Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The New FEMA ICS Forms
Yes, I am going to sit here and actually blog about the new ICS Forms. As a firm the usage and understanding of the new FEMA ICS Forms is a daily occurrence for The Blue Cell. We are teaching on average 5 ICS 300 courses a month and 1 Advanced Planning Concepts course a month. We receive phone calls, emails or text message inquiries reference the forms at least 3 times a week. We of course also sell and have under development several ICS forms related products. Not the sexiest thing about us, but truly a reality of being a planning company.
The new forms have some great, inherit basic features:
The ability to have page numbers as part of the form
The signature box allowing the position that actually filled out the form to be adjusted
The apparent thought that went into new ICS 204, making it all hazards and applicable to the staging area
The fore thought that communications may be getting done on something other than a radio
The largest challenge that practitioners will face with regard to the new forms is the fact that at present they are only officially available in PDF fillable. The reason given for this is so that at least for a time they cannot be altered. In an operational setting this is a challenge. On a recent deployment, without having a certain level of adobe, this meant that the form could not be saved. Any good plans chief or resource unit leader knows that though proper naming convention strategy, the Incident Action Plan from the first operational period forward is process of editing the previous version with the changes for the next operational period. With PDF fillable that is not an option. On this particular mission I observed team members leaving the file opened 24 hours a day to avoid losing what was already written or simply having to re-write the entire form. In some instances this is fine, but when things tighten up or are moving fast, it becomes an area of frustration. A solution is to have at least one computer with Adobe Pro loaded on it. That computer should be one that final edits are going to press will be conducted from. The documentation unit laptop would be obvious choice.
A second challenge is the new ICS 209- Incident Summary. Weighing in at 5 pages, 53 boxes and 17 pages of instructions, this form is now huge. I had a plans person from a jurisdiction large enough to be a UASI tell me, “it’s just another IAP, why even fill it out.” Well the purpose of the incident summary is to not be an IAP, but to give a practical overview for leadership that are supporting the incident. In other words the audiences are not only different but considerably diverse. The fact that it is situational dependent will predicate which and how many of the 53 boxes you have to fill in. The solution here is to know the form in advance and understand and write to the appropriate audience. Unlike the IAP, that has a specific audience, primary audience (the workers and leaders in operations) the incident summary could end up on the President of the United States desk. Yes, in recent years, that has actually happened.
Todd Manns, Planning Section Chief, The Blue Cell,LLC