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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

The vital importance of pre-incident planning

It's always hard to explain why you didn't have a critical resource when/where it was needed

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: A joint operations center at the Indiana State Fairgrounds was near-flawless in execution in the immediate aftermath of a stage collapse that killed five people and injured dozens more, officials said Monday. Check out Chief Adam K Thiel's thoughts below.

This story is a great example of a successful multi-disciplinary, multi-jurisdictional response to a mass casualty incident.

Furthermore, it demonstrates the vital importance of pre-incident planning, coordination, and forward deployment of critical resources for a known special event.

Just imagine the (alternative) headline if the responsible fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies hadn't — for the first time according to the story — coordinated their operations?

I can't count how many times I've been asked, when pre-planning and pre-ordering resources for large-scale events or mass gatherings, "do we really need to do that?"

Many people, some in our business but most outside, believe it's better to wait, instead of anticipating the potential need, to order specialized or additional resources.

From my experience, it's always better to lean forward, rather than sitting back on our heels and hoping for the best. (Even in these difficult financial times.)

Sure, you can't always plan for — or order — everything you might need for any contingency; and sometimes, you may have to justify why something you ordered, and had standing by, didn't get used.

That's happened to me, and as long as I had a good reason, based on a solid risk-benefit analysis, it wasn't a problem.

It's much harder to explain, and I've tried, why you didn't have a critical resource when/where it was needed.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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