The five P’s were drilled into me at an early age by my father repeating, “anticipate” over and over again at age nine! As a first responder, I recognize how his values? (his something) has worked its way into my profession. It is even more valuable to have the P’s resolved and “anticipating” by being prepared to respond to critical incidents by continuing to train with current and relevant information.
The value of preparedness was proven recently during my response to the Dixie Fire as part of a Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Agreement in Northern California. It was an honor to be working with my brothers and sisters from agencies within my county and locals in Plumas County. My day began at 0300 and ended at 2000 hours while working side by side with my entire team; it again reminded me of the need to be fully prepared at a moment’s notice for myself and others, as good leaders are always prepared.
As soon as official word of the assignment was received twelve hours before responding to the fire, it was important for me to take care of my brothers and sisters responding with me. I immediately started my own preparation for myself and the team by stocking up on supplies from Costco, including snacks, soda, and water. I needed to reassure everyone that I was going to take care of them over the course of four days. The supplies I was providing would supplement what was available to us and could help locals who might need them.
In the morning, at zero dark hours, I met with the supervisors working with me. It became apparent that both were highly intelligent, resourceful, friendly, and willing to work side by side to protect our team. I did not know either of them very well; however, I was impressed by their organization at a time that was way too early for me without coffee.
When I found my team, some had slept a few hours, and others had been up all night. After quickly sizing up my entire team and receiving a briefing, we began the five-hour drive to our destination. Almost immediately, while driving my team to the incident, my phone began to ring with text messages, phone calls, and questions. Not having answers to practically all of the inquiries resulted in the question “now what.” These types of situations are where having training in Emotional Intelligence, Assertive Supervision, Situational Awareness, and UAS/Drone operations pays off, providing a feeling of a prepared response (or feeling of preparedness responding) to the largest fire in California history.
It is essential to have a stockpile of the basic necessities, including; toilet paper, medications, a pillow, sleeping bag, soap, shampoo, and US currency prior to any deployment; however, it is even more important when you are unsure of what you are walking into at an event like the Dixie Fire. Arriving at the incident, we found that most of the locations wanted US currency only. It is always important to make sure you have the ability to purchase the basics you might need when deployed. The early light of the sunrise allowed the vision of an inferno from our vantage point with winds swirling in all directions and the need to close access points to enable the Fire Departments to position resources. Our assistance was helped by a steady supply of food, water and Red Bull.
We found the (citizens)people in the area to be very proud to support law enforcement; in most places, including the evacuation zones, American flags flew side by side with the Thin Blue Line flag throughout the communities. The organization demonstrated by the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department was spot on, including logistics, communication, and most importantly, food for the troops.
Several locals invited us into their businesses and provided us with extra food. One of our team members, previously evacuated during the CZU fire, delivered hose bibs to tie together water lines throughout Taylorsville, California, in an attempt to save the downtown area. This action and his ability to work through such an incident was an impressive display of his Emotional Intelligence that carried over when dealing with locals, the team, and even myself every chance he had. He made us feel like a family and not just members of an assigned team.
Our assigned location did not allow for UAS/Drone deployments because of air operations by Cal-Fire. However, we were provided with Situational Awareness throughout the deployment . Our deployment time lasted over four days; however, it seemed a lot faster. The citizens in the community are amazing, supportive, and (genuinely instead of truly?) truly just great people!
The return home from Plumas County began at 0300 hours with the waking, cleaning, packing, organizing, eating, and hydration needed for the return trip. (Some of the team members had the precious tasks of others on fixed post at 0400 hours.) Among the precious tasks was the response by some of the team to relieve others on fixed post at 0400 hours. To ensure everyone’s safety, we worked out a system providing our night shift members with the chance to sleep prior to the 5-hour drive to our stations followed by a drive to our homes..
Any leader must identify triggers for stress, ensure wellness, and consider the safety of the team to make sure they all get home. As leaders, our understanding of Emotional Intelligence and preparation allowed us to check in with the teams to ensure they had enough sleep and were ready to safely drive the long distance home.(or ready to drive the long distance home safely) This check revealed glassy-eyed people who were not driving and the Red Bull drinking team of people who were driving (myself included).
During this time period, the thought of these deployed team members possibly needing a debriefing upon returning surfaced due to several of them facing evacuation in the previous year as a result of the CZU Fire in San Mateo/Santa Cruz counties. It would be necessary to check the availability of our County CISM team complete these debriefs.
I personally would rewrite the previous two paragraphs into one they almost say the same thing several times.
Any leader must utilize their understanding of Emotional Intelligence and preparedness to identify triggers for stress, ensure wellness, and consider the safety of the team to make sure they all get home safely after a deployment. The return home from Plumas County began at 0300 hours with the waking, cleaning, packing, organizing, eating, and hydration needed for the return trip. Some of my team members had the precious task of relieving others on fixed posts at 0400 hours and needed to be rested to perform their duties. To ensure everyone’s safety, we worked out a system to provide our night shift members the chance to sleep prior to the 5-hour drive to our stations, followed by a drive to our homes or their shift at the fixed posts. As leaders, it was our duty to perform safety checks prior to the return drive to our counties; these checks revealed glassy eyed people who were not driving and the Red Bull drinking team of people who were driving (myself included).
During this time period the thought of these deployed team members possibly needing a debriefing upon returning surfaced due to several of them facing evacuation in the previous year as a result of the CZU Fire in San Mateo/Santa Cruz counties. It would be necessary to check the availability of our County CISM team to complete these debriefs.
Please remember that any response to a critical incident or event can be a chance to work together for ourselves, our communities, and each other to make the world a better place. We can all use some grace right now and someone to check in to make sure you are okay. We always offer ourselves as a safe place for you to let us know what you might need. We understand the stress you are under and how important it is to have allies willing to support you at all times. Finally remember your P’s!
Take care of your team and yourself, Bill
21 CLTES, LLC-Founder and President