By Todd Duncan, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist

In last month’s Safety Short, we looked at the power of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) in helping first responders bring order to chaotic situations. In this month’s Safety Short, we discuss a key component of the ICS, the Incident Action Plan (IAP).

Except for the State Patrol, sheriff’s deputies are typically the only full-time emergency responders within unincorporated, and in many cases incorporated areas of most Nebraska counties. As a result, the community relies on the sheriff’s office to rise to the occasion when disaster strikes. As such, it is essential that law enforcement officers plan for security and worst-case scenarios when large public events are held in their county.

You have seen the news stories, “Community event ends in tragedy after car crashes into parade…” Most communities host public events throughout the year such as Fourth of July fireworks displays, air shows, county fairs, rodeos, farmers markets, and large athletic events to name just a few. Proper preparation for such events, including an IAP, is essential to ensure public safety and help with contingencies. Where the Incident Command System provides the framework or structure for organizing the different resources and personnel involved in a major event/incident, the IAP spells out the who, what, why, when, where, and how.

Incident action plans should be considered for any public event that is likely to draw a large crowd. The IAP is developed by involved stakeholders, including dispatch, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, and event organizers and should cover operational considerations to include traffic control, security, severe weather, medical emergencies, fire, staging areas, evacuation routes, and nearest hospital or trauma center. Incident action plans enable leadership to identify and clearly spell out the key elements of the event plan including the situation, plan objectives, chain of command, site map/sketch, communication plan, contingencies, etc.

Incident action plans should identify mutual aid resources that can be called up if an incident exceeds the capacity of the event team. Having mutual aid agreements in place prior to the event is important as is notifying neighboring jurisdictions and local hospitals of the event. It is not a matter of if but when there is an incident at a large public event being held in your county that will strain or exceed the capacity of local emergency resources. As the saying goes, fail to plan, plan to fail. Whether responding to a major incident or planning for a large public event, creating a basic incident action plan can go a long way to effectively organize and manage resources; build and maintain public trust; reduce risk and harm; and most importantly enhance safety for all involved.

Additional Resources:

International Association of Chiefs of Police Model ICS Policy
Sample Special Event IAP
Federal Emergency Management Agency NIMS/ICS website

Please contact Todd at 531-510-7446 or if you have any questions.