The Inside Story of The AHIMTA
We branch out much more than just the incident management team itself because of everything that we touch. We are often working very closely with FEMA as subject matter experts on, you know, the NIMS refresh. We were very much involved, different initiatives both within the national wildland coordination group and with, FEMA on the progressiveness of where they’re going with their doctrines.
Todd DeVoe: Hey, welcome to EM Weekly and this is your host Todd DeVoe speaking. And this week we’re talking to Randy Collins from the All Hazards Incident Management Teams Association. And it’s kind of a cool concept. that was started by Randy and a few other people a few years ago taking a look at the all hazards incident management team put together regarding what standards or should be and some training and stuff like this. Randy, who became the first president of the organization, he’s also, the CEO, has been there since the beginning and a few other people from all over the country are part of this organization. The cool part about this is Randy and his team, they go around and they fight for what all hazards incident management team should really look like and setting goals, objectives, and setting the standards for, for what this is. And there are a 501 (c) 3
We will learn more about them here in a little bit when that, when Randy comes on and talk about, his program. But I’m really excited to have him here today. And the cool part about it is we actually ran into each other, the CESA conference, the California Emergency Services Association conference in Palm Springs, California will actually, it’s Indian Wells, California, and it was a really great conference. I got to sit down and talk and have a conversation really about what this organization is and what they’re doing for emergency management. And Randy has a really cool background and we’ll let him tell that part of the story.
Before we get into the interview, I’d like to invite you guys to join the conversations that we’re having on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all that social media stuff on LinkedIn as well. I think that having those conversations, joining groups, joining organizations like we’re going to talk about today with Randy, it was really important for us to provide a good background of emergency management, crossed all spectrums and also to really progress what emergency management really is, in the United States some of the conversation that we got into also talks about how we want to professionalize emergency management.
And if you’ve been listening to the show at all, you’ll know that that’s one of my key points here is to make emergency management stand alone profession that people want to grow up to be, you know, not that they fall into it like I did or that the, uh, found out the career’s over some other job and decided that they wanted to do emergency management. We want the space to be full of emergency managers. So let’s get into the interview.
I have Randy Collins here with me and I’m excited to be talking about the All Hazards Incident Management Teams Association. So it’s teams with the plural and it’s kind of cool to see. Imt is a, is what we’re doing now. It’s really easy to deploy these organizations that are together, if you’ve ever worked in major incident, it worked with large scale IMTs, especially like wildfires and things like this. So those of us on the west coast are really familiar with it. I know it’s a fairly newer concept for people on the east coast, but we want to get into what this all about. So Randy, welcome to EM Weekly.
Randy Collins: Thanks Todd, it is A pleasure to be here today having a good time here at the CESA conference and a pleasure to meet you this weekend. happy to be here.
Todd DeVoe: Same here. So tell me how did you get involved in emergency management?
Randy Collins: So I got involved with emergency management by coming out of the Marine Corps and wanting a job as a police officer and I was a police officer for a couple of years in a small town south west of Indianapolis called Morrisville. And after doing that for a couple of years solid. A Job as the state emergency operations center manager for the, at the then what was called the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency opened and I took that job and an unknowing really about what emergency management was, but I’m way better emergency manager than I ever would have been a cop as have much more strategic view on, on things than more that detailed tactical perspective. So, and I think the Marines kind of really honed that in on me. But what was really, what I really found cool was I’m a second generation, I didn’t know at the time, but my grandfather worked for the civil defense.
Todd DeVoe: Oh cool.
Randy Collins: And was a civil engineer with the civil defense in Indiana. And actually upon my grandmother’s passing, as we were cleaning out some property and my grandmother’s home, I found a paper of my grandfather’s that was of the 1974 tornado outbreak and had some scratches all over it. Notes and things like that. And had the phone number to the EOC, which was my phone number. That still my phone number.
Todd DeVoe: That’s crazy.
Randy Collins: That four digits anyway, the prefixes had changed at the time, but uh, over the years. But, so I had this familial connection as well, so it, it’s a discipline that has really chosen me versus me choosing it and I just kind of stumbled into it not knowing what it was all about.
Todd DeVoe: That has to be the best story I’ve ever heard about the career paths over to emergency management.
Randy Collins: Yeah. I love emergency management. I love the, the way that, you know, the approach that emergency managers have in terms of getting different people together to solve problems. And I really think it, although very well the right strategy to use for disasters, but also just such a good problem solving tool to deal with any type of social problem that that may come about. And so emergency managers should run the world
Todd DeVoe: I will make that declaration today and it’s going to happen to make it. So! Your background education wise is an org management, right?
Randy Collins: Well I got my bachelor’s degree in law enforcement a little bit while I was in the Marine Corps and then finished when I got out. And as I was a police officer and then here recently starting in 2015, I completed my master of leadership from the University of Southern California and went straight into a doctorate program and organizational change in leadership.
Todd DeVoe: So. Okay, I, that’s ask this question here from Indiana and Notre Dame is for Indiana. Sure. And now your SC.
Randy Collins: I am totally SC fight on all the way.
Todd DeVoe: Oh poor for Indiana. Sorry guys, last one. Oh Man. Okay. So that’s cool. So that’s awesome. So you’re going through the PHD program or the Edd? It’s an educational doctorate. Yeah. That’s awesome. So higher education is great. And so you’re moving forward with this. So you know a lot about leadership principles, a lot about Drucker and Max Weber and all those guys.
Randy Collins: Absolutely. I love, I love studying leadership was something that you know, Kinda got instilled with me in the Marine Corps and I’ve just continued to, you know, that’s what I have always read outside of emergency management was leadership books, a lot of John Maxwell, things like that. And so it’s just really stuck with me and really wanted to get into that. And that’s why I chose that. A University of Southern California ,
Todd DeVoe: I think that’s a good degree. Again, any, any kind of leadership degree I think is, is a good degree for somebody coming into emergency management who doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to go to a traditional EM program. Like I tell people this all the time has that my students that I have now that are thinking about doing like cj or fire administration degrees, I really try to push them into like a public administration degree or to a leadership degree because I think those are really well rounded. And for those of us that have emergency management, I think that’s a critical thing to have. Is that thinking outside of structures what it is. And it’s really built upon what we do. So I think it’s a really well fit.
Randy Collins: It’s, it’s an amazing fit. I couldn’t even… you know, they didn’t have a lot of emergency management degrees when I started my bachelor’s degree in 1998 into 2000 and, and after 9/11 is when it really boomed, you know? So I was still on a track to do a law enforcement career too, so I got law enforcement is at least somehow applicable to public safety. But then when I really wanted to look into doing my advanced degree, you know, I kind of consider do I want to do an emergency management or homeland security degree background, but I, I really decided, well no, I’ve got a really great career in emergency management. What would enhance my resume more is something that diversifies me more and then going into the leadership has been an amazing experience. I think it has increased my ability as an emergency manager tenfold because your ability to influence and Thomas Drabek if you’re familiar with him and he’s very prominent about being emergency managers, being a change, a change agent and if you are an emergency management, you need to be changing your community and to do that you have to have some influence and know how to read people, know what kind of things are going to get you further and cause change in your community. And I think that’s huge for emergency managers to be leaders as well.
Todd DeVoe: Yeah, I agree a hundred percent. So we got you here today talking about the All Hazards Incident Management Teams Association. Tell us a little bit about that organization.
Randy Collins: Yeah, this is a great organization. I got involved right at the outset and in a company called incident management training consortium. Started having some incident management symposiums starting in 2008 and growing out of that symposiums was a grassroots movement to form an organization. So by 2010, one of our board members was also one of the founders filed the paperwork and they incorporated in, in Colorado in 2010 and they selected an inaugural board of directors at that particular conference in Denver and, and I was one of the ones chosen. So I’ve been honored to be on the board since 2010 and had been the president and CEO since 2012. And the association was formed with the intent on building out our incident management teams and, and really, spreading the word about how the use of teams during incident management is so much better than just the initial formation of an ICS organization, which is absolutely vital.
I don’t mean to diminish that at all, but once you get into a point where you know you’re into a multi operational incident that’s going to go on for days, if not weeks or months and has all kinds of incidents, complexities, it’s really good to bring in a team that really knows their positions and knows how to work within the system and work with one another. Just like any professional team, any NBA or NFL team works together and so then to have teams that are applicable across the board, whether it’s a flood, hurricane or snow storm, whatever it is, being able to use these teams was obviously a force multiplier for any jurisdiction to build a team that can deal with the diversity of the hazards that they have to deal with.
Todd DeVoe: Yeah. It’s interesting because with Florence coming through FEMA early on requested teams IMTs and from cal OES, for those who don’t know, I’m in California and they put it on the word they’re looking for. They were looking for teams of teams of four a that had IMT three level training and they’re sending them together out to I think it was North Carolina who is requesting, them, as teams and I actually had a conversation with somebody, the message came through a little, not quite that way and I was talking to her a Cal OES. and She’s like, no, we’re looking for jurisdictions to sending their team out. I was like, that’s a really kind of a cool concept. Number one, they’re working together. They know each other. Number two now they’re actually getting other experience outside the of their area of operation and to be able to help other areas of the country, you know. And I thought that was really kind of a neat way of doing it. Is this kind of what you guys envisioned with your organization?
Randy Collins: We definitely support that mission 100 percent. And that’s a little bit how I got involved with it. My job at that time in 2010 was I was working for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and one of my jobs was developing what we call our district response task forces. And in those task forces included a type three incident management team. And so we were very successful at establishing 11 teams within Indiana and so I got some name recognition there and that’s how I got selected for the board for AHIMTA. But in that vein, we used our teams in Indiana to deploy not only in state, so the teams were, designed there to deploy obviously within their region and support incidents that happen within their regions within the state. And then we can also deploy them across the state. So when we had a tornado outbreak in 2012, we used a good portion of our 11 teams down in that Tornado outbreak in the southeast portion of the state.
And then later in 2012 we had hurricane sandy and we had, well actually four different teams deploy to different jurisdictions on the east coast. Three of them actually ended up merging together and going to support New York in Long Beach, New York and helping out there. So that’s. And to your point, that gave us an opportunity to get these incident managers, two different incidents that gave them operational experience and they bring that back to the state. And that makes them much, much more proficient at disaster response in their own backyards. So that’s been an excellent thing. And so with AHIMTA, one of the things that we do is work with NIMA and the emergency management assistance compact process to try to facilitate things that are, make it easier for incident management teams to get deployed. So our association help NIMA come up with a mission ready package of what an incident management team should look like, what position should be included on, on just your standard IMT request and what the qualifications of that and what equipment should go along with those teams. So we’re very much about trying to support getting teams to disasters wherever they may be.
Todd DeVoe: So how would somebody become part of this association?
Randy Collins: It’s really easy if you’re involved in incident management teams are just wanting to know more or want to be a part of our association. You just go to www.ahImta.org and there’s a sign up, a procedure, they’re right on the website, become a member today. And it’s we, we. Because it’s a grassroots movement, we’ve tried over our eight year history now to keep the fees very low. It’s a $50 membership fee. It’s very cheap compared to other emergency management associations and professional association. So we , we really strive to keep that price low for our members.
Todd DeVoe: Now, do you have to have at least a level three training to become one or do you, can you join here and then get training? How does that work?
Randy Collins: Yeah, you can join at any time and we want as many people that want to become members. Obviously the number of our members lends to the strength of our association and you don’t have to be on a team, you don’t have to be credentialed in any way. A lot of our members obviously are because they’re are very much interested in IMTs, but we also have other members that are just involved in the space. Maybe they teach ICS or maybe they are involved with a deployment and EMAC deployments and things like that. So we branch out much more than just the incident team itself because of everything that we touch. We are often working very closely with fema as subject matter experts on the NIMS refresh. We were very much involved, different initiatives both within the national wildland coordination group and with with FEMA on the progressiveness of where they’re going with their doctrines.
Todd DeVoe: You guys are associated with teams that are working in the wild land areas and also in the urban settings as well. Right?
Randy Collins: Absolutely. We were all hazards and wildfire is an all hazards. Um, and that’s been a, not a point of contention, but a really murky area because I really think that originally the all hazards terms term came out trying to differentiate it from wildland and, and because we already had wildland and teams and so all hazard teams meant everything but wildland at that time, you know, and then, and then over the years it’s Kinda gotten murky as to what really all hazards means and, and that sort of thing. And then wildland already has a very proficient qualification system, so they were very protective about making sure that all hazard incident management team members that wanted to participate in the wildland world are competent and that sort of thing. So that’s been an area that we’ve spent a lot of time working on and, but what we’re seeing though is number one, the, the blending now, now, many of the position specific training is universally accepted, whether it’s NWCG or on the hazard side, it’s all the position specific training that is done through EMT with the, with the exception of some very key operational positions, such a strike team leader or the Div Group Supe training or incident commander training or whatever.
There’s about four of them that aren’t accepted by NWCG. They still maintain their, their own course there. But what we’re also seeing though is as we’ve gotten into some pretty significant wildland fire seasons in the past several years is the teams are getting shallow. The wild-land teams are getting shallow. So they’ve started really utilizing and reaching out to all hazard teams to do more non operational roles such as managing logistical staging areas or mobilization sites. so that’s, that’s been exciting for us because now all of a sudden we’re starting to see this blend of teams and so many people working together. So our membership has a lot of wildland, fire qualified people in our, in our membership as well as traditional all hazards. People that maybe live where I’m from, Indiana, not a big wild land fire state, but now you see a lot of our all hazard people in Indiana going out on wildland fires and because they, have now been exposed and want to get more proficient in their area. And that’s just one there. One more area that can, they can benefit from,
Todd DeVoe: you know, I worked on two pretty significant fires here and I was at the command post when the incident command team over there. And there are a lot of jobs that you do over at the ICP area that has nothing to do with being on the fire line for sure. You know. And, and so, and you need to be a qualified emergency manager to really understand what’s going on over there. Um, being able to interact with the chiefs, make decisions, knowing what sections are doing what, and being part of the whole brief unit. It’s a lot of work. I mean I was on, I was out there for, I think it was like 18 days straight on one fire. The next one was like another seven days straight and a different fire and it’s a lot of work. So, you know, so I, I see what you’re saying, how you can actually get those all hands for teams and have them coordinate inside. They’re doing stuff like logistics to stuff like staging manager, you know, those types of donations management on one section, you know, that type of thing. That’s kind of cool. As a member, if you decide to join this organization, what do you get out of it?
Randy Collins: So because we are a no frills organization at $50 a member, um, we don’t have a lot of individual membership benefits per se in terms of we don’t offer insurance or discounts or things like you see in some other professional organizations. Most of our members are just die hard about the mission and so what their return on investment is the inroads that we’ve made with NWCG and accepting different task books or getting people entered into a raw systems and getting people accepting the Ross system because we’re advocates in that area or influence and an ability to influence FEMA and other stakeholders and NEMA and EMAC in regards to things that make sense for incident management teams. So some of the things that, you know, some of the great things that you see in the new national qualification system, that’s because we’ve had some direct input there.
So. And so what our money goes to is funding our travel to different meetings that those decisions are being made and that sort of thing. So, and then of course we have our annual symposium, which we hope everybody comes to this year. It’s going to be in Hilton head, December fourth, fifth, and sixth, 2018, so hope to see all of you there, but you get a discount being a member of $50, $50 discount, so you’re making your money right there. So it’s perfect. Uh, yeah. So if you make your member, you’re getting a discount off the registration. So that’s a good enough benefit right there. Yeah, absolutely. But generally it’s because our members just believe in the mission and it’s not a lot of money and they just want to see incident management teams proliferate. Yeah, that’s true.
Todd DeVoe: I’m sure you get some sort of network and opportunities as well associated with that too. So that’s also important.
Randy Collins: Huge network. As a matter of fact, I went to Hurricane Harvey in Texas where the State of Texas for service requested AHIMTA to come in and help develop a report as to how they use the incident management teams during that time since we were at preparedness level five on the, on the wildland side, and there weren’t IMT s is available on the wildlands side. It was a very unique situation. So I got to go down there and one of the, one of the things we really realized is that networking that went on in the teams that came in, the all hazard teams that came in, they knew each other because they had all been to the conferences together and had been in a and have really developed relationships over time. And that’s a huge piece of that. So yeah, the, the networking is invaluable at the conference. And being a member really connects. It’s, it’s amazing to me when I go through my news, my social media feeds and there’s, there’s probably not a disaster going on that I don’t have some sort of connection to, you know, a member or a friend or a colleague that they’re out there doing these disasters wherever it may be across the country because that network is so broad and across the country,
Todd DeVoe: you know, the old saying is you never want to change business cards at the back of the trunk of a car. You want to do it over coffee. You know. And I think something like this, an organization like that gives you that opportunity to be exchanging business cards over coffee
Randy Collins: for sure. For sure.
Todd DeVoe: If somebody was looking to get a hold of, you know, how could they find, you
Randy Collins: can certainly email me at rcollins@AHIMTA.org where you can go to our website at the same website address and you can click on contact us or go to the board of directors and you find my contact information there as well.
Todd DeVoe: And so like I always say, if you’re driving down the road, that’s going to be in the show notes. If your pencils not sharp, don’t worry about it. You guys go over to emweekly.com. Go ahead and click on the shows down there or whatever listening organization that you’re listening to, itunes, stitcher, whatever you got on. And there’ll be in the shadow which was there as well. So don’t fret if that’s what the problem is. We’re coming here close to the end. I’ve got a couple more questions for you. Okay. So this is going to be the hardest one. Okay. What Book , Books, or publications do you recommend to somebody involved in emergency management?
Randy Collins: Oh my goodness. So on number one, I am at Thomas Drabekk fan, professor emeritus at the University of Denver. But I go, I go old school. So his first book, his first research book was called Disaster at Aisle 13 and it’s about the Colosseum explosion in Indianapolis in 1963. And you can read that book and you would think we’ve not learned a thing in terms of disaster response. Not good news, but it’s a great read and uh, in a really makes you go, oh my gosh, you know, we’ve, we’ve, uh, there’s so many lessons learned in the past that we can still apply today. And he’s also got his, his newest book, the Human Side of Disaster that I would also encourage people to read. And then anything John Boyd and John Boyd never really came out with his own book. But you can read his biography written by Robert Cochran “Boyd” …think it’s called Boyd. Something about the fire to pilot, but an autobiography, John Boyd, and that’s a great one. And then one of his proteges chat richards, he wrote certain to win and it’s all about Boyd’s theories as well. So, uh, I mean huge theorist in John Boyd and talks about his Ooda loop and decision making thought process and how to apply it in different ways. So I would,
Todd DeVoe: you know, what’s interesting about boyd is that Ooda loop is, but he remembers him by, but that’s just like really one of the simple things that he talked about was a very small fraction of what he really gets into. He was an amazing person.
Randy Collins: Yeah. I mean is maneuverability warfare. Very much implemented in our time in the service with the Gulf War and, and very much embraced by the Marine Corps and then proceeded to be studied and people grew. Grew upon his foundations with that as we as we go. But you can really apply them to emergency management practices as well. And I just love that about him and his theories and fuze studies, foundational work. It’s great stuff.
Todd DeVoe: He also gets into like multidimensional warfare and being in each space and now we’re adding the cyberspace to it and I think you’re right, as emergency managers, we really can’t think of things linear. We have to think about the multiple dimensions that we’re in, whether it’s the response to the specific disaster that during the recovery aspects of it, how it’s affecting the people as you know, there’s so much that goes on and if you can take and understand, Boyd’s, multiple dimensional concepts, then you’ll rock emergency management.
Randy Collins: Absolutely. And then I would also encourage more on a traditional leadership front. I guess I, there are so many books there that I could really get into, but um, I want to go with organizational change and leadership by Schein and it’s very much a textbook. It’s one that I had at USC and my doctorate program and you, and you think it’s more of a business book or whatever, but amazing reasons whatsoever. He uses a lot of references to disasters and it’s not really an emergency management book at all. But, uh, nonetheless it’s about organizational change in leadership. But Schein s, c, h, e I n and so that’s a great book as well.
Todd DeVoe: Awesome. Okay. So before I let you go, is there anything that you’d like to say directly to the emergency managers out there?
Randy Collins: Oh Gee, thanks for that honor. I would say don’t settle for the status quo, be creative, be innovative. Think outside the box, but within the system and uh, and, and challenge always challenged to do things differently and always do better. Don’t get into the, into the routine of, well this is the way we’ve always done it because there is new and better ways to do things. I think as an emergency managers, because lives are at stake and everything else, we often become risk averse and, and, and I get it. And so one way that I have found to combat that is a lot of people kind of say, well, you know, gee, how can we do that? Or we can, we can’t risk it. And, and so we like to throw that risk word in there, but I kind of tried to change it around a little bit. Emergency managers being within the public safety environment, we also honor courage and and I would just ask, do you have the courage to do it and you know, it kind of changes that mindset a little bit from can we risk it? Well, do you have the courage to do it? And, and it kind of changes that perspective a little bit and so have the courage to go against the status quo and make change and progress emergency management.
Todd DeVoe: That’s awesome. So much for anything could so much for being here today and spending time here with the EM Weekly audience and a love to have you on again sometime.
Randy Collins: Yeah, I would love to be on and then we’ll talk about some different things we got going on in El Segundo as well and it has been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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