State emergency responders converge for all-hazard incident management course

The 2021 Complex Incident Management Course, held Oct. 17-22, trained state emergency responders on multi-jurisdictional and all-hazard issues, including wildfire response.

HICKORY, N.C.—Forty trainees from 12 U.S. states participated in the recent Complex Incident Management Course (CIMC) in North Carolina this week. Participants were trained in incident management team response to the most complex, multi-jurisdictional, all-hazard incidents like wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados.

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) first developed the CIMC curriculum in 1998. Ever since, the NASF course has provided advanced Type-1 Incident Management Team (IMT) training critical to managing incidents requiring combinations of local, regional, state, and federal resources. CIMC includes multiple disaster incident simulations such as bomb explosions, hurricanes and hazardous spills, as well as a full-day complex wildfire simulation. This year’s CIMC was hosted in NASF’s South Region.

“CIMC provides training for state emergency responders up to twice each year,” said NASF Fire Director Jim Karels. “The course takes a week to complete and is well worth it, both for the first responder and their employer. Participants learn how to optimize their effectiveness as part of an incident management team with instruction from experienced coaches and relevant scenario-based training. Equipped with the skills they need to plan for and actively manage complex incidents, CIMC alumni can more safely and successfully perform their duties.”

“Hosting CIMC is a monumental task, requiring detailed long-range planning and coordination from coaches and experts with diverse skill sets from all over the country,” said Rick Dolan, CIMC Steering Committee chair and Florida Forest Service incident commander. “We are proud to offer CIMC once again, while providing for stringent safety protocols, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital that we continue to successfully mentor and ready new trainees to respond to an ever-increasing demand for complex incident response personnel.”

Trainees certified through CIMC are now qualified to serve under the major functional areas needed to successfully manage complex incidents. These positions include Incident Commanders, Planning Section Chiefs, Operations Section Chiefs, Finance Section Chiefs, Logistical Section Chiefs, Public Information Officers, Liaison Officers and Safety Officers. Since its inception, the CIMC program has trained 134 Type-1 IMTs that have deployed personnel to some of the nation’s most historic and catastrophic events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, major hurricanes including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Michael, ongoing COVID-19 response and recent mega-wildfires in the West, such as the Dixie Fire which has alone burned close to 1 million acres in California this year.

“Everyone recognizes wildfires in the West are a huge challenge, but limitations in firefighter and incident management team capacity to manage these wildfires is a national issue,” said George Geissler, NASF Wildland Fire Committee chair and Washington state forester. “At a time when our fire years are becoming more demanding and complex, we must commit ourselves to building wildland firefighter capacity nationwide. CIMC is one of the tools state foresters rely on to prepare their wildland firefighters for especially taxing and dangerous fire years. Each course, no matter what region it is held in, provides an opportunity for first responders from across the country to share their insights and expand their abilities.”

In the South, state forestry agencies maintain seven Type-1 and Type-2 state IMTs, while another 120 state forestry employees serve on four Southern Area interagency IMTs. During the 2021 western wildfire season, the Southern Region deployed more than 2,200 overhead incident personnel to wildfires out West.

“The South is a national leader in wildfire and emergency response,” said Rob Farrell, Southern Group of State Foresters chair and Virginia state forester. “Providing state forestry staff with cutting-edge training opportunities like CIMC, in coordination with our national partners, is critical to ensure that the wildland firefighting community is ready to respond seamlessly to protect people, homes, and natural resources both at home in the South and abroad.”

To learn more about CIMC and view photos from this year’s course, visit the Southern Group of State Foresters’ photo blog and visit NASF’s CIMC webpage.

Media Contact: Chelsea Ealum, communications director for the Southern Group of State Foresters, at chelsea.ealum@southernforests.org