Tom Sivak: Special Events and Incident Management Team Deployments

By Tom Sivak

Special events and incident management team (IMT) deployments–we all have them.

Imagine yourself sitting in the bleachers of the largest football game of the year or at the racetrack with cars racing by at speeds averaging 150 miles per hour.  While having a good time, the thoughts are always in the back of a first responder’s mind:  what if something happens?  What if there is a mass casualty, or worse, a manmade incident?  Is there a management structure in place to adequately respond to an incident?

For anyone who sat through an Incident Command System  300 class, the incidents were handled somewhere in “Central City,” where leaning forward in a no-fault environment to “manage the incident” seems to be a cake walk, especially because class ends at 1700 hours. Unfortunately for special events, there have been incidents in the past three years that are changing the face of how we manage public events.  For any Planning Section chief, the Planning “P” world for an incident is our roadmap. What about a special event?  During incidents, we have a few hours, whereas for special events, we may know as far as three years ahead of time.

How do we manage events and make sure to scale up if an incident were to happen during the event?  The solution is an easy, yet complicated, IMT. Although the answer is easy, bringing a team together to plan ahead at times can be impossible.  Creating a team and point person (usually the Planning Section chief) will ensure all of your plans will be in order.  Such plans include, but are not limited to, the following:

·         Emergency Planning – Sudden storms, evacuation, suspicious vs. unattended bags, and the collection of any additional information that will be pertinent during the footprint of the event.

·         Event or Incident Action Plan (EAP or IAP) – The event is planned although the incident is unplanned.  Creation of the EAP can take some homework to involve personnel from the field (fire, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and emergency management) and their input.

·         Operational Planning –This is usually seen as a playbook to include the emergency plan and any data specific to the jurisdiction (fire may have a slightly different plan than law enforcement).

A Turning Point

In the aftermath of the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse, the face of how events are managed changed.  Event organizers have started to take a keen look at emergency plans, and the public safety field has now identified an EAP to serve as a guide on exactly “who” is going to decide to cancel, postpone, or evacuate the event.  Many organizers today understand that the safety and security of event attendees are vitally important, and such components are usually identified in the plan.  The plan becomes better as events occur and previously unidentified considerations take shape.

Creating an all-hazards multijurisdictional planning team is important to ensure everyone is operating with consistent information and direction. The person designated as the incident commander (IC) has to identify how large a team is needed to adequately plan a scaled response to the event. One of the greatest challenges the team will face is information sharing, most especially from those working in the field.  The EAP coupled with the Operations Plan or playbook will be two vital pieces of information to tie everything together, although this does not take the place of briefings before and during the events.

A few aspects of the Operations plan include a scope of the event–when it started, how long it will run, and the estimated attendance.  Additionally, identifying the key players will ensure all parties are on the same page (this can be reiterated at the briefings).  Weather and evacuation plans specific to the event and action plans of what to do if something happens are also vital.  Finally, mapping has taken a center stage in recent times. Maps will assist the boots on the ground in managing their areas as well as those responsible for the overall command and control of the site.

Since the operational plan is always a living, breathing document, questions arise as to how big the team should be. The answer is never the same, but, establishing a way to categorize an event within your jurisdiction will help you identify exactly what you will need to adequately prepare for the event.  Risk hazard analysis will enable you and your team to properly identify needs for the event.  This analysis should include

·         Attendance,

·         Environmental factors,

·         Hazards,

·         Threats of violence or terrorism,

·         Street closures,

·         Agency involvement/personnel involvement, and

·         Geographic area impacted.

When establishing the analysis, assign a point value to the respective areas.  The point system range will help you identify your full needs for the event.

Planning and preparation will help ensure 100 percent preparedness for events.  Incorporating command and control elements through the use of an IMT will allow for scaling up during incidents of great significance.  Education and training are needed to help participants understand how a cohesive team can manage incidents as they occur. Using the team approach will help ensure responder safety.


TOM SIVAK is the executive director of Hamilton Count y (IN) Emergency Management. He was the Planning Section chief for large-scale events, including the 2012 Super Bowl.  He has an M.S. degree in disaster and emergency management from DePaul University.


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