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NIMS for Executives
Industrial Fire World is offering NIMS training

Who gets awakened first if there is an explosion at your plant in the middle of the night -- the fire chief or the plant manager? Granted, unless the company issued 50 megaton alarm clocks for Christmas, both of them are going to be bright eyed and scrambling for the door. But which one has the primary authority in an evolving emergency that threatens life and property

Would you be surprised to learn that it might not be the fire chief? The corporate food chain varies from plant to plant, but often the plant manager or shift supervisor is designated incident commander in the emergency plans. A fire chief or generic equivalent - emergency team coordinator - may have the most experience but the least clout. Officially, the chief's role may amount to advisor or technical assistant to the incident commander. At best, the chief may assume the role of operations head serving at the pleasure of the incident commander

That may not necessarily be a bad thing. The fire chief may be fully versed in emergency management, but not in the technical necessities of managing a plant in jeopardy. Protecting the plant may mean shutting in valves that feed the fire or shut down hazardous processes. It takes someone extremely familiar with the inner workings of the plant to accomplish those complicated feats

But plant managers or shift supervisors may not be as well versed as fire chief in the realities of incident management beyond just putting out the fire. The federal government, through agencies as diverse as DHS, OSHA and EPA, has mandated certain procedures be followed in emergencies. A plant manager who has been designated incident commander has to be prepared to execute those procedures to the letter of the law

Requirement number one is that anyone in charge and making decisions during an emergency be trained in the National Incident Management System. NIMS integrates effective practices in emergency preparedness and response into a comprehensive national framework for incident management. It enables responders at all levels to work together more effectively to manage domestic incidents no matter what the cause, size or complexity

If you have a major incident at your plant today, your success or failure in dealing with it is going to be rated using NIMS. True, most of our fire chiefs and emergency response leaders have trained in using NIMS. But federal mandate requires that any person who takes responsibility during emergencies shall have IS-701 multiagency coordination system training. The primary function of this system is to support incident management polices and priorities, facilitate logistics support and resource tracking, inform resource allocation decisions, coordinate incident management related information and coordinate interagency and intergovernmental issues regarding incident management policies, priorities and strategies

Sounds simple? It can be. Industrial Fire World is offering NIMS training designed for plant executives during the 22nd?annual Industrial Fire World Emergency Responder Conference & Exposition , March 26-30 in Beaumont,? TX. Taught by Paul Hannemann, Chief Regional Fire Coordinator of the Texas Forest Service who was involved in developing the new NIMS training for DHS, the workshop is entitled "NIMS for Managers and Supervisory Personnel," and covers what is expected of managers and supervisors in an emergency. It also covers how to interface with agencies from outside the fence that will be responding

The workshop, covered under the basic $400 conference registration fee, comes with an official certificate of completion that will satisfy any federal or state requirements regarding NIMS and plant executives. Participants will have the option to take the exam on site or later on the Internet. VIP passes can be obtained for managers who want to attend only this session by contacting Lynn White at

Anyone who thinks they are too busy to bother with satisfying bureaucrats should heed the following. In January 2005 an 11-car freight train making deliveries in Graniteville,? S.C. pulled onto a siding near a textile plant. A second freight coming through Graniteville hit a switch in the wrong position and collided with the parked freight, releasing approximately 80 tons of chlorine.

Operating under a Unified Command, 111 agencies participated in the Graniteville response. Keeping those agencies satisfied can make all the difference between getting back to normal operations ASAP or having to deal with a blizzard of legal complications. Everybody from the FBI to the Chemical Safety Board has subpoena power these days. Everybody from the DOT to the DOD can issue their own press releases. And everybody from the state environmental agency to the Coast Guard has turf they want to protect

Before 9/11, plant executives had fence protection. If problems involving public scrutiny arose we simply shut the front gate and kept those problems out. I can assure you that if you have a major emergency today it will not be long before a stranger with a badge or some other credentials shows up asking the hard questions like "what happened," "what caused it" and "how many are injured or killed?" Once you answer those questions, the response you want to hear is "you've got a handle on it, so long," not "I think you need some outside assistance."

Industrial Fire World can teach you the rules of how this new game is played. But just like Alcoholics Anonymous we can't help those who won't admit they have a problem. The proactive thing to do is to attend the Industrial Fire World Emergency Responder Conference in March.


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