number of trained personnel needed for the response. This method of delivery is beneficial in that responders who may lack the requisite training to perform are given baseline training to allow them to support this incident’s missions. But this should be the exception, not the rule.

Unfortunately, ICS training is often viewed as a “one and done” with no follow-on or refresher training. For example, in many agencies and organizations, there is a requirement to complete the ICS-300 Intermediate Incident Command System course. For the purposes of tracking, it doesn’t matter whether you completed the course yesterday, last year, or a decade ago, you “completed” the course and meet the requirement. While the basic concepts presented in ICS-300 have not arguably changed in the last decade, technological advances that have improved operations should be made familiar to all responders. For this reason, we recommend maintaining currency in ICS training to ensure that responders have up-to-date understanding of concepts and techniques that may be available for an incident.

More importantly, training is a perishable skill whereby the student progressively forgets what was taught the farther they get from the training received unless they have opportunities to use it. This is the gap we often fall into.

As Peter Drucker stated: “If knowledge isn’t challenged to grow, it disappears fast. It’s infinitely more perishable than any other resource we have ever had.” For this reason, it is important to ensure that we are exercising our ICS muscles, much like you would if you went to the gym. Practitioners should review ICS concepts and forms regularly to ensure familiarity remains constant. Organizations should conduct exercises and include all projected participants for an incident (not just those that are “available”) to allow them to grow the knowledge gained in training and be best prepared to employ that knowledge should an incident occur. Much like your body’s finely tuned muscle mass, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

In addition to exercises, it may be worthy of conducting refresher training to keep the concepts familiar to those responders who would most likely be activated during a response. This type of training is shorter in duration that the normal course but serves to recall and reinforce the previous training received and strengthen those memory modules in the brain to help commit teachings to permanent memory. For those who may not have a similar day job to the role that they are expected to fill on an IMT, this can be critical.

In addition to our ICS courses, EMSI can assist your organization develop exercises and refresher training to prepare your teams for incident response success. EMSI works with a wide range of government and private sector entities on an international basis. Our goal is to provide customized and tailored services and support that enhance the capabilities of our clients. We are proud of our relationships with our clients and the partnerships we build with them.

EMSI is a service-disabled veteran owned minority business enterprise (MBE) that supports a broad range of clients. To learn more about EMSI and how we can help your organization’s response preparedness, please visit www.emsics.com.