Pipeline meeting emphasizes transfer of incident command
By Daniel Arens
Responders from throughout Mercer County gathered at the Hazen Golf Clubhouse Jan. 13 for a now-annual meeting to discuss pipelines in the area and how responders can be best equipped to respond if an emergency situation arises.
Robert Wetzler was the keynote speaker, and he continued what has been a series of meetings on some of the major aspects of response to pipeline emergencies. This meeting’s topic dealt with transfer of command, whereby emergency command, following the completion of immediate emergency objectives, hands over control of the situation to a private command within the given industry. Wetzler emphasized the need for continuity in the transfer between different commands.
Wetzler began by bringing up a simulated pipeline emergency at DGC, using the same model that has been used the last two years. He reviewed the steps emergency managers should take, beginning with First Response’s duties of establishing command, securing the scene, ensuring safety, establishing perimeters, and determining resources needed. Priorities should be, in order: life safety, stabilization of the situation, and protection of the environment and property.
He discussed the importance of writing down objectives for emergencies on paper to ensure everyone is on board with what those objectives are. These objectives should neither be so broad they are difficult to clearly put in practice, nor so detailed that they hamstring responders. Wetzler also explained the difference between strategies and tactics, with strategies defined as “what responders have to do” and tactics “how do we do it.”
Having reviewed some of these basic functions of response, Wetzler turned to transfer of command. When command is transferred out of the emergency response agency and to the industry, it is important, Wetzler stressed, to notify all responders on the shift. Although he said all of the forms that go with incidents are rarely filled out in the course of the response, these records are very valuable for an incoming commander to understand what has been done and to provide a steady transition process that doesn’t force responders to reevaluate their strategies.