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Alaska's emergency responders meet at UAS

Posted: December 1, 2011 - 1:11am
University of Alaska Police Officer Lt. Ron Swartz helps teach a two-day Incident Command System Course for jurisdictional Incident Management Teams (Emergency Coordination/Operations Center staff) at the UAS Rec Center on Wednesday.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
University of Alaska Police Officer Lt. Ron Swartz helps teach a two-day Incident Command System Course for jurisdictional Incident Management Teams (Emergency Coordination/Operations Center staff) at the UAS Rec Center on Wednesday.

A shooting, a flood, a chemical spill. It doesn’t matter what the scenario, the emergency manager of the University of Alaska Anchorage Police Department says, it requires planning among varying agencies.

Major stakeholders in the community this week attended a two-day Federal Emergency Management Agency course at the University of Alaska Southeast to better prepare for emergency situations that are sometimes unimaginable, and always unpredictable. The course, called Incident Command System 300-ICS for Expanding Incidents, was taught by ICS instructors Lt. Ron Swartz, and the director of emergency management for University of Alaska, Rick Forkel.

“Planning is really important so you can use the few resources you have in town to the best advantage, and you’re not competing and fighting for those resources,” Swartz said. “Like, an evacuation might require buses and boats, and you might want to evacuate to the high school. Well, you have to coordinate all that, and that’s kind of what ICS is all about.”

Tuesday and Wednesday’s classes were not for the average citizen responding to an incident, but the multiple agencies that may be called on to manage, or assist, an emergency. Members of the Coast Guard, Alaska National Guard and fire department, as well as Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, City and Borough of Juneau Capital Transit and Public Works Department employees and UAS leaders were among those in attendance.

Swartz further said ICS 100 training is for anyone who may respond to an emergency; ICS 200 is for supervisors of responders; and ICS 300 is for dealing when multiple agencies respond.

“They might be state resources, they might be federal,” Swartz said. “And how you get all those people to play together and use the same terminology, that is the intent of ICS 300.”

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, the group worked on ICS fundamentals, unified command, incident and event assessment and agency guidance, incident resource management, demobilization and, perhaps one of the trickiest, transfer of command.

“We just finished a half day just on planning after the initial responders get to a crisis, how we’re going to continue our response and our recovery from the incident for the next shift,” Swartz said. “So if we’re going to be here all night and into tomorrow ... We just spent half the day just getting that incident management team thinking and using FEMA forms to prepare for the next shift.”

The training, which was also taught by the city’s Emergency Program Manager Tom Mattice, included presentations and small group exercises for ICS in the event of a man-made or natural disaster or crisis. The training is a requirement for all first responders and Emergency Coordination Center Staff, or Campus Incident Management Team members.

“And it’s command, that’s what the ‘C’ stands for,” he said. “So it’s the leadership in the community who gets together and learns how to manage an incident in a standardized fashion. They can go into Boston and manage an incident the same way we would do it here.”

The training will soon be put to the test, Swartz said, as Alaska Shield 2012 is slated to be held in February. Alaska Shield is a biennial drill organized by state homeland security to test local, state and federal agencies’ response to natural disasters, especially volcanoes, earthquakes, wind storms and blizzards. One was held in 2010 and another in 2007.

He said, “For the local jurisdictions to do the right things in simulating an exercise, they need training, so Homeland Security is offering courses like ICS to get the local leadership ready, not only for the exercise, but obviously to respond to a crisis.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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