The complexity of disaster response demands an effective command system. The command system must facilitate the education and cooperation of the many people and groups involved in the evacuation and relief efforts including firefighters, healthcare workers and volunteer civilians. It must organize the many elements of disaster response including the distribution of the warning message, evacuation, short-term relief and the transition to long-term recovery. In addition, the needs of different areas hit by the tsunami will differ so the command system must extend from the international level down to the national and local levels.
To deal with this complexity, we plan to adopt an Incident Command System (ICS) similar to that used by the US Coast Guard and other emergency response teams. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in its handbook on the National Incident Management System, has already detailed the structure and characteristics of an effective ICS. An ICS is an organizational template with a distinct hierarchy and appropriation of tasks that will be implemented by one main organization in Micronesia and one organization in Peru. In Peru, this organization is INDECI, which is a national organization of the central government whose main focus is national disaster emergency preparation and relief. Micronesia currently has no such organization; therefore, we propose that a US-Micronesia Agency be created for this purpose. Both INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency are funded and receive instruction from the International Pacific Tsunami Center, which in turn receives money from grants by the UN. However, INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency are also autonomous. Because the International Pacific Tsunami Center is not located in Micronesia and Peru, it trusts that the countries’ respective agencies will complete their appropriate duties.
It is impossible for a single headquarters to monitor and direct all the disaster response that needs to take place in a timely manner. An Incident Command System is a much more efficient approach to emergency response, as it allows for the cooperation of many different organizations and teams under the common command of INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency. There is a clear chain of command, yet each body, such as public service groups like firefighters and non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross, maintains a certain amount of autonomy to complete its job. This minimizes the delaying effects of a complicated bureaucracy. Another asset of the ICS is the flexibility of its structure. Depending on the scale of the disaster, more or fewer people can be called upon to help.
INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency are not designed to handle only tsunamis but rather a broad range of emergencies. The complexity of the structure varies depending on the size and scope of the emergency. The details provided in this description are only for the planning and event of a tsunami. If it is necessary in other cases, the subdivisions laid out here can be subdivided into subordinate units tailored to the specific response requirements of an incident. Likewise, if one body can handle the entire response, no further subdivision is necessary.
»Authorities within INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency
At the head of INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency is the National Director. Directly below him/her, the organization appoints one Local Director to manage each of the major areas.
- In Micronesia, a member(s) of the state government is this Local Director (or, in better terms, the State Director). The number of directors depends on how many islands of each state are being evacuated. Since these islands are Pohnpei (state of Pohnpei), Moen / Weno (state of Chuuk), Tol (state of Chuuk), Yap (state of Yap), and Kosrae (state of Kosrae), every state has one Section Chief at the state level except for Chuuk, which has two. The headquarters for each state division of the US-Micronesia Agency is on the island that is being evacuated. Chuuk will have one two headquarters, one on Moen / Weno and the other on Tol.
- In Peru, the chain of command will be funded by the United Nations. The National Institute of Civil Defense (Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil - INDECI), will be in charge of executing and governing the ICS. INDECI is a specialized institution of the executive branch of government that is in charge of civil defense in the case of natural disaster. They will be in charge of coordinating relief efforts with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The ICS we would like implemented by INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency is divided into five major areas: command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance and administration. These Local Directors are in charge of delegating responsibilities. They will establish the five sub-branches of the implemented ICS and will appoint Section Chiefs to lead these specific tasks. If there are smaller units working within these sections, unit leaders will be appointed to lead these units (for example, a unit of firefighters will have a head person of authority for each specific island). However, functional units should only be created to match the necessary tasks at hand; organizational units that are no longer required will be deactivated so as to save time and money.
The International Pacific Tsunami Center sub-directors who handle relief and info communicate with the National Director of INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency. This established chain of command creates a clear hierarchy so that there is no confusion as to who is in charge.
The following sections mainly deal with the question of who will be in charge of the different tasks.
The Operations Section:
This section’s objective is to manage operations at the site of the emergency in order to achieve the following:
- Communicating with all of the inhabitants in the area such that everyone knows that there is a tsunami (since realistically, education may not be enough): In the cities, media sources like television and radio will be used to issue additional warnings. In small Micronesian villages, where there are no forms of media, the local chief and a created body of traditional authority officials will announce the event of an impending tsunami and give simple instructions for evacuation by whatever means possible: having individuals go door-to-door, driving down the main road of town and making the announcement, etc. In specific “problem zones” of Peru where there is no media but there are no traditional authorities, a member from INDECI or the US Micronesia-Agency will come in from the cities to make the announcement. This is more practical than using the Peruvian police because few Peruvians have confidence in them.
- Shutting off hazardous electrical lines: The reasons and procedure for doing such action appears elsewhere in this plan. Workers at the power grid will shut down the areas that may be impacted within 15 minutes of the tsunami warning. Power will be restored once all broken power lines are fixed. Access to areas with broken power lines will be prohibited.
- Schools, hospitals, and other private facilities will know what to do in order to evacuate their children, patients, and other people. Evacuation transportation will be coordinated by the local ICS chief at the municipal level. The ICS chief for the municipality will ensure that every main facility in their domain has been notified of the warning and begun their evacuation process. Other local ICS personnel or ICS designated people working at the municipality's facilities will be responsible for their facility following their evacuation process. The ICS personnel are not only responsible for ensuring that the evacuation process is being carried out at their facility in a timely manner, but they are also responsible for getting to the evacuation site themselves.
- Save lives and property / establish control / keep the peace: We propose that INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency create their own on-call task force for use during emergency situations. In Peru, the population holds a general distrust of the police, so they would not be helpful in completing this task. The INDECI task force, then, consists of firefighters and trained, INDECI-specific security members. In Micronesia, this task force consists of the national police, public safety officers1 and the US-Micronesia Agency-specific security members. All task force members will be properly trained by INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency.
- Safety: Once most of the people are safely evacuated to the evacuation camps, camp procedures will ensure their safety. The camps will be led by ICS personnel who are responsible for keeping identification of the evacuated, distributing food, and keeping safety and order at the camp sites. Food will already be stored enough for three days at these sites.
- Search and rescue: The INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency task forces are responsible for this. In Micronesia, military will also be brought in from Guam.
In general, the operations section would include groups such as firefighters, law enforcement, public health, public works, and emergency services. Furthermore, private individuals, companies, and nongovernmental organizations would fall under this category.
The task forces must be specially trained for disaster response. Police are accustomed to enforcing peace, but emergency response requires a different approach that must be taught (M. Rideout, personal communication, September 30, 2005). Once the response teams are educated on what to expect, it is imperative that they perform regular drills. It is an easy mistake to fall into complacency when a disaster is not imminent. Regular drills ensure that there are no glitches in the response plans, and that disaster response teams are well prepared.
The Planning Section:
This section’s responsibility is to collect, evaluate, and analyze tactical information relevant to emergency response. It records information on the current situation, predicts future problems and conditions, and keeps track of resources. Resources include personnel, teams, facilities, supplies, and major equipment available for disaster response. The Planning Section makes sure personnel are in the right locations with the necessary equipment. This unit should have a system of logging the location and status of all disaster response groups, and should keep a database of all available resources available for deployment.
Specific responsibilities of the Planning Section include the following:
- Locating and organizing use of evacuation sites
- Maintaining supplies at evacuation sites
- Communicating with NGOs, other government officials, and other tsunami relief workers
- Knowledge of where transportation and people are located and to where they’re deployed
These tasks are the responsibility of INDECI and US-Micronesia Agency Planning Section workers.
The Logistics Section
This section is responsible for obtaining and providing for the needs of disaster relief. NGOs such as the Red Cross and other groups (missionaries in Micronesia, for example) will work under this section to provide relief. Disaster relief may include facilities, transportation, supplies, equipment maintenance and fueling, food service, communications, and medical services for incident personnel. Logistics can be divided into six subunits:
» Supply Unit:
This unit orders, stores, and distributes all resources (including personnel) and supply orders. The workers are INDECI and US-Micronesia Agency workers.
» Facilities Unit:
This unit sets up, maintains, and demobilizes facilities required for disaster relief. Facilities include the Incident Command Post (ICP), incident base, camps, and trailers or other kinds of shelter around the disaster area. Shelter for victims is provided by nongovernmental organizations. The Facilities Unit also meets the needs of incident-response personnel, including food and water service, sleeping, and sanitation and showers.
The Facilities Unit is also in charge of maintaining the database of refugees at the evacuation site. These database workers will be volunteers who must be trained by INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency.
The other workers are INDECI and US-Micronesia Agency workers and NGO workers.
» Ground Support Unit:
This unit’s primary function is to maintain and repair vehicles and mobile equipment used in incident response. It also provides vehicles for transporting personnel. Civilians can register their vehicles in advance to aid in transportation or evacuation. Other cars used by specific groups will be those that they already have (hospitals, schools, etc.). This information will be available to the Resources Unit of the Planning Section of Incident Command. However, it is important that these volunteers are educated on what it means to be on call during an emergency.
The workers are INDECI and US-Micronesia Agency workers and volunteers from the country and NGOs.
» Communications Unit:
This unit’s responsibility is planning and implementing effective communications for the INDECI and the US-Micronesia Agency. This is especially crucial in large-scale, multiagency response, as the Communications Unit must coordinate radio nets, frequency assignments, and communications technology between the agencies involved. The Communications Unit Leader should attend all planning meetings to make sure that available communications can support response plans.
The people and organizations working under the incident command system must understand the importance of communication. This plan will fall under the Communications Unit of the Logistics Section.
» Food Unit:
This unit is in charge of providing food and water to all incident command locations. This includes determining food and water requirements, planning menus, ordering food, providing cooking facilities, maintaining food service areas, and managing food security and safety concerns. Providing food and water for victims falls upon nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross, who have a contract with the International Pacific Tsunami Center. Workers from these NGOs will be trained by the NGOs.
Inventory management system for the response teams to share resources is designed so as to avoid the “so many gloves” and “I can’t find one” problems Professor Richard C. Larson phrased in his lecture on recurring problems with disaster response systems. This inventory management system will be used by the Planning Section to track resources.
» Medical Unit:
The main responsibilities of the medical unit are to provide incident response personnel with medical care for three days, or until international relief begins. This includes handling any major medical emergency, providing vaccinations and mental services, and transporting injured personnel.
- In Peru, workers of this unit may come from the country’s inland hospitals and from outside volunteers from NGOs such as Doctors without Borders.
- In Micronesia, there are not very many hospitals from which to utilize doctors. The few doctors that are there must register to work if they have the capacity to do so in the event of a tsunami. We propose that the Red Cross increase their programs to include emergency medical technician training which representatives from each island are required to take. In the long run, we’d like to see more hospitals built and use these doctors.
For both countries, doctors and nurses certified to perform triage can register beforehand to be contacted in case of an emergency (M. Rideout, personal communication, September 30, 2005). This information will be available to the Resources Unit of the Planning Section of Incident Command. However, it is important that these volunteers are educated and must know beforehand exactly what is expected of them when a disaster strikes.
The Finance/Administration Section
This section is established when there is a need for financial, reimbursement, and/or administrative services. The Finance/Administration Section is in charge of monitoring sources of funds and tracking the financial burn rate, which allows incident command to forecast expenses and obtain more funds if necessary.
The workers are INDECI and US-Micronesia Agency workers who have contact with the International Pacific Tsuanmi Center.
A more detailed explanation of the ICS can be found here:http://www.firescope.org/nims/NIMS-9.0-web.pdf