Why are the Incident Management Teams (IMTs) in Washington State integrated with personnel from Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WaDNR), fire service, and federal wildland fire agencies?
The complexity of fires and other incidents requiring IMTs has increased across the state and agencies responsible for managing these incidents have experienced budget and personnel shortages. By working together, these agencies can share costs and identify savings.
Incidents that involve multiple jurisdictions are more and more commonplace and IMTs have the personnel that know and can adapt to a variety of regulations and procedures encountered while working with multiple landowners and land management agencies.
Changing demographics within the state have created a corresponding increase in incident complexity. Construction of homes in forested areas (what is called the urban interface) is a major contributor to this complexity. IMTs have evolved to maintain the highest qualified and most experienced professionals who understand and can manage for this complexity.
Agency managers, legislators and taxpayers are very concerned about the high costs associated with managing emergencies. On Federal lands, IMTs work within the budget limits of the Wildland Fire Situation Analysis (WFSA) or Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) prepared by each hosting agency to meet constraints. On state or private lands, the delegation of authority will help spell out budget saving possibilities. Limiting costs involves close coordination among all agencies and a deep understanding by IMT members about the timing and effects of cost savings upon effective incident management.
Finally, the citizens of the state expect professional response to emergencies and they are not as concerned about who responds as they are about the quality of the response. IMTs, comprised of professionals who are the best at what they do regardless of their home agencies, provide this quality response.
Who made the decision to integrate the IMTs in Washington State?
Answer: In the fall of 1999, the Pacific Northwest Coordinating Group that is comprised of representatives of Oregon and Washington, the five federal wildland fire agencies, and fire service suggested that the IMTs within Oregon and Washington consider integrating for the reasons outlined in Question 1. In December 1999, agency managers from the wildland firefighting agencies and fire service in Washington began to integrate IMTs. Five IMTs managed by the DNR (one of which was already an interagency team), the two area federal teams, and the five fire service teams were integrated into seven standing teams in the spring of 2000. Based upon resource and personnel availability, these teams were further refined in 2001 to the five teams that exist today.
Who is managing this process and what is their mission and role?
Answer: The Washington State Incident Management Team Geographic Board was formed to provide leadership to this process. The Board consists of members who represent the Washington State DNR, State Fire Defense Board, State Fire Marshal's Office, Office of Emergency Management, and the five federal wildland fire agencies (National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and US Forest Service). From the outset, the Board placed a premium on "organizing for success," recognizing the challenges ahead with this endeavor.
How do these five Washington State geographic IMTs relate to the two Pacific Northwest National IMTs?
Answer: The two national IMTs, also known as Type 1 teams, are available for assignments nationwide and usually deal with very complex incidents. The federal agency administrators have a complexity analysis (within the WFDSS or WFSA process) that helps to determine the complexity level and appropriate management team configuration to oversee an incident. The five Washington teams are capable of handling relatively complex incidents, but if the complexity analysis indicates the need for a national or Type 1 team, the Type 2 will be replaced with the higher qualified Type 1 team.
Are these IMTs available for out-of-state dispatch? How are these IMTs dispatched?
Answer: Yes. However, the number of IMTs available for out-of-state dispatch at any one time will be affected by the situation within the state at the time of the request. Teams follow a rotation schedule prepared by fire dispatch officials in Olympia, Wash., and, once a team is in "up" status, its members must be prepared to leave for fires anywhere in the United States upon request. The next team in line immediately goes into up status until it, too, is dispatched or until the rotation brings up a new team. (See the Team Schedule from the main menu in this web site).
What is the length of time that an IMT might be on an assignment? How will the rotation be established for the IMTs?
Will these IMTs be considered for "all risk" incidents?
Answer: The revised federal policy on length of assignment is 14 days, exclusive of travel. Under extenuating circumstances, the length of assignment could be extended to 21 days. A Washington State IMT will follow these guidelines. IMTs will be available year-long; therefore, each IMT will be in the standby rotation one week out of five throughout the year from 0800 Tuesday morning through 0759 the following Tuesday morning. However, standby for DNR employees will only be initiated during fire season. The board also understands that it will be difficult to staff an intact team outside of fire season due to personnel unavailability.
Answer: It is the position of the Geographic Board that these IMTs will be available for "all-risk" assignments. There are, obviously, some hurdles to overcome, such as ongoing fire incidents and time of year in the ability to support other all-risk assignments. This is consistent with the position taken by the Governor’s Office, with respect to the use of the Incident Command System (ICS) by state agencies.
Are all the IMT positions filled with qualified personnel?
Answer: Yes. Early on, the Board agreed to recognize the individual agency training requirements for each ICS position; provided, the minimum requirements of the National Incident Management System 310-1 were met. Personnel filling positions on each of the five IMTs are certified by their agency as having met those minimum requirements.