Is it realistic to expect you’ll meet all stakeholder needs during a response? It is a question all incident commanders from any segment of the oil spill response community should ask themselves.
Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Shupe, an instructor at the Coast Guard’s Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia, had the opportunity to answer that question from a Coast Guard perspective during last week’s International Oil Spill Conference in Long Beach, California. We continue our IOSC series with a condensed version of Shupe’s remarks on the subject. These remarks are not ‘as delivered’ but provide a condensed version in the ‘panel-conversational’ style.
Shupe’s presentation, “In a Hostile Environment? Skills Needed for Success,” was part of the “Training” session and moderated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mark Dix.
In a Hostile Environment? Skills Needed for Success
“Is it realistic that we’ll be able to meet all stakeholder needs during a response? This is the question we get most frequently from our students in ICS-410, our Coast Guard Incident Commander course.
I’d like to explore some of the causes of a hostile environment:
First, is a lack of trust between stakeholders and the response organization. Scientific facts might be rejected if the stakeholders mistrust the government officials, scientists, or [members of] industry [in charge of the response].
Second, are stakeholders’ unrealistic expectations of support from the established response organization. Over the past several years, we’ve had a lot of large scale hurricanes where support was provided that has since conditioned the public to expect the same level of support in the future [during any type of response].
Third, stakeholder objectives may be incompatible with the incident commander’s response objectives. As responders we rely on the [Incident Command System] as a set of rules for the response and we’ve likely practiced this together in Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) exercises. Stakeholders don’t have to abide by the same set of professional rules and this can be unsettling for incident commanders.
So at the schoolhouse we’ve been wrestling with how we can better prepare our incident commanders to deal with a hostile response environment. We looked at after action reports and incident specific preparedness reviews from the past decade on hurricanes, oil spills, and terrorism events. We pulled data from the Centers for Disease Control, Harvard’s National Preparedness Initiative, and feedback from other ICS students. We found that the skills demonstrated by effective leaders in times of crisis fell into three distinct categories.
Individual skills, which include the ability to:
1.Handle transitions in the response cycle, from mobilization to demobilization
2.Make timely decisions with limited information
3.Self-regulate and attend to personal needs to maintain proper perspective
4.Manage time effectively
Incident management team development skills, which include the ability to:
1.Build a strong, effective, and resilient incident command team
2.Counter a hostile environment.
3.Handle non-operational response objectives, such as information management, stakeholder management, and public outreach management
External engagement skills, which include the ability to:
1.Maintain trust and confidence within the response organization, with stakeholders, media, and the public
2.Establish effective rules of engagement by setting rules for how and when information will be released to the public
3.Make the decision to proactively release information, even when all facts are unknown
So how do we institutionalize this information and make sure our ICs are learning these skills? Well, at the ICS schoolhouse in Yorktown we recently overhauled our IC course to add three new units to that course. In particular, we added a unit that covers coordination with stakeholders, agency executives, and the public. At the same time, we’ve updated our IC job aid and added a new section on supporting stakeholders. As a side note, all ICS job aids are available to the public.
We’ve recommended updating the best response model and more closely aligning it with Harvard’s meta-leadership model, to include adding elements of positive press and positive stakeholder engagement and an emphasis on preparedness. We also recommend updating National Incident Management System ICS policy and doctrine to better incorporate these concepts and skills into practical guidance.
If ICs have a solid foundation of training and policy and doctrine, they’ll be more resilient and much more equipped to handle a hostile response environment.
ICS job aids can be found on the Coast Guard’s Mobile Incident Management app, available through the Apple app and Google play store. Simply search: Coast Guard IMH.app.
A limited number of seats to the following ICS courses are available to the maritime industry:
ICS 300: Intermediate ICS for an Expanding Incident
ICS 339: Division Group Supervisor
ICS 400: Advanced ICS for Command and General Staff
ICS 410: Advanced Incident Commander Course.
Request a seat for one of these courses through your local Coast Guard sector, local area maritime committee, or through Mr. Larry Brooks at TRACEN Yorktown.
Review our previous Maritime Commons posts on PREP guidelines at the links below:
Want to read more from the Coast Guard during the International Oil Spill Conference? Check out our previous Maritime Commons posts.
6/5/2017: IOSC Recap #5 – USCG Sector Delaware Bay: Response to rail incidents planning project
5/25/2017: IOSC Recap #4-Tank Barge APEX 3508: Best practices for detection and recovery of sunken oil
5/25/2017: IOSC Recap #3-Tank Barge Argo: A case study on the employment of NCP special teams
5/23/2017: IOSC 2017 Recap #2-In a hostile environment? Skills needed for success
5/23/2017: IOSC 2017 Recap #1- Time for a refresh in the pre-spill planning consultation process
5/16/17: IOSC 2017 – Opening plenary session – Prevent, Prepare, Respond & Restore
This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.