Waffle House responds to disaster areas with Incident Management Teams

Waffle House “Jump Teams” help keep their restaurants open during local emergencies.

I learned in 1992 during our Incident Management Team’s response to South Florida after Hurricane Andrew that the local National Park Service personnel who would normally be rescuers, had become victims and needed the assistance from outside the area.

Waffle House calls them “Jump Teams” but when an area is hit by a hurricane or other disaster they respond from outside the region to keep their local restaurants up and running as much as possible. The concept is not unlike land management agencies sending teams and crews across the country to help the locals deal with a wildfire or other emergency.

Waffle House is known in hurricane-prone areas for being among the last to close and the first to open in area where residents are forced to evacuate. New employees receive training about how to manage the restaurants during difficult circumstances.

Below are excerpts from a Yahoo article published August 25 as the effects of Hurricane Harvey were unfolding on the Texas coast:

A Waffle House jump team consists of a small team of restaurant operators from outside the hurricane zone. These employees swoop in at the first possible moment after a storm to restore service and get things open. Typically after a storm, demand for food is high and functioning restaurants are in low supply, and things get extremely busy.

“There’s a jump team outside of Nashville ready to go on Sunday. Jump teams are [also] ready in Louisiana,” said Warner. “Then we can deploy from the main office some teams that may or may not go depending on severity.”

One of the reasons why these jump teams are the key to the chain’s success is because employees may not be able to work if they’re dealing with their own hurricane damage.

“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,,” said Warner. “They don’t have to worry about their restaurant at the same time.”


Status of “Evolving Incident Management”

Rocky Mtn Area Team C
The Rocky Mountain Geographic Area Team “C” Type 2 Incident Management Team at their annual meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 2013. (click to see a larger version.)

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has been working on efforts to address sustainability issues with wildland fire management succession planning for incident management teams. In other words, to ensure that the wildland fire agencies continue to have an adequate number and the right mix of incident management teams and the personnel to staff them. The NWCG chartered the Incident Management Organization Succession Planning Team (IMOSPT) and the Evolving Incident Management (EIM) project team to develop implementation plans.

Evans Kuo, the Project Lead for Evolving Incident Management, provided an update on the group’s progress, dated May 27, 2015: (I wish I had a dollar for every acronym below.)


…As you know, last fall we made the presentation to the NWCG Executive Board (under whom the EIM Task Team is tasked).  A copy of what we presented can be located at: http://www.nwcg.gov/general/memos/m-14-014.pdf  NWCG accepted our report and forwarded it onto the Fire Management Board (FMB) along with their endorsement.  Over the course of last fall the FMB reviewed our findings, developed a strategy to move forward, and presented it to the Fire Executive Council (FEC).  A key element of the FMB strategy is to divide up the tasks / recommendations identified by the EIM Task Team and re-assign these tasks to different entities that have the purview to make the decisions, i.e. NMAC for IMT mobilization and IMT utilization processes, CGAC for IMT governance practices, FMB for overarching principles that individual agencies have purview over, NWCG for development of streamlined development pathways, etc.   One of the problems we ran into in EIM Phase 3 was NWCG’s role in the new governance structure, which changed quite a bit since 2010 when IMOSP/EIM was first conceived.  Hopefully the FMB strategy will help clean up the governance issues and allow us to move forward in a more succinct way.

Last winter FEC discussed our revised recommendations and the FMB plan of action and they briefed the Federal Fire Policy Council (FFPC).  At their April 2015 meeting FFPC agreed to the FMB/FEC recommendation and strategy to move forward.  We’re expecting to see the final FFPC decision memo soon, but I did get a copy of the draft decision.  In short, the FFPC decision supports all the revised recommendations the EIM Task Team developed:

  1. Maintain distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs and establish national templates to increase the speed to certification.

  2. Maintain GACG autonomy to assign IMTs within their geographic area, though NMAC will continue to exercise their authority to maintain a “national perspective” relative to IMT assignments and regular exercising all IMTs.

  3. Defer to the GACG to determine number of IMTs hosted by each GA, with some sideboards that NMAC and CGAC will put into place.

  4. Work within individual bureaus and agencies to analyze and reduce (if possible) barriers and disincentives to IMT participation.  Will also be evaluating the possibility of establishing national and geographic area participation goals for each agency/bureau/partner agency. “


Related articles on Wildfire Today:

New model for Incident Management Teams February 6, 2012
NWCG reconfigures Incident Management Teams September 24, 2013

Number of Area Command Teams reduced from 4 to 3

area command team

The lineup for the Area Command Teams (ACT) has been announced and the number of Teams has been reduced from four to three.

Jennifer Jones, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service in Boise, told us the reason for the change:

Based on analysis of Area Command Team use over the past 15 years, it was determined that 3 Teams were adequate.

An ACT may be used to oversee the management of large incidents or those to which multiple Incident Management Teams have been assigned. They can take some of the workload off the local administrative unit when they have multiple incidents going at the same time. Your typical Forest or Park is not usually staffed to supervise two or more Incident Management Teams fighting fire in their area. An ACT can provide decision support to Multi-Agency Coordination Groups for allocating scarce resources and help mitigate the span of control for the local Agency Administrator. They also ensure that incidents are properly managed, coordinate team transitions, and evaluate Incident Management Teams.

National ACTs are managed by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) and are comprised of the following:

  • Area Commander (ACDR);
  • Assistant Area Commander, Planning (AAPC);
  • Assistant Area Commander, Logistics (AALC);
  • Area Command Aviation Coordinator (ACAC); and
  • Two trainees.

They usually have an additional 2 to 15 specialists, including Fire Information, Situation Unit Leader, Resource Unit Leader, and sometimes others such as Safety, and Long Term Planning, or assistants in Planning, Logistics, or Aviation.

This year the ACT lineup looks like this, according to the ACT website:

Dugger Hughes ACDR
Paul Summerfelt ACPC
Rich Rusk ACLC
Yolanda Saldana ACAC

Boo Walker ACDR
Jim Jaminet ACPC
Butch Hayes ACLC
Mike Dudley ACAC

Bill Van Bruggen ACDR
Joe Ribar ACPC
Martin Maricle ACLC
Rich Webster ACAC

The Area Commander not on the list this year after serving on ACTs for nine years (2006 – 2014) is Jim Loach.

Area Commanders serve for a three-year term, after which they can apply for any of the other three Assistant Area Commander positions if they wish to continue to serve on the team. They may be selected as an Area Commander for up to an additional 3 years, if there are no other qualified applicants.

Type 1 Incident Commanders are managed in a similar manner for the most part. Generally they serve for three years and then must re-apply.

We have been told that the National Wildfire Coordination Group has been pushing to “re-form” the Type 1 teams each year, with a yearly application and re-selection process. It seems to us that would be a detriment to the TEAM concept.

Contest: when will the first Type 1 Incident Management Team be assigned

question markOn March 8 we looked back at the weather in the United States over the last three months knowing that it could have an effect on wildfires over the next three to six months. However the extent to which past weather influences future fires is debatable and can be overridden by the weather conditions during the fire season.

What is YOUR prediction for the 2015 fire season? Like the first robin you see in the spring, the assignment of the first Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT) is a sign that things are getting real. In the last few years there have been about 30 to 50 assignments each year for T1 IMTs.

So let’s have a contest about the date the first Type 1 IMT will be assigned on a fire.

How to enter: In a comment below this article give us your prediction of the date the first Type 1 IMT will be assigned to a fire in 2015. In case more than one person selects the correct date, include the state. A second tie breaker will be the general area within that state. The date is defined by the date they are actually dispatched to a fire, not necessarily arriving at the fire. For the purposes of this contest, a Type 1 IMT includes only the 16 national interagency IMTs listed here. Only one entry per person, of course.

Deadline for entries: write your date with the two tie breakers in a comment below this article before April 1, 2015. If an IMT is assigned before April 1, the deadline for entries will change retroactively to the day before that fire started.

Prize: the winner will receive a limited edition Wildfire Today cap. So that we can contact the winner, you must enter your correct email address in the form when you are writing your comment. As usual, email addresses will never be disclosed to anyone without your specific permission.

Thanks and a tip of the hat for the idea go out to Dick.

NWCG reconfigures Incident Management Teams

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has decided to make a major change in the configuration of Wildland Fire Incident Management Teams (IMTs). Saying “the current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire incident management is not sustainable”, the plan is for Type 1 Incident Management Teams and Type 2 Incident Management Teams to evolve into “Complex IMTs”.

Going forward the organization will be recognizing three levels of interagency wildland fire response: Initial Attack, Extended Attack, and Complex. As part of this transition, State and Federally sponsored Type 1 and Type 2 Wildland Fire IMTs will evolve into “Complex IMTs” utilizing current Type 1 standards as their guiding principles.

This change was a product of the Evolving Incident Management project which recommended a reduction in federally sponsored IMTs from the current 53 to 40, with State sponsored teams assisting with a national surge capacity. There is still a lot to be figured out, including transition plans, the distribution of IMTs across the Geographic Areas, and their capacity to sponsor and fill the positions on the teams.

The memo from the NWCG.


Thanks go out to Ken

California incident management teams reunion

CA IMT reunion, 2013

This could be big. All of the past and present members of the Type 1 and Type 2 incident management teams in California are being invited to a reunion. It is the first time this has been attempted. I doubt if anyone knows how many people have been on all of those teams over the last, say, 20 years, but with five very large Type 1 IMTs, and quite a few Type 2 IMTs, we’re probably talking about thousands of people. Of course not all will attend, but they have a large base for possible attendees.

Below is an excerpt from the announcement. Clicking HERE will download Word document, and HERE is the registration form.

…The federal California Incident Management Teams Reunion 2013 is the first ever event to gather the past and present members of the Type 1 and Type 2 fire teams of Region 5 at the amazing Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada, where team members and guests can relax and visit.  Each day will feature special meals, exhibits and guest speakers with ample time to connect with colleagues and lifelong friends. Headed by the steering committee of Denny Bungarz, Charlie Gripp, Sid Nobles, and Jim Hanrahan, the reunion has the support of ICs Tom Hutchinson, Dave Kohut, Jack Lee, Jerry McGowan, Jeanne Pincha-Tully and Ron Raley.