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Posted: November 22, 2017 2:08 p.m.
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FEMA course trains responders

Kevin Larson/

Fort Stewart emergency manager Randall “Mack” McPherson asks Incident Command System 300 students what actions they would take to prepare for a scenario where severe weather is threatening Fort Stewart during the class held Nov. 14 at the installation’s emergency operations center.

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Kevin Larson

Fort Stewart Public Affairs


When storms threaten or an emergency develops, first responders must be able to come together successfully and communicate clearly to save lives and protect our community.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Command System classes teach emergency professionals just that. Here at Fort Stewart, The intermediate class, ICS 300, and the advanced class, ICS 400, are taught quarterly by Randall “Mack” McPherson. McPherson is the installation’s emergency manager and National Incident Management System instructor and works for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security’s Protection Branch.

The course teaches basic incident command post operations and integration with emergency operations center operations, McPherson said.

“ICS is a national mandated system for crisis management for federal, state, counties, local, tribal, non-governmental organizations, and volunteer organizations,” McPherson said. “It’s established so that all levels function under the same guidelines and requirements. And it establishes a common terminology. No matter how big or small an incident, we’re all talking the same concepts and principles.”

While the course is mandated Department of Defense training for emergency management personnel, specifically first responders and emergency responders, and also commanders, directors, and other supervisors, it also trains off-post emergency management professionals, McPherson said.

The level of expertise for the students varies, too, he said.

“We get a level of experience from a fire chief with considerable real-world experience to those who have only taken the online courses,” McPherson said.

This week, McPherson taught nine students ICS 300-on average, the course has 14 to 15 students. Two of the students in the class are from the local community-a volunteer fire chief from Liberty County, and a public health professional from Glynn County.

“We train 80 to 90 percent of our off-post partners in the coastal corridor,” McPherson said.

The coastal corridor includes emergency management professionals from Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and Tattnall counties, as well as the area public health districts, the Savannah International Airport staff, and the area Georgia Air National Guard.

Brad Boehm, Glynn County Public Health District, said the course will be helpful during an incident.

“It’s going to give me a better understanding of everyone’s position and work in a unified way with other agencies,” Boehm said.

Master Sgt. Josh Solomon, Fort Stewart Directorate of Emergency Services sergeant major, said the course is important to take before a real-world incident happens.

“It helps everybody understand their capabilities and their responsibilities,” Solomon said.

The course is slide heavy, McPherson said, and the true value comes out when the instructors and students share real-world experiences. Because of that sharing of knowledge, the feedback for the course has been positive.

McPherson uses the Fort Stewart tornado of 2016 as a scenario in the course. The real-world incident was an example of a fire department-led search-and-rescue response supported by police and emergency medical services that quickly transitioned to recovery. For the course, the students briefed McPherson on the actions they would take in response to the weather threat.

“The course teaches how to come together collectively and manage an incident,” McPherson said.

The course also shows students what right looks like of every level of emergency operations during an incident, McPherson said.

“It teaches the students how to fix it if it’s not,” he said.

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