I hit the links today, determined to shake off the cobwebs accumulated during a gray Pacific Northwest winter. After three holes of hackin’, choppin’ and basically suckin off the tee, I stood on the fourth tee box hanging my head. “What the hell is going on?” I said under my breath. One of my partners heard me. “Your set up is all wrong. You are lining up to the right, and are swinging too hard….Oh yeah, you are swinging too fast too”…. My first thought was to turn around and kick him in the privates. But, those of you who agonize along with me during the pilgrimage of golf season understand exactly what he was talking about. So, I asked for his help, had him line me up towards the target on my next drive, took a deep breath, took an agonizingly slow backswing, and….. whammo…. 250 yards of screamin’ Pro VI headed to the middle of the fairway. I turned around and “knucked” him, glad that he was willing to share his observations on what I was screwing up. I was also relieved I decided to listen to him. The rest of the round was peppered with great shots and absolutely horrific hacks. Such is the golf life.
So, what the heck does this have to do with ICS? Well, walking down the 9th fairway I started thinking about the complexity of this awesome game, and how one wrong move (swing) can send you into a tailspin (think Phil Mickelson’s fourth hole, 2012 Masters). The same holds true for an Incident Commander as he/she “plays a round”. As an IC approaching the ball settled into the DEEP rough, what do we need to think about in reaching the green in two?
Proper Set Up
Golf instructors emphasize making sure you set up correctly. This means stepping behind the ball, making sure you are aligned with the target, and have a strong foundation of proper grip, soft hands and firmly planted feet.
The same holds true with organizations using ICS. If you don’t have a strong foundation of training, experience and practice, you are more likely to “shank it” during “the game”. Not good.
Tightly gripping a golf club tends to tighten up the rest of your upper body, resulting in less power being transferred to the ball at impact. During an emergency incident, it is critical that an IC “stay loose” and nimble. Likewise, a visibly uptight and over controlling IC loses power by the virtue of losing the confidence and respect of those being controlled. An IC maintains power through impact by appearing calm and collected (even if you are crappin’ your pants), delegating appropriately and staying nimble.
Watching Phil Mickelson try to hack his way out of the shrubs by trying to hit a trick shot during this year’s Masters was painful. I’ve always admired Phil’s courage. But, sometimes he just does dumb things. Instead of laying up, or simply hitting the ball back into play he tries a miracle shot. Sometimes he gets away with it. But, sometimes he flames out in spectacular fashion. Like Phil, I’ve tried miracle shots, and mostly failed, costing me more strokes than if I had simply taken my lumps and played safe. An IC can’t afford to “Pull a Phil”. A “flame out” on the fireground can be catastrophic. Developing and implementing smart incident strategy means really understanding the problem and making the tough call about whether you have the talent and resources to flawlessly executing “the swing”. If you don’t, declare an unplayable lie and take your penalty stroke (as in “going defensive”).
Use the right equipment
Golf equipment technology has revolutionized the game. Larger drivers, composite shafts, offset cast irons, complex polymer balls and high tech push carts (my fav) have improved the golfing experience for everyone. Most of this technology centers on increased power (which translates into distance) and forgiveness for off-center hits. Other advancements include use of GPS virtual “caddies” and laser measuring devices to help identify distances to the hole and hazards. I feel naked without my SkyCaddie, as I tend to underestimate distance.
On the fireground, is the IC using the latest technology? Are crews using thermal imaging cameras? How about the fireground SkyCaddie? Can you pull up the pre-fire plan/special hazards of your entire course and determine the yardage you are going to need to make par? Or, do you still rely on going to the nearest yardage marker and stepping off the additional yardage? If so, you are taking up valuable time and may not be even close! Buy your fire service SkyCaddie and make sure you keep it up to date.
I’m liking this golf/fire service analogy. Bring on golf season!