The Challenge

We consistently hear three big themes after very large-scale incidents:

  • Couldn’t think big enough to get ahead of events
  • Not prepared for non-tactical dimensions of the incident
  • Necessity of decentralized effort over a network of organizations

The Course (NWCG L-580)

The firestorm events of the 2003 Cedar Fire in the San Diego region were unprecedented in their speed and scope for their region. Beyond the technical challenges of the fire, the Political, Security, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information (PSESII) dimensions presented huge challenges to incident and emergency managers.

This course is about gaining and maintaining the proper altitude to be an effective strategic leader when faced with a large-scale crisis.  It introduces new ideas and concepts, gives you opportunities to interact with leaders from the 2003 Cedar Fire, and to visit sites where key decisions were made. In this course we focus on what right looks like for:

  • the strategic leader
  • the group–the inner circle needed to make strategic decisions
  • the process needed to generate an effective common operating picture and strategic leader’s intent
  • the decentralized network of organizations and people needed to put strategic intent into action

San Diego County Megafires: An All-Hazards Interactive Case Study is a continuing education and training course for the senior, strategic leader. The course involves 2-3 hours of pre-course work and 20 contact hours over two and-a-half days.

On day one, we explore gaps in the current strategic framework of incident management; present strategic principles, concepts and tools; and facilitate group discussion and exercises.  Guest speakers who have been involved in large scale, complex events share their first-hand experiences and lessons learned, both personal and organizational.  The second day is spent in the field with first-hand decision makers who responded to the 2003 Cedar Fire, the largest wildfire in recorded California history. The second day finishes with a reception at the home of Sandra Millers-Younger, author of the book The Fire Outside My Window: A Survivor Tells the True Story of California’s Epic Cedar Fire, which is both a poignant memoir and a veteran journalist’s narrative nonfiction account of the largest known wildfire in California history, a catastrophic event that crippled postcard-perfect San Diego and dominated international headlines in October 2003.

Participants are provided with a copy of Sandra’s book, plus two other excellent books for strategic leaders’ continuing education after the course.

For the last half-day, participants apply the concepts and tools in in a hands-on exercise involving a 7.3 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami inside the Puget Sound that affects Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, Washington.

History

NWCG’s goal was a series of L-580 offerings to allow continuing education of senior leaders.  The first L-580 Leadership is Action program was developed in 2008 by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) as a seminar at the Wharton Business School. Although the seminar is no longer extant, NWCG developed a second L-580, a staff ride of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.   In 2013, a unique partnership developed and grew between MCS, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), utilities, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, private industry and local, state, tribal and federal agencies involved in emergency response within San Diego County to fund the development and delivery of an alpha program in early 2016.

The partnership presented the intellectual property of this L-580 to the IAFC upon completion of the alpha program.  MCS delivers this program in support of the IAFC.

Who should attend?

Senior incident managers, senior leaders of emergency response agencies, public utilities and other critical infrastructure entities; leaders in the agency administrator role, elected officials and appointees who would likely be involved in setting the strategic direction of a large-scale event.

Prerequisites

  • Completion of Pre-course work
  • Students whose training is managed by an NWCG Geographic Area Training Representative are required to submit nominations for consideration on the NWCG national L-580 priority list

Certifications

This program meets all requirements for L-580 Leadership is Action established by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). Participants will receive a co-branded IAFC/NWCG Certificate.

The Department of Homeland Security has approved this program for use with SHSP and UASI grant funds.

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