SANDSTON, Va. –
Representatives from the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Department of Military Affairs participated in an All Hazards Incident Management Training class hosted at the Richmond Fire Department’s fire training center Nov. 8 - 12, 2021, in Sandston, Virginia. The course was hosted by the Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team.
Along with VNG and DMA personnel, representatives from local first responder and emergency management agencies participated in the training, which culminated in a practical exercise. The class broke into groups of about 10 participants, with each group managing response to a mock disaster. Each group designated an incident commander, a planner and other roles to come up with a plan to manage a terrorist attack on a community fair.
“This training prepares our staff to function within the established FEMA incident command and incident management structures,” said Jason Burrow, the emergency coordinator and manager for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs. “The staff were instructed in the concepts of functioning in a small team to develop an incident action plan based off common objectives. These same concepts are used by other Emergency Response Professionals, so this training is important for our agency to be able to interact with those same professionals, use common terminology and common forms to operate from.”
Each group had to assess the situation and devise a response plan during a rapidly-changing and complex public safety scenario, which included a structure collapse and the release of a chemical agent. Each incident management team also had a designated public information officer, which had to prepare news releases and press briefings, as well as conduct interviews during a mock media engagement.
Burrow, who acted as a consultant for this iteration of the course, said the key focus is on cross-agency interaction.
“Training alongside our state and local partners gives everyone a different perspective, for our staff they get to experience how incidents will be managed at local levels before state involvement, which will bridge the gap when our agency and personnel are brought into the incident,” said Burrow.
“Training with partners from other agencies helps build and maintain relationships,” said Calvin Bailey, a course participant and a plans and operations specialist with the Virginia National Guard. “This type of training provides a better understanding of how our interagency partners do business, which improves our situational awareness during emergency response operations.”
“It allows personnel to establish relationships at the other levels with personnel that may not normally be emergency responders,” said Burrow. “For example in this class there were public works, police, communications, safety and risk managers, environmental managers as well as fire and EMS personnel being trained to the same level to function together regardless of that discipline.”
Despite the differences in agency and discipline, Bailey said the information learned is not completely unfamiliar.
“The incident management planning process is very similar to our military planning process,” said Bailey. “We just use different terminology and operational documents to accomplish the same objective.”
“The biggest takeaway from this class I think is that it prepares our staff to work directly with their local and state partners and speak the same language, use the same common terminology and common concepts,” added Burrow. “I think as we move forward with our processes to respond to both internal emergencies and our external support to the commonwealth this training will be instrumental in guiding that growth.”