Friday, February 10, 2012

Incident command

Wednesday afternoon, Lincoln Fire & Rescue responded to a residential fire in the 1700 block of Connie Rd.  that proved to be a structure fire that started in a car parked in the attached garage.  It was a dangerous situation, but had a successful outcome: no one was hurt and the house and contents, though suffering serious damage, were largely saved from destruction.

I was working on some budget issues in my office, and an afternoon meeting had been cancelled.  As a result, I was able to follow the events unfolding on the radio intently, a rare treat.  As usual, I was incredibly impressed, as Battalion Chief Leo Benes commanded operations on the fire ground.  Like fire departments nationwide LF&R follows the Incident Command System (ICS), a component of the National Incident Management System.  NIMS emerged from the fire service and was born of harsh experience of tragedies in wildfire operations in the western United States during the 1970's. It has since been adopted nationwide as the model for complex emergency operations.

Today, all LF&R personnel, all LPD officers, and scores of City employees in other agencies such as the Public Works and Health Departments have been trained in ICS/NIMS.  Firefighters get the most reps, as they practice Incident Command on a daily basis.  This is because firefighting and emergency medical services are almost always a team sport, whereas most of what the police do is an individual one. For me, it is a thing of beauty to behold.  I've commanded plenty of soup sandwiches during my career, but I still marvel at and envy the calm, composed, deportment of LF&R battalion chiefs and fire captains--and LPD police captains and sergeants--when the barricaded suspect is lobbing rifle fire or the flames are licking the soffits, and the combined efforts of many personnel must be coordinated and controlled.

These women and men are able to think clearly, act decisively, and marshal their resources to a common aim with incredible skill and under the harshest of circumstances.  They often do so in a manner that almost seems second nature.  Listen to the radio I carry, and you'll have a new appreciation for the work of our incident commanders and their forces, whether they wear SCBA or body armor.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Tom. Unless you hear it all on a scanner, you'd never believe how calm and professional LFR, LPD, and LSO are in the midst of emergencies. Even dispatchers manage to keep it all together. How lucky is Lincoln and Lancaster County to have such a wonderful team???? Impressive.

Tom Casady said...


Yikes, that's an awkward sentence. Rewrite


Thank you.

The proliferation of scanner feeds ported to the Internet (and client applications on smartphones) has opened up the heretofore arcane world of trunked radio system scanning to the masses.

While this has some downsides, it also has a decidedly positive impact in exposing more people to the professionalism of their dispatchers, firefighters, and police officers. A little time listening to radio traffic gives folks a lot more insight into the complexity of their work.

Anonymous said...

'For 30 years," he said later by email, "police employees have bellyached about call takers in the 911 Center, and vice versa, when in fact, we should all be pulling together...'

Don't know what police employees your talking about, but for the 20 plus years I have been a police employee I guessed I just missed it. Everyone I know has great respect for the 911 call takers and the overall great job they do. Maybe the bellyachers your talking about are those in attendance at the command staff meetings because I know it's not the rank and file. Quotes like this are how rumors get started.

Tom Casady said...


Eh, no. While I agree there is a lot of respect, there is also plenty of misunderstanding, and I hear it from both directions, and all levels, including a couple last week. Some of this is just normal grumbling that's not particularly worrisome, and some reflects organizational-operational issues that we really can and should address collaboratively.

Anonymous said...


I regularly hear "It came from the Desk" on the radio, and it usually has a certain tone that conveys a deeper meaning. The chief's (ex) right: sometimes there's finger-wagging when there ought to be problem-solving. It's not that bad, though, and you hear the same thing internally between units. Complaining about others is an awfully popular sport.I don't think it's that much different than anywhere else, though. The trick is filtering out the real issues from the background noise.

leo said...

Director Casady your comments were way to kind. I learn something from my peers daily. I recently took the newest class of fire recruits to observe dispatchers in action. Action is what they got. The comm center went from relative calm to phones of the hook. While wide eyes they recieved first hand appriciation of how our dispatch professionals take care of business 24/7/365. From the field I am one that sings their praises and salutes them. Keep up the great service that you provide to us all. Leo