Joe Telles - Operations Section Chief

In June, I went to the EMSA CAL-MAT FTX at Moffet Field with many of you to participate in the realistic training exercise. It was my first opportunity to work with our team members in my new Ops Chief role and out of my past Logistics role. Wow! I was impressed! Your professionalism, skill level, dedication, and work ethic showed from the beginning of FTX until the end of the FTX.

Part of professionalism is using safe working practices. In an environment where there were plenty of tripping hazards and lighting challenges, you performed well. In an exercise where everybody was expected to do logistic work that required lifting heavy objects, you lifted using proper lifting techniques and using the one-person-per-handle rule. In the medical tents you handled sharps appropriately, kept ailes and beds accessible, and kept work spaces clean and organized. Our Safety Officers, including our own Brian Sherin, did a good job in identifying safety hazards then having them mitigated.

Another part of professionalism is being a supportive team member. All of you communicated well with one another, especially in the provision of medical care and the sharing of resources. It was obvious that you all kept an eye out for one another throughout the exercise, reminding each another to eat and hydrate, assisting one another whenever possible, and treating everyone with respect.

The wow factor really came into play when the patients started coming into the tents. Your skills as medical providers really showed as you handled the various simulated crush injuries, respiratory challenges, amputations, pregnancies, and even the various injuries to our canine friends. Your compassion for your patients also showed as you handled patients that suffered psychological trauma. Not only were the skills of our medical providers on display; the skills of our logistic and communication folks were also shown in the setup of tents, lighting, IT equipment, generators, EMR system, radio channels, satellite access, and the provision of food, water, and toilets.

One example of your work ethic and commitment was on Thursday during a down period when a large group of you decided to go on a fitness walk together. You all checked out using the T-card system, went on your walk, and then all checked back in using the T-card system. What was impressive was that all of you had participated in the fitness walk test the previous day. You not only showed a commitment to our fitness program you set an example for our fellow disaster workers that did not go unnoticed.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the strong leadership in our Commander Dave Lipin (stepping back into a Plans role) and our Deputy Commander Andy Swartzell (in the role of Team Leader). We are fortunate to have such competent leaders. I also want to compliment the leadership of EMSA and the Sacramento team members. EMSA needs to be recognized for their commitment to providing the citizens of California disaster services. Now to lessons learned.

As in all emergency and training events there are lessons to be learned. Upon review, the following lessons were learned from the FTX exercise:

1) Once we are in deployment mode or in a deployment scenario, accountability is of the utmost importance! Somebody needs to know where you are at all times. If someone disappears or is unaccounted for, that person's welfare becomes a top priority of the incident. Valuable resources and time will be expended to find you, reducing our capability to carry out our mission. It is a natural tendency to find a private, quiet area to be alone in if you are not feeling well. That tendency is not appropriate when you are on deployment. Once you check into an incident you need to tell someone what you are doing, even if it is going to the bathroom. When you leave an incident, you need to go through the check out process.

2) Be adaptable. All roles are important on an incident. Being in the Green Tent is just as important as being in the Red Tent, Yellow Tent, or Triage area.

3) Practice ICS. ICS was developed in California in the 1970's to handle the management of wildfires. It is now used by the Federal government in the form of NIMS. There are 14 key principles of ICS. One of those principles is "Unity of Command". Each individual involved in incident operations will be assigned to only one supervisor. This means when we are in emergency operations you ask your direct supervisor if you need something or need direction. We are lucky to have leadership that is very accessible and friendly especially in non-emergency environments. In emergency environments though, that accessibility is now limited to your immediate supervisor unless directed by your supervisor to contact someone out of your chain of command.

In conclusion, this is a training events where I witnessed a constant improvement from the beginning of the event to its end. Usually performance and quality of work will level off or even start to decline as a deployment lengthens in time. It is a credit to all of you that participated that this did not happen. All of you paced yourselves and conserved your energy appropriately so that when the FTX concluded I had the impression that there was still plenty in the tank for each of you to keep going and performing at an optimal level. Strong work! It was a pleasure to work with each one of you.

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