How to improve resiliency: Adopt the Incident Command System



Quick Take:  Okay - you know that severe weather is going to increase due to climate change. It may be a flood, a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, a mudslide or a terrorist attack, but most of us have a Big One in our future. And you know that major events will impact not just utilities, but many other organizations, from police to fire to water departments to hospitals.


About 95% of all utilities (according to the survey described below) see the U.S. federal government's Incident Command System as "important" or "very important." Yet only about 50% of them use ICS for every incident. So here's my message to the other 50%: Wouldn't this be a good time to start learning ICS? Before a Big One hits your area? - Jesse Berst


The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized, all-hazards incident management approach that integrates all facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications. It enables a coordinated response among various jurisdictions and functional agencies, both public and private. And it establishes common processes for planning and managing resources.


Utilities across the United States are increasingly adopting ICS, as confirmed by a study commissioned by MacroSoft and available at Electric Energy Online. Although progress has been made, obstacles remain. Not surprisingly, budget is an issue. So is the hurdle of field communications, especially with people from other organizations.


And the challenge of training emerged as a recurrent theme. FEMA's training, unhappily, is focused on community-based first responders, with little customization for utility realities. Experts warn that regular formal training is essential. During an incident, procedures must be followed out of ingrained habit, since there is no time to open and review a training guide.


Many survey participants identified automated systems as a key enabler.


To get started, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Incident Command web site.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.