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Communities across the United States have been responding to and/or preparing for emergencies forever. Long before the end of the Cold War, Americans have been faced with peril and catastrophe. The twentieth century heralded an even higher impact on our need to prepare and train for large scale emergencies or disasters. Beginning on September 11, 2001 and reasserted during Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma and Maria the need to ensure our communities are prepared is one of our most important collective missions.

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Having worked in a variety of settings, both public and private throughout my career and having taken a myriad of classes on the topic, the one thing that continues to resonate is when someone asks me “how do I implement the Incident Command System (ICS) in my organization”? and my answer is “have you ever heard of the Planning “P””?

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The case forcibly illustrates the peril of using v for critical (jj purposes without controlling it by (B N In (5 L also the. Shorter text is the result of a simple homccoteleuton, the scribe having skipped 20 from TO x^veuTov i to T O X^veuTov 2, as the other representatives of this version (ACsBsLpYnSHfiC) attest.

I first learned of ICS while working for a local fire department in the mid-90’s. This included the history of ICS and it originating in Southern California in the 1970’s through an organization known as Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies otherwise known as FIRESCOPE. My next exposure to ICS was via the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) which had been adapted to work in a healthcare setting but uses many of the same foundational elements of the original version of ICS. As an instructor myself, I always returned to the Planning “P” as the foundation for ICS and how you manage an emergency. I even developed a custom Planning “P” course that could be adjusted for four, eight or sixteen hours and could be applied in any arena, public or private because it seemed to be the easiest way to explain ICS at its foundational level.

My next assignment was as an emergency manager for a utility. When I arrived at that post it was a new opportunity to take ICS and mold and adapt it for the utility sector. Many of the principles were the same and by combining plain vanilla ICS with HICS and a few other ingredients the utility version of ICS continued to unfold. But again the foundation for implementation always came back to the Planning “P”. Although I have reworked the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) I300 and I400 courses specifically for the energy and other utility industries (electric, natural gas, water, telecommunications, gas & oil) the basic class that is requested the most is the custom Planning “P course.

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While immersed in my own education of ICS I was very fortunate to take a six day All Hazard Incident Management Team (AHIMT) course from Organizational Quality Associates (OQA). I learned more in those six days than any other course on ICS that I had taken in the past. I returned home with the proverbial classroom accoutrements (my student notebook) but so much more than that, a stack of handwritten notes pertaining to what else? The Planning “P” of course!

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As I tried to make sense of all of my notes I became frustrated that there wasn’t just one sheet of paper that told you everything you really needed to know about the Planning “P” process and how if you master that one sheet of paper you can use it to manage just about any incident you might face. It was an epiphany to say the least. I began searching for the origin of the Planning “P” and discovered the U.S. Coast Guard materials that began to pull all of the information into a more consolidated version (see the black and white “P” illustrated in the box above). I worked all weekend putting the many pages of notes together into a single sheet with a “U” around the outside of the original Planning “P” and aligning the colors of the “U” and the “P” so that you could follow them from start to finish for a single operational period to develop an Incident Action Plan (IAP). The Easter egg colors were a match to the colors in the regional logo of the workgroup I served at the time. It took many hours to recreate the “P” itself in a document because of all of the curves in it and my lack of graphic arts knowledge. But over the course of the weekend I was able to create a single sheet teaching aid for the custom Planning “P” course that could be used as a handout. From those classes the Easter egg colored “P” ended up on the Internet and the rest is history.

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I have since modified the “P” so it could be used at each place I worked and I would be able to tell when I saw it, which version it was. The blues and greens were used during my utility days and the golds and browns now match my company logo and website. As I continue to teach the custom Planning “P” course I learn many things along the way from the students but it astounds me that the Planning “P” stands the test of time and that rarely does it need to be updated or changed.

If you are interested in learning more about the Incident Command System (ICS) or the Planning “P”, need help tailoring classes for your organization or are new to implementing or designing ICS for your industry or organization please reach out to me at [email protected] . I would love to hear about how you are implementing ICS and using the “P” to teach people about this amazing system.

Ann Steeves is the CEO of HC-EMI, LLC and has over 25 years of experience in business continuity and emergency management. Ann is a Master Business Continuity Professional and a Master Exercise Practitioner. Ann is also an Associate of Organizational Quality Associates (OQA) and enjoys agate hunting, reading and researching topics that contribute to readiness and preparedness.

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