“Floodside” 2015: Safety After Action Report and Future Considerations
Compiled by: Chris Lord
During Exodus and infrastructure strike on Monday May 25th, Flipside was hit by inclement weather. Trees and large branches were blown down and heavy rains made roads impassable and flooded camping areas. These conditions steadily worsened throughout the evening, and only began to relent in the early hours of Tuesday, May 26th. By utilizing the Incident Command System, our Safety volunteers coordinated a response that maintained the safety of the remaining volunteers and participants who were still on the property.
This document is the result of many hours of feedback and collaboration amongst Safety volunteers directly involved in the flood response. It is divided into three main sections:
- Identified Strengths – aspects of response that contributed to positive outcomes
- Areas for Improvement – topics requiring reinforcement and further development
- Future Recommendations – specifics ways in which our Safety operations can improve based on the Strengths and Areas of Improvement discussions.
Part I: Identified Strengths
Strength 1: Preparedness
Knowledge and practice utilizing the Incident Command System (ICS) allowed our Safety teams to establish and produce an organized, structured response. ICS provided the template into which our Safety teams and the LLC could systematically and dynamically organize themselves into functional response units to address tasks identified by the nature of the emergency.
One strength of ICS is in its ability to evolve and adapt to changing situations. Our Safety teams were therefore able to expand and contract the structure of our response to meet the needs the incident as it became more complex and eventually as it was resolved and required less of a response.
Strength 2: Documentation
The Ranger Log provided a detailed, chronological record of the response that has become invaluable to piecing together the overall incident. Furthermore, the decision to assign a Scribe whose sole function is to document the progression of an incident not only maintained high quality logging, but also allowed the Khaki to continue managing citywide Ranger response and participate in ICS.
Incident Action Plans (IAPs)
The IAPs that were recorded in the Ranger Log served in their ideal function as recording the general plan of our ICS response, the particular units active, and the goals of the time period. Having this recorded in writing allowed ICS managers to review the Plan and act accordingly, and to change it when necessary.
After-Action Reports (AARs)
Shortly after the end of Flipside, many of those who held ICS positions during the incident were asked to reflect on their experience in an After-Action Report. Each individual report provided elucidation on the particular concerns and focal points of the author’s participation. This was critical to putting together an overall understanding of the evolution of the incident. When combined with the Ranger Log, a comprehensive picture of the incident was presented.
Strength 3: Landowner Relations
A large part of the success of the ‘Floodside’ ICS response is due to the relationship that exists between Flipside and the landowner and family. In particular, the help his family provided with our event community prior to, during, and after Monday’s storm absolutely contributed to the success of the response.
In hosting Safetyside in which we can train our volunteers in ICS, publicly vouching for Flipside and our Safety teams to local authorities, donating their time and equipment helping to tow vehicles from the mud, and providing shelter for rescued volunteers and participants, the landowner and his family have continually earned the respect and admiration of our event community, and specifically our Safety teams.
Part II: Areas Needing Improvement
Improvement Area 1: Freelancing Mitigation
“Freelancing” is the often-well-intentioned involvement of a person or group of people in responding to/participating in an incident response without coordinating with the established ICS structure. This can be due to ignorance that the structure exists, or in blatant disregard of the ICS response. In either case, it presents a potentially dangerous variable to the overall, organized response provided by ICS. Spreading conflicting information or “helping out” in a situation where a single, unified voice and structured response is active and necessary can put lives in danger.
The “easy” answer to helping address this in the future is to increase awareness of ICS and how it permeates our event community; further recommendations will be discussed later in this document.
Improvement Area 2: Community Collaboration
Getting Community “Buy-In”
ICS is, by essential definition, an authoritarian approach to incident response. It establishes a rigid hierarchy wherein every person involved reports to one supervisor, and will receive orders from one supervisor. Our Safety volunteers understand the necessity of this in ICS, but they also understand that such rigid structure may not be palatable to many members of our overall event community, who may misinterpret the format and structure of incident response.
We recognize the difficulty in encouraging any person to comply with requests – particularly if they may disagree with the request and/or authority figures making the request. As Safety volunteers, our overall goal is to protect the lives of participants. In large-scale incidents affecting large numbers of people, it is critical to the overall response that there is ‘buy-in’ from participants in order to effect a safe, organized response.
In incidents that affect large numbers of community members, without their buy-in, participation, and collaboration, the ICS system and our overall Safety response will fail.
Mitigating “Shopping for Answers”
“Shopping for answers” is a term to describe undesirable behavior whereby if a person does not get the answer they want from the first person they ask, they will continue to ask other people until they get the answer they want. Imagine a child asking their mother for candy; mom says no…so the child then asks dad, who also says no…so the child asks grandpa, who says yes, and inadvertently undermines the authority of the child’s parents. When applied in an ICS sense, this can result in resources being misappropriated and communication breakdowns; furthermore, it violates the fundamental strength of ICS known as Unity of Command (every person reports to/receives instructions from one Supervisor).
General Community/Organizational ICS Knowledge Deficit
During the “Floodside” response, three general types of person were identified:
- ICS-trained participant (Safety or otherwise)
- People not-trained-in-ICS but wanting to help
- participants who had no interest in helping with the response
One of the strengths of our Flipside community is that we have an abundance of people who would identify as Category 2 – and there is a certain difficulty in trying to train someone in ICS in-the-middle-of-an-incident.
Our Safety teams recognize the essential value in having a broader population of ICS-educated participants. ICS is NOT Safety-specific; there are advantages to having Theme Camps and other volunteer Departmental volunteers trained in ICS – and how they can best be utilized during incident response. We will discuss some methods of how to achieve this goal, below.
Improvement Area 3: Volunteer Fatigue
Overall the ‘Floodside’ incident lasted almost 24-hours. Individual volunteers have differing levels of physical and mental resiliency that guide how well they are able to function in a given position; furthermore, certain positions require higher levels of physical or mental energy. Fatigue was identified as an area needing response, as volunteers self-identified as being over-worked and under-rested.
Improvement Area 4: Flooding & Other Disaster Response
The debrief process raised a number of questions about Flipside Safety disaster response. There was agreement that the event community was extremely fortunate that the storms and flooding experienced Monday did not happen earlier in the weekend. Recommendations for future Safety response to inclement weather will be discussed below. More importantly, this will be a recurring discussion within our Safety (and hopefully the rest of the event) community so that we can be better prepared in anticipating and responding to similar incidents in the future
Part III: Recommendations for Future Response
City Street Universalization
There is conflict between the names the landowner has applied to the ‘streets’ on the event site and the annual renaming tradition done by the Flipside community.
We plan to discuss with the Landowner and City Planning to establish a universal naming convention for the roads on the current event site in order to prevent confusion, while still allowing for the community’s tradition to be maintained.
North-South Road/Path Improvement
During the evolution of Flipside at Apache Passtures, road improvement has been focused more on the East-West roads.
We will discuss the feasibility of improving the north-south roads in order to create a reinforced network of roadways for use in order to provide alternative routes for travel.
Improved Access/Egress Evacuation Routes
During Floodside, a limiting factor to the safe passage of traffic was our reliance of a single point of entry/exit.
We will discuss the creation of alternative exit routes with the landowner and City Planning.
Installation of Flood Gauges
Having a visual point of reference to gauge rising waters will be important in inclement weather planning.
We will discuss with the landowner to identify locations to install T-stakes into the property with painted bands that will be monitorable for rising water.
We will review drainage trends of the event site and discuss with the landowner the feasibility/benefit to installing any new culverts in order to help future water drainage.
Equipment at Various On-Site Departmental Locations
During Floodside, there was concern of possibly having inadequate supplies to support Safety operations throughout the night. This included radios, batteries, charging stations, and other lighting supplies.
We will investigate current practices of equipment deployment to examine if any changes need to be enacted to better support weather-related, overnight incidents.
Relocation of Safety HQ
During “Floodside,” Safety HQ became flooded, and medical equipment, personnel, and other resources had to be relocated to ICE.
We will review new locations for to place Safety HQ that will not be prone to flooding.
On-Site Resources Extension
It was mutually agreed by those at the Floodside debriefing that certain resources would need to remain on-site/functional until Tuesday, 12:00. Included in this list are the following:
- The ICS Trunk
It was also suggested that the ICS trunk be deployed at work weekends and similar events in case of inclement weather, another significant incident, or to be used in on-site training exercises at these events.
- Large Event Map
Some large form of weather-resistant map should remain on-site.
- Radio Resources
- The repeater/s should continue to be active
- Sufficient handhelds, batteries, and battery chargers
Waterproof Pens & Paper for Shift Logs
We will investigate the feasibility of transferring our logs to waterproof/resistant paper. Riteintherain.com has been suggested as a possible solution.
It was suggested that we purchase/have available emergency blankets. We will discuss whether the flimsy foil ones will work, or whether to invest in another solution.
We will invest in rolls of multi-colored flagging tape. This can be utilized in a number of ways, from flagging occupancy in Search and Rescue, to triaging patients in Mass Casualty Incidents.
ICS Lighting Sources
We will look into supplementing lighting sources for a variety of situations: identifying rally points/command posts, glowsticks or other small items for personal lighting, etc.
We will be looking into the feasibility of purchasing the following items:
- Throw Bags (bags of rope)
- Climbing Webbing for handline tie-off
- Life Jackets
- Rain Jackets
- Additional headlamps
- Yardsticks (for probing water depth)
Safety Volunteer Support
Improved Site Orientation
We will try to provide additional site orientation for Safety volunteers prior to Flipside to better familiarize them with landmarks including camping areas, roads/traffic patterns, high-water locations, beaches, etc.
As mentioned above, we will be revisiting the concept of provider fatigue, particularly during incidents requiring long deployment times (such as the overnight requirement of “Floodside”). It is important that every volunteer (not just those in ICS situations or simply in Safety) understand their own limitations and capacities. Knowing when to ask for relief is critical, not only to the individual’s personal health and well-being, but also to the team’s goals. This translates also to Safety and ICS. The overall success of an ICS response depends on the health of the team; no one operates in a vacuum.
In ICS situations, we will try to better support our volunteers by checking in more frequently and encouraging a culture of support by reinforcing the importance (in both institutional education and personal health) of knowing when to transfer command/request relief for a position.
It was also suggested that, as part of improving our culture of volunteer support, we develop certain phrases or ‘safe words’ that transcend the standard level of ‘checking in’ and indicate a more acute concern.
‘Standard ICS’ vs. ‘Flipside Command’
We train our Safety volunteers to ‘think in ICS;’ this is, to apply ICS in every situation. Expansion and contraction is one of the strengths of ICS, and 99% of the time, ICS operates within the confines of the event. For that other 1%, Flipside may be required to exist under a single ICS ‘incident’ plan (such as Floodside).
We will explore if/how it might be preferable or not to examine Flipside-as-Incident (truly examining the entirety of Flipside as persistent ICS incident from setup to strike) vs the more traditional model of Incident-Based-ICS-Within-Flipside-Operations.
Outside Agency Relations
Army Corps of Engineers
The Army Corps of Engineers ultimately controls when a dam will release water, and contribute to increased river flow, and in inclement weather, flooding conditions. We will research ways to monitor flow rates and be apprised of any releases that may impact Flipside.
Assisting Agency Research
During “Floodside,” Safety interacted with several resources to facilitate water rescue of several participants from rising flood waters. Representatives from Milam County Sheriff’s Office, local Volunteer Fire Departments, American Medical Response (EMS), and Texas Parks and Wildlife helped facilitate safe rescue for trapped participants. Prior to this, we had no working knowledge that TP&W would be an agency with whom we would interact. Despite having had no prior opportunity to establish a relationship with this agency, we were able to coordinate with them to achieve ICS goals.
We will use this opportunity to research other County/State/Federal agencies that may respond to Flipside so that (a) we know what other resources exist that may be able to assist us, and (b) we can establish a baseline familiarity with them.
Expanding ICS Education/Training
Flipside Volunteer Department Inclusion
Incident response does not only require Safety resources. Many of Flipside’s volunteer departments may be essential participants in any given ICS response. It is important, then, that – at the very least – the managers of many of these departments obtain a basic familiarity with ICS principles.
We plan to offer basic ICS training for non-Safety departments and volunteers so that we can more smoothly integrate their participation in ICS, and thus more effectively serve our event community.
Theme Camp Opportunities
Theme Camps are the social and creative hubs of our event community. Historically -and without any formal training or request – our community has stepped forward and donated food, shelter, and other resources to those affected by incidents, and to our Safety volunteers managing incidents; for this, we are incredibly grateful.
Theme Camps also serve as nexuses for communication and shelter; they are therefore valuable resources for ICS situations requiring mobilization of messages and updates for situations affecting our event community, and we recognize the value of their participation in these essential functions.
We plan to offer to Theme Camps similar educational and training opportunities in emergency preparedness, Safety Operations, and ICS.
We will be looking into the feasibility of establishing a dedicated channel for emergency messages to be communicated into the event. There are obvious challenges associated with each step of this project: being able to transmit the message to the event, receiving the message at the event, and locating the recipient in order to deliver it.
Disseminating messages (particularly Safety-related) throughout Pyropolis also comes with its own challenges. Great care must be taken communicating “Official” messages in order to:
- avoid rumor-mongering
- ensure that content is factual and accurate
- ensure that information spread is timely and up-to-date
- maintain appropriate confidentiality regarding legal and medical situations
- ensure that all stakeholders (landowner, LLC, Safety Command) are delivering the same, unified message
KFLIP is an unofficial channel through which messages have been broadcast, but KFLIP is not, and has never been an official messaging channel. This may change, but as of 2015, the relationship remains unofficial.
We will be researching ways in which the LLC and Safety can more appropriately and safely share information regarding safety situations and weather conditions, and how to best and most appropriately involve the larger event community. In similar situations as “Floodside,” it will be crucial to inform the event community as to the status of ICS and the overall Safety plan for the city.