FDNY INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TEAM SUPPORTS NEW ORLEANS FIRE DEPARTMENT

BY ROBERT MAYNES

On the morning of September 4, 2005, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) received an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request for 300 FDNY chiefs, officers, and firefighters to support the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD). EMAC is the procedure a state uses to request assistance from other states. In addition, the EMAC order requested FDNY to supply a Type 1 incident management team (IMT). A Type 1 team responds to complex incidents that have more than 600 responders assigned. On September 4, the FDNY IMT was considered a Type 2 team with a specialty in urban terrorism. A Type 2 team responds to seasonal emergency incidents, such as wildfires and hurricanes. Because these seasons overlap, there is a need for qualified all-risk teams that are not assigned to wildland fires. The FDNY IMT is an all-risk team; it is qualified to respond to complex events and urban disasters with a focus on urban terrorism. (IMTs and the FDNY IMT are described in “Incident Management Teams”).


New Orleans Staging Location
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FDNY’s first deployment of its IMT outside of New York City proved to be a true test of team members’ training and talent. “The FDNY IMT deployment was one of the most challenging and rewarding operations in my career,” recalls Assistant Chief Ed Kilduff, deputy incident commander (IC). Numerous FDNY members have echoed these same sentiments.

On the morning of September 4, 25 FDNY IMT members, under the command of Assistant Chief Michael Weinlein, were placed on standby for deployment to New Orleans. Simultaneously, Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph Ramos started the arduous task of recruiting and accommodating 300 members for immediate response to New Orleans.


Main Holy Cross campus building that served as the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) command post, sleeping quarters, and cafeteria. (Photos by FDNY Photo Unit.)
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One objective of the FDNY IMT was to be in place prior to the arrival of the personnel from FDNY and other departments. When the IMT was one mile from the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, it was directed to wait for and travel with the 300 FDNY members after their arrival the next day.

The IMT remained at the airport waiting for the FDNY members on the morning flight. Incident command was initiated at 0300 hours, and the IMT conducted a status check-in of the 300 members who were back in New York. In addition, Dr. Kerry Kelly, the FDNY chief medical officer, and her staff were on hand to check each member’s immunization status and administer any necessary inoculations. Members (and equipment) then boarded for flights to New Orleans.


Supply storage and distribution area.
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On arrival at Louis Armstrong Airport, the FDNY team received a box truck and 700 bag lunches and coolers of water and ice from the Southern Team IC, George Custer. He and his team were operating an evacuee camp at the airport. The food and water they provided would prove essential to the FDNY team.


Transport vehicles used to take personnel to staging areas around New Orleans. By this time, personnel and apparatus were able to stay in the city overnight.
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After numerous delays, all FDNY members arrived at Our Lady of Holy Cross College (Camp Algiers), which was serving as a staging area for the entire NOFD. Initially, all firefighting operations within New Orleans were conducted from out of this camp. At the time of the team’s arrival, Camp Algiers did not have lodging, power, food, or any other support except for running water that was reported to be potable. The bag lunches and water obtained from the Southern team were the only food and water we had for the next 36 hours. For the near future, the only supplies we were able to obtain were through box truck trips to the Southern team at the airport and small meals supplied by New Orleans firefighters.


FDNY and Entergy crews repairing electric service to main building.
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IMT personnel quickly developed a close working relationship with college personnel. By helping them reestablish the functionality of college equipment, we gained their confidence and made it a functioning facility.

SEPTEMBER 5: FDNY IMT AND NOFD MEETING

On Tuesday September 5, NOFD District Chiefs Richard Hampton and Tim McConnell hosted the first meeting with the FDNY IMT. They informed FDNY that NOFD was very proud but that the city’s condition and the stress of the firefighters were weakening the department’s ability to operate safely. The New Orleans infrastructure was severely damaged, the members had been operating arduous tours for eight straight days, and 80 percent of the NOFD firefighters were homeless because of the storm.


Operations moved from the main building to tents after about the first week of operations.
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In addition, the future of the NOFD was uncertain, and the procedure for the members to return to their families was confusing. The NOFD initially requested that the FDNY members supplement New Orleans apparatus with additional firefighters when necessary. Staffing on each engine consisted of one officer and four to five firefighters. FDNY Chiefs Weinlein and Kilduff assured New Orleans that the FDNY IMT was there to support New Orleans, not to take over. FDNY EMS personnel established a medical unit and began to develop an emergency medical evacuation plan.

SEPTEMBER 6: STRUCTURAL FIRES

At 0600 hours on September 6, the FDNY IMT conducted an operational briefing. Shortly thereafter, NOFD members contacted FDNY Deputy Chief Robert Maynes, Operations Section chief (OSC), and reported that at sunrise numerous major fires were observed on the city’s East Bank and that FDNY members were needed immediately (these fires had been observed by a hilltop fire watch with binoculars). By the end of the day, more than 160 FDNY officers and firefighters had operated at nine major structural fires, all involving multiple buildings. These fires helped the two departments to develop a positive relationship and mutual trust. The NOFD and FDNY IMT established unified command and developed the following incident objectives for the combined operation:

  • Provide for firefighter and community safety.
  • Provide the community with fire and emergency services.
  • Establish a functional fire/emergency response system.
  • Establish a fire/command support structure.


FDNY and the New Orleans Fire Department taking up after a transformer fire in the basement of a downtown New Orleans office building.
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The combined departments continued to operate without any logistical support. Purchasing power was limited to the FDNY credit card. Additional fire personnel from Montgomery County, Maryland, and Illinois arrived; the base camp population grew to 900. The command staff initiated conversations with Our Lady of Holy Cross College that culminated in an agreement that ensured the continued use of the college as a base camp.

SEPTEMBER 7: IAP AND MEETINGS

The FDNY IMT conducted the operational briefing at 0600 hours on September 7. As OSCs, William Seelig and Maynes determined that the situation was extremely dangerous. With the arrival of the Maryland and Illinois reinforcements, there were operation crews from four regions that had inherent differences in terminology and tactics.


One of the first fires in New Orleans to which FDNY responded.
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The city’s condition for emergency operations was potentially catastrophic for everyone, what with poisonous snakes, unpredictable utilities, and unknown hazardous materials in flood waters. Buildings were susceptible to collapse and posed other numerous hazards. Both OSCs briefed all of the supervisors on the increased span of control, accountability, and risk vs. reward. For the next 11 days, all operational leaders continued to stress the number one objective: to provide for firefighter safety.


Some of the scenes we encountered during our 9th Ward reconnaissance tour.
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Optimal span of control is one supervisor to five subordinates. The fire/emergency operations span of control was now increased to four subordinates to one supervisor and in some cases three to one. Riding lists of all individuals operating on each apparatus were created for the supervisors. The operational units positively received the increased supervision that focused on firefighter safety.

The first incident action plan (IAP) was the highlight of the operational briefing. The IAP was handwritten and reproduced on the college’s copiers by the Planning Section. All sections and agencies involved in the operational period cooperatively developed the IAP, which included the incident objectives, individual operational assignments, organization charts, a situation report, and a daily safety message. The Planning Section was challenged to produce sufficient copies of the daily IAP. The IAP was consistently used by all concerned parties. Until a copy service became available, Planning Section members were making copies of the IAP throughout the night up to 0800 hours the next day.


FDNY firefighters, along with unified fire command, respond to a working fire on Bolivar Street in New Orleans.
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The Logistics and Finance sections were frustrated in their attempts to gain support for the incident. Their requests to order a caterer and facilities support were denied. Members from New York, Illinois, and Maryland assisted in preparing meals for 900 individuals by sending the box truck to other camps and supermarkets as far as three hours away. Purchasing was still limited to the FDNY credit card. The FDNY IMT was now coordinating a Type 1 incident.


FDNY firefighters, along with unified fire command, respond to a working fire on Bolivar Street in New Orleans.
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The Command and Operations sections of New York and New Orleans set the following priorities:

  • Prevent serious injury to operating personnel.
  • Prioritize fire protection to the economic centers of the city that were not flooded: the French Quarter, the Central Business District, and the Garden District. Catastrophic fire with the potential of devastating an entire neighborhood was a reasonable fear.
  • Continue to have a New Orleans apparatus staffed with at least one NOFD member as the lead engine at all significant structural fires.
  • Incorporate the Maryland and Illinois members and apparatus in the plans to protect New Orleans from catastrophic fire.
  • Create three task forces consisting of five engines, one New Orleans engine, one ladder company, and a command vehicle with two chief officers to serve as task force leader and safety officer. The task forces were a proactive defense to catastrophic fire. The task force could operate independently or be augmented at multiple-alarm fires.
  • Stage units on the East Bank of the river, to ensure timely response to alarms.
  • Create a branch in operations dedicated to assisting logistics in improving the camp. Initially, camp crews participated in debris removal, chainsaw operations, and camp construction. The camp crews extended operations to include repairs of firefighters’ homes, to reduce personal stress and facilitate a timely return to work.


Some of the scenes we encountered during our 9th Ward reconnaissance tour.
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Cooperation, communication, and coordination form the foundation of successful interagency incident command. Maryland and Illinois were now incorporated in the plan to support New Orleans. Chief Rich Bowers of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Chief Art Zern and Chief Bob Hoff of Illinois accepted the challenge of incident command. Their professionalism, talents, and positive attitude were integral to the success of the deployment and contributed extensively to all facets of the incident.

SEPTEMBER 8-10: ESCALATING IMPROVEMENT

From September 8-10, Operations progressively staged units to the East Bank of the river and flanked the important economic sector around the river. New Orleans firehouses that had not flooded had to be fully decontaminated and needed continuous supplies of food, water, and equipment. Firefighter crews cleaned quarters to annual inspection levels. Tom Cable’s California Type 1 team, staged at Jackson Square, supplied tents, sanitary facilities, and meals to the units staged at Decatur Street in the French Quarter. A functional decontamination station was established at Engine 17’s quarters, which bordered Camp Algiers. Haz-mat technicians, primarily from Maryland and Illinois, created a system that ensured that all vehicles returning from the East Bank were decontaminated.


Drafting water from water tenders to fight fires. There was little to no hydrant water/pressure.
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Later in the deployment, crews from New York performed relief tours at the decontamination station. Each crew staffing the decontamination station added improvements that made the system more efficient. Maryland and Illinois firefighters, under the direction of Bowers, assessed all New Orleans firehouses and facilities. The importance of decontaminating stations and quarters cannot be understated; a dysentery outbreak would have had the potential for closing Camp Algiers and terminating the support effort.


Some of the scenes we encountered during our 9th Ward reconnaissance tour.
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By the end of the deployment, the assessment teams produced a document that recorded the condition of all fire department buildings. The assessment teams restored to service buildings that were not severely damaged and documented all buildings that required heavy repair or razing.

SEPTEMBER 11: OPERATIONAL BRIEFING

Following the operational briefing on September 11, a memorial for 9/11 first responder and civilian victims was held. Representatives from all fire departments, law enforcement, the media, and military units attended. A national caterer was now established at Camp Algiers through the efforts of numerous concerned parties, including Cortez Lawrence of the U.S. Fire Administration, who was working in Baton Rouge. President Bush visited Camp Algiers that afternoon. By sundown, a feeling of accomplishment was apparent. The first seven days of the deployment were extremely stressful. One constructive tactic for addressing stress was to return to the incident objectives and priorities. They were addressed at all times, indicating that all managers were properly focused and the deployment was a success.

SEPTEMBER 12-17: CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR NOFD

Camp facilities were improved, which helped to relieve overcrowded conditions. Eight members of the Southwest IMT assisted. On September 14, an “F” number, which enables the IMT to use the federal system for ordering and purchasing resources, was obtained. On September 16, six forward staging areas were staffed on the East Bank; four operated around the clock. By September 17, the Algiers base camp had grown to more than 1,400 individuals. The contingent from Montgomery County left for home with the expectation that relief forces would be arriving from New York and Illinois.


Some of the scenes we encountered during our 9th Ward reconnaissance tour.
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On September 18, the FDNY IMT started the transition to the Pacific Northwest Type 1 IMT. The team consisted of 36 members and 14 FDNY IMT members, assigned primarily to Operations; FDNY Assistant Chief Robert Sweeney was the IC. During the preceding two weeks, more than 100 building fires were suppressed without any serious injuries to operating personnel; there was one serious civilian injury.

CHALLENGES AND RESOLUTIONS

Following are some of the solutions used to combat challenges faced in some major areas.

Staffing. All apparatus were staffed with a minimum of five members, a four-to-one span of control. Rescue, haz mat, and squads were staffed with seven members, often including two officers.

Catastrophic Fire Protection. We created three interagency task forces. They were able to operate individually or to augment engaged units.

Firefighter Protection. Five FAST or rapid intervention trucks were staffed each operational period.

Inadequate Water Supply. An independent water supply group was created. It consisted of two group supervisors, two water supply officers, and three water tender task forces, consisting of a task force leader and six water tenders. Each tender was able to supply 3,000 gallons of uncontaminated water. The water tenders’ water supply was limited to the West Bank, which was uncontaminated. Through the use of a portable reservoir, task force members drafted water from the portable reservoir and supplied engines attacking structural fires. The successful drafting operation eliminated the need to draft with contaminated water.

Decontamination. The successful decontamination station prevented disease and illness in the overcrowded camp. During the second week of deployment, Operations entered into an agreement with the military for use of a military decontamination site on the East Bank. Operations directed two of the six forward staging areas to decontaminate at the military decontamination site located at Jackson Square. The reduced workload at the Algiers decontamination site reduced individual stress and increased efficiency.

Forward Staging Areas. The safety officer assessed each firehouse prior to using it as a staging area. Firefighters from all departments decontaminated quarters. Law enforcement and military units provided security at each staging area. Tents and provisions were supplied for rehab. Logistics assigned managers to supply remote locations with needed supplies and provisions. The result of the staging area effort was that adequate fire protection surrounded the city.

Planning. It was a significant challenge to operate a planning section in a disaster zone without electrical power. Planning kits were assembled prior to deployment. Resources were tracked manually with the use of traditional T-cards. Once power was restored, individual laptops were collected from IMT members and used by planning and finance units. Initial requests for a copier and a copying service were denied, resulting in long, laborious nights to produce an IAP for the 0600-hour operations briefing. During the second week of deployment, a copying service was obtained, which relieved stress. During each operational period, one of the qualified OSCs was designated the planning operations chief. This dedicated section chief attended command and general staff meetings and preplanning and planning meetings. The dedicated planning operations chief supervised operations meetings and assisted in preparing the 215 daily operations section worksheet.

Logistics. The lack of support for the Logistics Section was a colossal challenge. Only through the resourcefulness, talent, and dedication of numerous participants was the challenge resolved. For the first week, Logistics could not place orders. Supporting 1,400 individuals in a disaster zone was an enormous accomplishment. Using operational crews on their tours off from fire duty overcame the lack of camp crews. The interagency teams from New York, Maryland, and Illinois constructed the camp; supported the camp; improved the college base to normal operations; and branched out to repair firehouses, buildings, and the homes of firefighters and law enforcement officers. Provisions and supplies were obtained by sending crews outside the disaster area to established camps, supermarkets, and donation sites. All purchasing was limited to the FDNY credit card. The staffing of staging areas on the East Bank required coordinated facility management, which was positively impacted by the arrival of six logistics members of the Southwest Type 1 team at the end of the first week.

Communications. On the first two days of deployment, communications from the camp to outside authorities was limited to FDNY satellite phones. The satellite phones worked only outside in specific areas, requiring the user not to move once a connection was established. Fireground communications were limited to NOFD handheld radios. The radios served as dispatch radio and fireground radios. The individual units were required to change channels for each fire. Chief Gary Seville commanded the dispatch office, located in City Hall; he was severely overworked because of the limited operational technology. FDNY firefighters (three per tour) were used as assistant dispatchers. By the second week, dispatch operations were moved to Camp Algiers and supported by the FDNY Mobile Command Center, which had been driven to New Orleans. FDNY handheld radios were distributed to all units for fireground communications. The New Orleans radio remained as the dispatch radio. The mobile command center was able to establish a communication link with the helicopter, providing coordination for all water drops. Verizon cell phones were used for communications between team members and for outside New Orleans.

Finance/Administration. The FDNY IMT responded to Katrina with Captain Robert Higgins as the Finance Section chief. At the time of deployment, he was a trainee, and his section was understaffed. Finance was able to establish support with other IMTs operating in the Gulf. Very early in the deployment, Finance ordered a Type 1 Finance Section chief. Kathy Vensel, a Type 1 Finance Section chief from Arizona, arrived in Camp Algiers at the end of the first week. She immediately started supporting the team and reported that the Finance Section had operated admirably prior to her arrival.

LESSONS LEARNED AND REINFORCED

• The deployment order needs to be specific and must include a mission statement, an order number, and a delegation of authority.

• Attempts to augment the team with additional personnel were hampered by the EMAC ordering system in place for New Orleans.

• The challenges would have been reduced if EMAC were tied into the FEMA mission statement process.

• It is critical that federal emergency support personnel be assigned to the IMT on deployment.

• The number of qualified IMT members needs to be increased to handle a Type 1-size event, to reduce the safety concerns associated with working long stressful hours.

• Interagency cooperation needs to be improved through interagency drills, training, and seminars.

• Currently there are 17 national Type 1 and 40 national Type 2 IMTs. The existing teams were created in the wildland community and are very efficient at all risk events. Regional urban risk IMTs need to be formed to address urban disasters including urban terrorism.

ROBERT MAYNES is a deputy chief and a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He has been a chief officer since September 1996 and is assigned to Division 13. He is an original member of the FDNY IMT and serves as its Operations Section chief and has been training coordinator and deployment coordinator since March 2004. In addition, he serves as a liaison trainee on Oltrogge’s Type 1 Southwest Incident Management Team.

Incident managment teams

Prior to 9/11, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) had only limited experience with events requiring multiple operation periods and complex interagency response. One of FDNY’s weaknesses was inexperience in interagency emergency operations. Yet on 9/11, for the first time ever, FDNY and New York City were faced with an event that required extensive assistance from other agencies.

On September 11, 2001, FDNY was confronted with an extremely complex incident that required continuous operations for nine months and resources from national, state, and local agencies. Prior to September 11, FDNY did not recognize the need for IMTs, and the majority of its members were trained only on basic incident command.

On September 12, members of two Type 1 incident management teams (IMTs)-the California team, headed by Steve Gage, and the Southwest team, under the supervision of Van Bateman-were the passengers on the sole commercial flight in the country. The California team responded to the Pentagon rescue/recovery operation, the Southwest team to New York City.

FDNY originally resisted accepting the assistance of the IMT, but the IMT eventually assisted the WTC operation, primarily in logistics and planning, and made a significant impact. The Southwest team supported the WTC operation for 60 days, at which time it was relieved by the Alaska Type 1 team. Dan Oltrogge, the current incident commander (IC) of the Southwest team and a deputy IC in 2001, notes that the ultimate compliment the team received in New York was Assistant Chief Frank Cruthers’ requesting that federal authorities extend the Southwest team’s deployment at the end of the 60-day deployment.

The FDNY IMT

During the operational periods following September 11, the uniformed leadership of FDNY was introduced to a Type 1 IMT. A relationship was forged as a result of the professionalism and talents of the cooperating IMTs, ultimately resulting in the creation of the FDNY IMT. The FDNY IMT continued to develop and train with the objective of being an asset if there were another national urban disaster or terrorist attack.

In addition, the McKinsey report (a post-incident management critique) on the World Trade Center rescue and recovery operation, Increasing FDNY’s Preparedness (August 2002), contained numerous recommendations. One was that FDNY develop and establish an IMT. A cooperative agreement was established between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FDNY. The Northeast area of the U.S. Forest Service was to supply instructors to FDNY and to facilitate shadow training at large wildland fires and events.

In February 2003, FDNY began training selected members in the incident command system (ICS) and to perform specific functions in the system’s components: command, operations, logistics, planning, and finance/administration. The training included participation in team building and three complex terrorism simulations focused on command and general staff. During the summer of 2003, 37 members shadow trained at large wildland fires. Additional training of the existing members and recruitment of new members continued throughout 2005. During the winter and spring of 2005, FDNY aggressively extended its IMT effort. First, FDNY assigned 10 IMT members to attend S-420, a Type 2 Command and General Staff skill-building course at the North American Fire and Resource Institute in Tucson, Arizona. In addition, FDNY prepared and hosted a complex simulation exercise of a terrorist bombing of a transportation center.

In the summer of 2005, 30 members were assigned to Type 1 and large Type 2 wildland fires as trainees with task books (a document that contains numerous tasks specific to a specialized position that must be successfully performed at an operation). On successful completion and demonstrated proficiency of all tasks, the candidates were certified for specific positions such as Operations Section chief, Resource Unit leader, and Ordering manager.

By August 2005, 22 members completed task books and were fully qualified for positions in all five sections, with an emphasis on logistics. Also, FDNY had 31 additional members qualified as trainees with varying numbers of tasks completed toward qualification. At the end of FDNY’s six-week commitment in New Orleans, 51 members had completed a minimum of one task book.

On September 5, 2005, the FDNY IMT deployed to New Orleans to support the New Orleans Fire Department. At the time of deployment, many FDNY members were not cognizant of the FDNY IMT or its abilities. In addition, the majority of the personnel from New Orleans, Maryland, and Illinois assigned to protect the city did not have any knowledge of IMTs, their objective, or the use of the ICS on the scale applied in New Orleans.

Background

Incident command was developed as a result of large wildfires and disasters in the West during the 1970s. First responders were faced with events that required multioperational periods and resources from numerous agencies. Problems included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • There was no clear line of authority or span of control.
  • There were multiple agencies that have different terminology, communication ability, and command structure.
  • There was no situation analysis.
  • There were different incident objectives
  • There was a lack of training standards or competencies.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, incident command continued to develop and to correct deficiencies. IMTs were created and continued to develop because of the need for supervision at wildfires and disasters. IMTs supported incidents by setting and attaining objectives through the management skills of communication, cooperation, and coordination. Throughout its development, IMTs have supported hurricanes, terrorist attacks, a shuttle recovery, earthquakes, planned events, and poultry extermination because of disease.

IMT members are assigned to the five sections of incident command: command, operations, logistics, planning, and finance/administration. The command staff consists of the incident commander, safety officer, public information officer, and logistics officer. The supervisors of each section are qualified as section chiefs. Combined, the eight positions make up the command and general staff. The IC and section chiefs may have assigned deputies who have equal competencies and authority. The command staff is limited to assistants who report to their supervisor. Each of the section chiefs has qualified individuals assigned specific tasks as unit leaders, managers, or directors. For example, the Logistics Section chief can have leaders assigned to facilities, supply, ground support, ordering, base camp, medical, communications, food, and receiving and distribution. Each of these units is complex and requires experience and skill. Any unit without an assigned leader or manager is the responsibility of the section chief.

There is no rank in incident command. Positions are filled according to competency and qualification. It is common for leaders to have people working for them who have a higher rank, position, or pay rate in their agency assignment. The process for attaining a position on a team includes acquiring basic skills and experience followed by training classes and working as a trainee under a qualified manager. Individuals qualified for a specific position apply for openings on IMTs and may be assigned to fill a temporary vacancy or a permanent position.

Currently, there are 17 Type 1 IMTs and 40 Type 2 IMTs. In addition, there are state and local IMTs that do not necessarily have the same standards as the national teams. The teams consist of members from federal, state, county, and local agencies with specific skills, training, and experience. Type 1 teams are available annually on a geographical or national rotation. The first team assigned to an event is the geographic team available by rotation. If no geographic team is available, the team on the national rotation is deployed. In addition, the United States Coast Guard uses IMTs for complex operations such as major fuel spills and complex hazardous materials operations.

More than 40 IMTs were deployed to the Gulf region in 2005. The continued training and development of IMTs will result in increased preparedness and the ability to adequately respond for consequence management.

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