Disaster Management staff in the USA developed a structure that can be used for any situation called the Incident Command System. It allows for an incident to be managed effectively and caters for all the required needs. The beauty of this system is that it can be expanded or contracted according to the needs of the situation, allowing all organisations involved in the operation to dovetail seamlessly with each other at all levels. Despite it being much admired and supported in theory, it still fails to be implemented in South Africa, often resulting in less than effective wildfire management operations.
The structure consists of a number of positions, and these can be filled by a single person in the case of a small fire, or by a large team in the case of extended attacks.
a) Incident Commander: This person is in charge of the operation, and makes all the final decisions. There can ever only be one Incident Commander. Sadly, in many cases, organisation heads refuse to give up their power to fall under an Incident Commander, resulting in fragmentation, chaos and counter-productive actions.
b) Operations (Ground and Air): This portfolio directs the resources, based on the instructions of the Incident Commander.
c) Planning: The Planning Chief undertakes several tasks that provide the various managers with information to assist them in their decision-making.
d) Logistics: This crucially important portfolio has a number of responsibilities, including medical, equipment, vehicles and refreshments requirements.
e) Media: An experienced person is required to handle all aspects of the media, including press releases, radio & TV interviews, and liaison with the public. No other person should be communicating with the Press.
f) Finances: Due to the extremely high costs involved with wildfire operations (e.g. a large helicopter can cost up to R 40 000.00 per hour), a manager needs to be appointed for large scale operations to keep track of the financial situation.
g) Administration: The keeping of records, event logs, time sheets, and a host of other tasks that are related to the other portfolios must be undertaken.