CFS Press

      Based on his extensive experience as a swiftwater rescue instructor and incident commander,
      Battalion Chief Tim Rogers of the Charlotte Fire Department suggests the following way
      to remember the essentials of planning and for flood operations:

    Tempo: Some Thoughts on Flood Management

Training—What level of training does your problem and problem phases demand? There is no sense training to a higher level than you need. Base this on your anticipated response, but allow for the "out of the box" event. If you plan for the 100 year event and get a 500 year event, you are in trouble.

Remember that each new high-tech component, (boats, helicopters, computers, mapping systems) adds a new series of training requirements as well.

Who needs to be trained? To what level? As a general rule, anyone from any agency who will be in the field (and this includes law enforcement, transportation workers, storm water personnel, and utility workers) needs at least awareness level training for moving water safety. Emergency mangers and dispatchers need to be trained in moving water ICS and flood issues. Often, they are not. Many emergency managers have had little or no experience handling a large, complex event and need to be trained for it.

Once you have done the initial training, how will you maintain proficiency?

Equipment—What equipment do you need to do the job based on your analysis? Will it work when wet and in the dark? Are we really trained to operate it? Is it a toy or a tool? Can I repair it in the field? Can I decon it? Does everyone have a PFD available to them? Can we use different color PFDs to identify different functions? Do we have enough for both rescuers and victims? Do we have the right sizes for everyone? The list is endless and I have not even mentioned the battery issues.

Management—Some essentials are:

  • a working knowledge of ICS by all agencies who will be involved (does a utility worker really know what staging is?).

  • an existing public education and flood awareness program for all people who speak various languages.

  • a strong working relationship with media and other agencies such as National Weather Service, USGS, Army Corps of Engineers, etc.

  • a consolidated mapping system that is simple to understand, will work without power, and will be usable when wet.

  • communication systems that will ultimately allow all agencies to exchange information; radios that work when wet.

  • the development of current SOG's and/or all hazard plans.

  • the identification and typing of resources that are local internal, local external, regional, and national. Where can we get help when we need it?

Unfortunately, many emergency managers at the county and state levels spend most of their time planning and little as incident commanders and operations managers. Many times they will be hurled into the middle of an event in one of these roles because their name appears on some document.

Personnel—What are their existing capabilities and once my people are exhausted, where do I get more that are just as trained based on the needs of the analysis? Don't forget to identify replacement workers and replacement managers (35% of the personnel who are members of my department can't swim well enough to save themselves in a pool. I don't get to pick who is working the next flood. The challenge is to train them to fit in somehow and be safe at it.).

Operations—Choose/go to the proper tactic to get the job(s) done. The size-up helps you to choose the one that is most likely to work. As always, choose the fastest, lowest-risk alternative. This usually also means the simplest and lowest-tech one.

My experience has been that once the event starts, the planning function/office of any incident command system is the most crucial, because we have to somehow stay one step ahead of the flood. The essential questions that must be asked in order to determine the appropriate response is determined by the words SEA DEPTH.

SEA DEPTH = Situation, Egress, Access, Development, Existing rainfall, Predicted rainfall, Topography


Determine the mode of operation or strategy.

Alert Status = Notify/advise and prepare personnel and equipment
Investigate/Intelligence-gathering Status = Predeployment of resources. Go to flood prone areas/road closures.
Emergency Response = Evacuation? Rescue? Search and Rescue? Recovery? Search and Recovery?

If in Emergency Response Mode then choose STRATEGIC MODE: Locate, Access, Stabilize, or Transport.

Once the Strategic Mode is determined then do a SIZE

Time and Temperature
Energy and Equipment
Movement and Measurement
Pre-Plan and Personnel

Once SIZE-UP is completed then determine TACTICS: Talk, Reach, Throw, Row, Go/Tow, Helo

If my teams go in, can they come out? Is the public losing egress because of rising water?

Do I still have access to the problem or am I losing it? Lose access, you lose egress. Pre

How developed is the area that I am responding to? What is the population and how has the development affected water run

What is already on the ground and historically, how much rain and how long does it take for a flood to develop? (One inch of rainfall per one square mile produces over 17,000,000 gallons of water.) Is the ground already saturated from previous rainfall?

More means everything is impacted. Beware of flood phase changes.

This can determine water speed, how fast the event will develop, and in some cases, how long the event will last. Do not confuse topography issues with development issues, although they significantly affect each other.

Have all potential and existing hazards been clearly identified and communicated? Storm water management systems change all of the rules as well as flooding in light and heavy industrial areas.

Remember, FLOODS BY THEIR VERY NATURE ARE HAZMAT/PUBLIC HEALTH EVENTS. Can you DECON evacuees prior to sheltering?

That's a lot to remember, isn't it? Yet all of these factors have to be considered for even a small flood.

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