StripbannerG420places

Philosophy & Focus

1.3 Complex Incident Planning: Risk Analysis

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Philosophy & Focus

Download the PDF Version

Download the PDF Version 

Contents

Contents

This paper discusses:

o the need to analyse the risk of a mass rescue operation being required
o risk analysis in general terms (particular analytical tools are not discussed here)
o examples of MRO risks, and their planning implications

1 Overview

1 Overview

1.1 For a general introduction to the IMRF's mass rescue operations (MRO) guidance, please see MRO guidance paper 1.1 'Complex incident planning – the challenge: acknowledging the problem, and mass rescue incident types'.

2 The Need to Analyse the MRO Risk

2 The Need to Analyse the MRO Risk

2.1 Risk analysis is a necessary part of the planning process, especially when planning for complex incidents. Mass rescue operations are a sub-set of the complex incident type – a category of emergency which requires thinking, planning, training and response beyond what is normally expected. This will inevitably require some inter-agency planning.

2.2 MROs are in the ‘low likelihood but high consequence’ group of emergencies. Given the potential impact, the risk remains considerable and we must prepare for such events. They are rare, almost by definition: if they were not, we might expect the response organisations to be able to deal with them as a part of their routine operations. The likelihood of a particular MRO occurring – a cruise ship overturning, an airliner ditching, etc – is low. But the consequences of such an accident, with large numbers of persons in distress, are high. It follows that MROs have to be planned for; and, because of the low likelihood of a particular event occurring, it also follows that such planning should be generic in nature.

3 MRO Risk Analysis

3 MRO Risk Analysis

3.1 Planners will have various risk analysis tools available to them. It is not the purpose of this introductory paper to propose particular tools or methods. Examples may be found in the supporting literature, and general guidance is available in the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, Volume I appendix L. Here we will consider only the initial stages of the analysis process.

3.2 It is important to remember that a maritime mass rescue operation may result from a number of different causes. We are not only considering passenger ship accidents, for example. The effects are more important than the cause. MROs are such that, whatever their cause, there are aspects of the response which will be similar or the same – the recovery of people, their landing and care at places of safety, etc – and planning can and should be generic as a result.

3.3 That said, analysis will tend to show that there are areas of slightly enhanced risk. Passenger ship accidents are more likely to occur on a busy ferry route where there is crossing traffic, for example; and airports whose runways end at or near the sea are more likely to see a ditching incident. Some areas present special risks: the cruise trade in areas remote from SAR facilities, for example (see guidance paper 2.8); or places where seasonal flooding is a known hazard.

3.4 Such analyses of enhanced risk should result in enhanced planning. On a ferry route it makes obvious sense to include the ferry operators in the planning, training and exercise phases. Not only are their ships a possible source of a mass rescue operation, they are also a major potential SAR resource, helping to fill the MRO 'capability gap'. Similarly, port authorities should be involved in maritime MRO planning in their locality, as should seaside airport authorities and offshore industries. So should response organisations in areas known to be prone to natural disaster. The cruise industry must play a major part in planning for accidents in remote areas their ships visit; and so on.

3.5 The MRO 'capability gap' is a very important factor: see guidance paper 1.4. Mapping available SAR facilities is an essential part of the risk analysis process.

3.6 An MRO may occur anywhere. SAR authorities – 'SAR Coordinators', as defined in the IAMSAR Manual – should initiate generic response planning if it is not already being done. Particular risks should be identified in the risk analysis stage of such planning, and, if possible, specific resources and responses should be identified too and incorporated in the MRO plans.

4 Summary

4 Summary

o Risk analysis is a necessary part of the planning process.
o Planners should select suitable risk analysis tools from the wide range available to them.
o MROs are ‘low likelihood, high consequence’. Given the potential impact, the risk remains considerable and we must prepare for it.
o MROs may have many causes, but tend to have common effects.
o Risk analyses are likely to show geographical areas of enhanced risk, and areas of enhanced or reduced response capability.
o Mapping available SAR facilities is an essential part of the risk analysis process.

5 Further Reading

5 Further Reading

5.1 For further reading on the underpinning philosophy of complex incident planning, and for other resources under this heading, follow this link.

5.2 For specific guidance on risk analysis see the IAMSAR Manual Volume I appendix L. See also guidance paper 2.1.

Download the PDF Version

Download the PDF Version

1.2 Complex Incident Planning - Ownership of Plans

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Philosophy & Focus

Download the PDF Version

Download the PDF Version 

Contents

Contents

This paper discusses:

o the need to plan
o the additional planning necessary for efficient mass rescue operations
o ownership of the plan by those responsible for developing and maintaining it
o ownership of the plan by those who will implement it

1 Overview

 

1 Overview

1.1 For a general introduction to the IMRF's mass rescue operations (MRO) guidance, please see MRO guidance paper 1.1 'Complex Incident Planning – The Challenge: Acknowledging the Problem, and Mass Rescue Incident Types'.

2 The Need to Plan

2 The Need to Plan

2.1 Any organisation's operations require planning. This should involve a strategic manager or management team devising a plan; the training of relevant personnel in how the plan works and their roles within it; and the testing of both planning and training to ensure that the plan works in practice.

2.2 In emergency response operations it is usually the case that responding organisations' planning will need to take other organisations' planning into account. In maritime search and rescue (SAR), for example, the centre which coordinates the response may be run by one organisation, while at least some of the SAR units (rescue vessels, aircraft etc) are operated by others. For the response to be efficient and effective it is necessary for these organisations to plan together – to link their own plans with those of the other response agencies. The IMRF recommends the establishment of committees for this purpose, at the regional, national and/or international level as appropriate.

2.3 In some cases additional SAR resources such as shipping in the area will also become involved in the response – and this complicates the picture further. It is usually impractical for the relevant emergency response organisations to plan directly with such resources or their parent organisations. The response organisations – and especially the coordinating authority – therefore need to develop a generic plan to include such resources. The resources themselves should also have their own emergency plans.

2.4 For ships at sea generic guidance on their potential roles in SAR operations is available to operators and masters in Volume III of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual. It is recommended that where practicable – for ships operating regularly in a particular area, for example, such as ferries – this generic planning should be enhanced by direct planning with the relevant SAR authorities. This is a requirement for some passenger ships. See guidance paper 2.1.

2.5 The situation is more complicated in mass rescue operations. By definition, in MROs 'the capabilities normally available to the SAR authorities are inadequate'. It is therefore necessary to plan specifically to fill this 'capability gap'. Extra resource has to be identified, and its involvement in the response planned for.

2.6 In MROs the organisations which usually respond to maritime emergencies will also have to work with 'strangers'. These 'strangers' may be organisations with which they do not usually work – shipping companies and shoreside major emergency response organisations, for example – or officials at higher levels than they usually encounter. MRO planning should encompass all these probabilities.

3 Ownership of Plans

3 Ownership of Plans

3.1 What do we mean by the 'ownership' of plans? In this context, we mean two things.

3.2 First, someone has to be responsible for developing and maintaining the plan. This will be the organisation itself in the general sense – the plan is that organisation's plan: the organisation owns it. However, it is recommended that a named individual or group within the organisation should be given specific responsibility for the plan – developing it, testing it, keeping it effective and up-to-date. That person or group is the plan's owner in the specific sense that they are responsible for it, on their organisation's behalf.

3.3 But we also have a second meaning of ownership in mind here. For the plan to be truly effective everyone who will have to put it into effect should also 'own' it. That is, they should UNDERSTAND their tasks and responsibilities under the plan; and they should AGREE those tasks and responsibilities. In this way it becomes their plan too, not just the organisation's or the planning manager's. They own it – and, owning it, they want to make it work.

3.4 If those who are identified as having a role in the plan do not own it in this latter sense, the plan will be less effective. The worst-case scenario (other than not planning at all!) is when an organisation's senior managers order a plan to be made and then for that plan, once 'complete', to be put on a shelf to gather dust. The people who the plan says will be involved in implementing it may not even know that it exists, or will quickly forget that it does. They do not own it; it is not theirs.

3.5 Such a state of affairs is worse than useless. Contrast it with the desired position. Everyone in the organisation, from the most senior manager to the most junior employee with a role to play, cares about the plan: they know what their own responsibilities are under it; they want it to work, and they know how to make it work. This is not to say that each individual has to know every detail of the plan. That is neither practical nor necessary. But each individual should know their own part and – owning the plan – should be able to trust their colleagues to know their parts too.

4 Ownership of MRO Plans

4 Ownership of MRO Plans

4.1 So far we have talked about ownership of one's own organisation's plan. But we have also acknowledged that, in maritime SAR and especially in maritime MRO planning, we have to plan with other organisations.

4.2 'Ownership' extends to these other organisations too. In MROs there should be a carefully coordinated patchwork of different response organisations' plans, effectively creating one 'big plan'.

4.3 It is not necessary for individuals to know the details of all the component parts of the 'big plan'. What is necessary, however, is that all responders should know that the big plan exists.

4.4 They should also know their own part within the big plan; including, very importantly, who they should be talking to when it is implemented. In many cases individuals will have roles and responsibilities which do not change when this happens. They need only know that a larger operation is under way around them. Other individuals will have specific responsibilities in a major emergency. Many of these (strategic managers, for example) may not have a response role at all except in such emergencies: they become involved as part of the process of filling the 'capability gap'.

4.5 In every case, the fundamental principle remains the same. All responders should own the plan. If they do, they will fulfil the responsibilities the plan requires of them, and it will work. If they do not, the plan will either work less efficiently or will fail altogether, as individuals or organisations attempt to make things up as they go along – a recipe for confusion or, at worst, chaos.

5 Planners' Responsibility to Establish Ownership

5 Planners' Responsibility to Establish Ownership

5.1 There should be a number of 'lead planners' in the planning process: individuals with clear responsibility to plan their own organisation's MRO response, which includes planning to work with other organisations as appropriate.

5.2 It is part of these lead planners' responsibility to encourage ownership of the resulting plans. This responsibility is also carried by the senior officials and managers with overall responsibility for the planning process.

5.3 Time and effort need to be given to each stage of the process: planning, training, and testing, internally and with other organisations. Ownership should be encouraged at each stage.

5.4 Involving others in the planning process, whether as representatives of your own or of partner organisations, will improve it, and will allow people to feel that they are part of the developing plan.

5.5 Allowing meaningful feedback at the training stage will also help establish ownership. People will be more likely to own the plan if they know that they can comment on it or ask questions about it (provided that such comments and questions are treated seriously).

5.6 Finally, it is important to maintain ownership during the testing process. The feedback just described is part of this process, as are exercises and actual incidents, which should be carefully analysed and used as a live test of planning and training. In each case 'ownership' is shown by individuals and organisations wanting to improve the plan, based on their experience. It should never be 'somebody else's problem'.

6 Summary

6 Summary

o Planning is necessary, and involves training: both planning and training should be tested.
o Organisations which may have to work together should plan together.
o 'Ownership' of the plan means, first, that named individuals or groups are given specific responsibility for developing and testing it, and keeping it up-to-date.
o 'Ownership' of the plan also means that everyone who may have to put the plan into effect should understand and agree their part in it.
o Individuals do not need to know the whole plan, only that there is a plan, and their own role in implementing it.
o 'Ownership' by all who may be involved in an MRO needs to be actively encouraged if a plan which will only be used rarely is to be effective.

7 Further Reading

 

7 Further Reading

7.1 For further reading on the underpinning philosophy of complex incident planning, follow this link.

7.2 See also guidance paper 2.1.

Download the PDF Version

 

Download the PDF Version

1.1 Introduction

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Philosophy & Focus

The Challenge

The Challenge: Acknowledging the Problem, and Mass Rescue Incident Types

 

Contents

This paper serves as an introduction to the IMRF's MRO guidance papers. It discusses:

o   the IMO definition of a 'mass rescue operation'
o the challenge such an event presents, in terms of scale, complexity and rarity
o the need to recognise the risk, and to allocate planning and training resources to it
o who should be involved in preparing for mass rescue operations
o mass rescue incident types
o mass rescue operations in the broader planning context
o the subjects covered by this series of guidance papers
o the philosophy underlying the IMRF's MRO project
o the focus required in preparing for mass rescue operations

1 General Introduction

1 General Introduction

1.1 The reader approaching this series of guidance papers on mass rescue operations (MRO) might begin by asking what relevance they may have for him or her. That is a legitimate question. MROs are 'low-probability / high-consequence' events. Yes: they are immensely serious and very complicated – but are you ever likely to be involved in one? No: it's not very likely. So why focus on something that's unlikely to happen? Isn't that a waste of time?

1.2 No. One thing that is very clear from experience is that if you have focussed on the possibilities beforehand, and prepared as best you can, your response will be significantly improved. Which means that you will probably save more lives. It's as simple as that.

1.3 Does this apply to everyone who might become involved – every rescue unit crew member, every ship’s master, every shoreside responder and planner? Yes: it does. This is obviously so for the planners, but it applies too to everyone they may need to make their plans work – because plans do not work if the people who have to put them into practice do not understand them. And those people might well include you.

1.4 The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) MRO project includes the development of an online library of relevant information, mostly provided by IMRF Members, and intended to help you think through the MRO problems and prepare yourself and your organisation. The information is grouped into five primary subject areas: 'Philosophy & Focus', 'Planning', 'Resources', 'Command, Control, Coordination, Communication', and 'Training, exercises / drills, and learning from experience'.

1.5 These primary subject areas are further subdivided into secondary ones, each of which is introduced by an IMRF guidance paper in this series: see paragraph 6 below. The papers are cross-referenced. The reader will be able to find the material he or she requires quickly, whether considering the whole or parts of the MRO problem.

1.6 Shared information forms the third and most important and detailed layer. Some of it is hosted directly on the IMRF website: some is accessed by links to its owners’ sites. However, the primary reference document on search and rescue (SAR) is the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). IAMSAR is copyright to the IMO and ICAO and must be purchased by the user: the IMRF project material draws heavily on it but we cannot link directly to its text.

IAMSAR (and other IMO publications) may be purchased from the IMRF online bookshop, with a 20% discount for IMRF Members: see www.international-maritime-rescue.org, or go direct to www.imrfbookshop.org.

1.7 So, the reader may well ask, will all this material provide all I need to run a successful MRO? Is this guidance a blueprint for success? Sorry – but no. We certainly hope that it will help; but it is guidance – things to think about, other people's experience and ideas to consider and perhaps learn from. It is not a set of rules to follow. Indeed, there is no such set of rules: there is guidance like this, but how best to apply it is down to your own judgement.

1.8 The philosopher Julian Baggini remarks that codification – setting out rules – is "the death of judgement. The more any kind of task or procedure is reduced to a formalised set of steps, the less we use and develop our judgement. There is a gap between what can be fully explained objectively and what is needed to achieve the best results practically." Good judgement is needed to bridge this gap: "It is not an excuse for lack of rigour but a way of dealing with the limits of rigour."

Julian Baggini, 'The tyranny of recipes', Prospect magazine February 2014.

1.9 The guidance material contained in this series and in its supporting documents certainly does not remove the need for good judgement, whatever part you may have to play in a mass rescue operation. It does not provide all the answers. But it does seek to raise the questions that others have had to face, and to discuss possible and practical solutions.

1.10 “It is worth taking action in advance to deal with disasters,” wrote Kenneth Watt in The Titanic Effect. “The costs of doing so are typically inconsequential, measured against the losses that would ensue if no such action were taken. The magnitude of disasters decreases to the extent that people believe that they are possible, and plan to prevent them or to minimise their effects.”

Kenneth E F Watt, The Titanic Effect: planning for the unthinkable, 1974. Prof Watt’s book is on economics – but his point remains applicable to maritime emergencies.

2 The Challenge

2. The Challenge

2.1 The IMO define 'rescue' and 'mass rescue operations' as follows:

'Rescue' is the 'operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety'
A 'mass rescue operation' is 'characterised by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress, such that the capabilities normally available to the search and rescue authorities are inadequate'.


2.2 It follows from the second definition that an MRO will require the SAR authorities to put extraordinary measures into effect in order to deal with it. If there can be such a thing as 'routine SAR', an MRO is beyond the routine: the 'capabilities normally available ... are inadequate'. Those capabilities will therefore have to be enhanced in an MRO.

2.3 This is clearly a major challenge – and it is a challenge for everyone involved in maritime SAR, not just the State authorities responsible for planning and coordination.

2.4 The SCALE and COMPLEXITY of the event are part of the challenge. By definition, it will be bigger and more difficult than the 'ordinary' SAR case. Large numbers of people are in distress, and will die if the SAR services cannot rescue them.

2.5 But the challenge is also due to the RARITY of such events. A SAR professional might go through a whole career without being involved in an MRO – and even if s/he is involved in one, there are many variables. To turn the IMO's definition on its head, an MRO is so rare that the authorities cannot justify maintaining sufficient resources to deal with it 'routinely'. Areas of increased risk might be identified – major passenger ferry routes, for example – but the risk usually remains low-probability despite being high-consequence.

2.6 This is not just a question of physical resources – sufficient staff and SAR units to handle such an operation. The rarity and variability of MROs mean that responders do not become expert in them. Skills developed in 'routine' SAR still have their place in mass rescue response, but there are additional requirements. Handling a mass rescue operation effectively means more than simply working a bit harder than we usually do!

2.7 Although MROs can vary greatly in their detail, common factors can still be identified – and we can study these factors to help prepare ourselves. A SAR professional may be unlucky to be involved in an MRO, but that does not mean that s/he cannot be prepared. This is primarily a matter of planning and training; thinking the problems through.

2.8 The first part of the challenge is to RECOGNISE THE RISK and the need to prepare to deal with it, however unlikely it may appear. This means allocating some resources to PLANNING AND TRAINING. The IMRF's MRO guidance material is designed to help with these processes.

3 SAR Authorities & Capabilities

3 SAR Authorities & Capabilities

3.1 MROs are a challenge for everyone in maritime SAR. This includes:

o the SAR COORDINATOR – the planner at national or regional level responsible for ensuring that preparations are made so that, if an MRO is required, it can be carried out efficiently and effectively (see guidance paper 4.2);
o the COMMANDERS and OPERATORS of potential casualty vessels, aircraft, offshore installations, etc: the people leading the response to an emergency on their own unit;
o the SAR MISSION COORDINATOR (SMC) – responsible for organising the SAR response to the incident (see guidance paper 4.3);
o designated SAR UNIT COMMANDERS – responsible for ensuring that their units, whether air, sea or land, are prepared to play their part;
o the COMMANDERS OF 'ADDITIONAL FACILITIES' such as ships at or near the scene of the incident – who should be ready to help in accordance with their obligations under international regulations;
o the ON SCENE COORDINATOR (OSC) – responsible for putting the SAR Mission Coordinator's response plan into effect at the scene of the incident: a complex task in a mass rescue operation (see guidance paper 4.4);
o the AIRCRAFT COORDINATOR (ACO) – responsible for the safety and best use of air units, which may be operating in unusual numbers and circumstances in such a case (see guidance paper 4.5);
o the SHORESIDE EMERGENCY RESPONSE AUTHORITIES – who must be ready to receive those involved as they are brought ashore by the maritime responders;
o the PARENT AUTHORITIES of all these units – responsible for ensuring that, so far as possible, they are prepared for this sort of emergency;
o and, last but not least, each individual in every team or crew supporting the SAR authorities listed above. An MRO is a complex matter. It is more likely to be successful if INDIVIDUAL PLANNERS AND RESPONDERS understand the 'big picture' and their own place within it. Everyone should 'own' the MRO plan. See guidance paper 1.2.

3.2 The definition of an MRO is based on the idea that the 'capabilities normally available to the SAR authorities are inadequate' to deal with it. This will be true of numbers and capacities of designated SAR resources: SAR authorities cannot afford to keep on standby rescue units large enough to accommodate the thousands of people from a large passenger vessel evacuating at sea, for example. A key part of MRO planning should be planning how to fill this capability gap. See guidance paper 1.4.

3.3 The inadequacy problem should be less true of people, however: people can prepare for an MRO. MRO plans can and should be made, trained in, and tested by exercises of various kinds. See guidance papers 2.1 & 5.1.

4 Mass Rescue Incident Types

4 Mass Rescue Incident Types

4.1 People often think of maritime mass rescue operations in terms of accidents to large passenger vessels: incidents which have caught global attention and have led to significant administrative responses from, for example, the IMO. However, there are many circumstances in which large numbers of people may be in distress in a maritime context. Examples are briefly considered here.

4.2 Passenger ship accidents are indeed a major source of MROs. Many lives are lost each year in passenger ship accidents, most often in domestic ferries in the developing world. These disasters are not as high-profile as one involving a cruise ship or a large modern ferry; but they are just as important. Safety improvements are often needed in the operation of such ships – preventing an MRO is better than conducting one. And designated SAR resources are likely to be fewer in the areas in which such ships work: the capability gap is wider.

4.3 In considering passenger ship accidents in particular we need to remember that ‘rescue’ need not only be required following an abandonment. One principle underpinning modern passenger ship design is that people may stay aboard in relative safety following an accident. There will always be exceptions, as Costa Concordia showed in 2012 and Le Boréal in 2015, but SAR authorities should be as ready to assist a passenger ship in difficulty which is not being abandoned as one that is. See guidance papers 2.1, 2.4 & 3.3.

4.4 Offshore industry emergencies may also require the rescue of large numbers of people. In such cases there are also likely to be complicating factors to do with the nature of the emergency – a fire or explosion on an offshore installation, for example. On the other hand there should be a significant emergency response from the offshore industry itself. SAR authorities and responders will be working alongside industry resources in the response to any major incident, and should therefore plan with the industry too.

4.5 The same principle applies to sectors of the passenger shipping industry. Planning with offshore industry or ferry companies working in a particular location is easier than with cruise companies whose ships trade over wide areas, but the effort should still be made. Planning in isolation will lead to confusion during an emergency response. See guidance paper 2.1, section 6.

4.6 A large passenger aircraft ditching at sea is a rare occurrence – but not unknown, as demonstrated by the famous case of US Airways Flight 1549’s ditching in the Hudson River in 2009. Timescales will be shorter in such incidents: there will be little time between the distress call and abandonment of the aircraft. There will be limited survival equipment available on board, and a higher proportion of injuries may be expected.

4.7 Multiple incidents occurring simultaneously may also require a mass rescue operation, sometimes over a wide area. A fleet of fishing vessels or leisure craft may be overwhelmed by unexpected bad weather, for example. While each individual case may only require a 'routine' SAR response, many cases occurring more or less simultaneously can result in SAR services being stretched beyond their normal capabilities. This capability gap too will need to be filled.

4.8 Refugees or migrants in unseaworthy vessels present a special case of MRO. There are almost always problems with alerting and subsequent communication with the casualty vessel in such cases, and survival equipment is usually lacking. There are also issues to be faced regarding what is to be done with survivors. These issues should not be allowed to affect the rescue operation itself, and SAR facilities, including additional facilities such as merchant ships, should be allowed to land survivors into the care of appropriate shoreside authorities without delay.

4.9 Rescue by sea of people caught up in land-based emergencies is another possible cause of a maritime MRO. Examples include the rescue of people affected by a natural catastrophe such as flooding, earthquake or volcanic eruption. For further consideration of special cases of MRO, see guidance paper 2.8.

4.10 Although the causes differ, and will present specific challenges in each case, the main principles of MRO response remain. This is why the IMO defines an MRO in terms of its effect. Risk surveys can and should be carried out periodically, in order to identify particular areas and categories of risk: see guidance paper 1.3. But MRO planning should be generic rather than specific to each risk type.

4.11 MRO planning should also be flexible enough to cater for the specific circumstances when an incident occurs. In some cases the planning will involve particular details and partners previously identified in the risk analysis – planning for an incident involving a passenger ferry or an offshore installation, for example. But planning and response will be more efficient and effective if a generic and flexible approach is adopted, with particular cases dealt with within an overall response framework. MROs are rare: a common plan will be better remembered and easier to implement on the day.

5 MROs in the Planning Context

5 MROs in the Planning Context

5.1 In this project material we tend to speak of maritime MROs in isolation. We are focussing on the specific challenges presented by having to rescue large numbers of people at or by sea. In practice, however, it is recommended that planning and training for MROs should be a sub-set of the planning and training for any major or complex incident. Many of the challenges and solutions will be similar.

5.2 As discussed, such incidents have three main points in common: they are rare; they require responses beyond the 'routine'; and they are best prepared for by generic planning and training.

5.3 The resources made available by the IMRF's MRO project should be used as necessary as part of these overall preparations for incidents which, although rare, should not be unexpected.

6 MRO Subjects

6 MRO Subjects

6.1 The following list of MRO subject headings may not be complete, but it covers most of the areas found from previous experience to be important things to think about. It therefore forms the central framework of the IMRF's library of information intended to be of use to anyone preparing themselves and their organisations for mass rescue operations. In each case the reader is referred to a subject-specific IMRF guidance document – one of the guidance papers in this series – and thence to other helpful resources.

o Philosophy & focus: considered in this paper and guidance papers 1.2, 1.3 & 1.4
o Mass rescue / complex incident planning: see guidance papers 2.1, 2.2 & 2.3
o Mass rescue resources (including funding): see guidance papers 1.4, 3.2, 3.3 & 3.4
o On-scene support, including on-board support: see guidance paper 3.3
o Retrieval of large numbers of people in distress, including recovery of people from survival craft or from the water: see guidance paper 2.4
o Use of 'additional facilities': see guidance papers 3.1, 4.6 & 4.7
o Communications – priorities, systems, and structures: see guidance paper 4.9
o The SMC, OSC & ACO roles: see guidance papers 4.3, 4.4 & 4.5
o Use of surface units: see guidance paper 4.6
o Use of air units: see guidance paper 4.7
o Accounting for people, including searches: see guidance paper 2.5
o Supporting survivors during rescue: see guidance paper 2.6
o Transfer to the 'place of safety': see guidance paper 2.7
o Coordination with shoreside authorities: see guidance paper 4.8
o Remote areas & other special cases: see guidance paper 2.8
o Learning from our own and others' experience, including survivors: see guidance paper 5.4 & 5.5
o Training & exercising: see guidance papers 5.1, 5.2 & 5.3

7 Philosophy & Focus

 

7 Philosophy & Focus

7.1 The fundamental thinking underlying the IMRF's MRO project is that, although rare, such events can happen anywhere and at any time. It is therefore necessary to be prepared to deal with them.

7.2 By definition, SAR authorities cannot respond adequately with the resources immediately available to them. They must therefore plan to 'fill the capability gap', identifying the necessary additional resources, their likely partners in the response network, and how the overall response should be handled, with agreed command, control, coordination and communication structures.

7.3 One aspect of this, which we will discuss in detail in guidance papers 1.4 and 3.3, is to acknowledge that 'traditional' rescue, as defined by the IMO, may not be the most appropriate response in some circumstances. As a possible alternative to retrieving people in distress, we should also think about supporting them, aboard a damaged but still tenable ship, for example, or aboard survival craft, until they can be brought to safety. The IMO's definition of rescue might be usefully amended to read:

'an operation to retrieve or support persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety'.

7.4 As noted above ('MROs in the planning context'), and including the concept of support as well as 'traditional' rescue, planning for mass rescue operations should be generic and flexible. Plans should, so far as practicable, be agreed between all likely response organisations, and all likely responders should be trained in the plan. Both plans and training should be tested by exercises and drills. See guidance papers 1.2, 5.1 & 5.3.

7.5 One of the main aims of the IMRF's MRO project is to collate and organise existing guidance materials, and, as necessary, sponsor the development of additional materials, so that those seeking to prepare themselves for mass rescue operations can do so readily, using the tools the project makes available.

7.6 It is the IMRF's belief that all those who may become involved in such an operation can and should focus carefully on the issues so that they are better prepared to deal with them when an MRO, of whatever type, is required. The IMRF's MRO project therefore seeks to:

examine the issues
identify themes and difficulties
identify recommendations based on experience
raise awareness, particularly of the benefits and means of planning; and
share our findings.

7.7 The other project materials in this series, to be found in the IMRF's online library, are intended to fulfil this last objective, and to act as a comprehensive set of guidance material to assist the MRO planner.

8 Enquiries

8 Enquiries

8.1 Please address all enquiries relating to this project to the IMRF at info@imrf.org.uk.

9 Summary

9 Summary

o In an MRO, the SAR capabilities normally available are inadequate.
o The scale, complexity and rarity of MROs are challenges for all concerned.
o We can prepare for these challenges by recognising the risks, and planning and training to deal with them.
o This is not just a matter for the responsible authorities but for everyone who might become involved in an MRO.
o There are many potential causes of MROs, and the risks should be analysed locally: but the effects are more important than the causes.
o MRO planning should be generic and flexible.
o Common MRO themes and challenges can be identified: each is considered in the online library of information compiled under the IMRF MRO project.
o Anyone who may be involved in MRO planning or response is invited to contribute.

10 Further Reading

10 Further Reading

10.1 All the guidance papers in this series, and the IMO and other documents to which they refer, are recommended for further reading. For additional general guidance and other resources, follow this link.

10.2 The main references to MROs in the IAMSAR Manual are in Volume I Chapter 6.6 and Volume II Chapter 6.15 and appendix C. IAMSAR is published by the IMO and ICAO. IMRF Members may purchase it, and other publications, from our online bookshop: see www.imrfbookshop.org. See also IMO’s COMSAR Circular 31, ‘Guidance for Mass Rescue Operations’.

10.3 We also particularly recommend 'Ten Mass Rescue Operational Realities', by George 'Rob' Lee and Rick Janelle, of the United States Coast Guard, the IMO/UNHCR/ICS publication 'Rescue at Sea: a guide to principles and practice as applied to migrants & refugees', and the International Chamber of Shipping's 'Large scale rescue operations at sea'.

1.4 Mass Rescue Operations: The Capability Gap

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Philosophy & Focus

Download the PDF Version

 

Download the PDF Version

Contents

Contents

This paper discusses:

o the nature of the 'capability gap'
o assessing 'normal capability'
o the identification of capability gaps
o planning to fill capability gaps by:
  cooperating regionally
  using additional resources, and/or
  extending survival times

1 Overview

1 Overview

1.1 For a general introduction to the IMRF's mass rescue operations (MRO) guidance, please see MRO guidance paper 1.1 'Complex incident planning – the challenge: acknowledging the problem, and mass rescue incident types'.

2 The Capability Gap

2 The Capability Gap

2.1 The IMO define a mass rescue operation as 'characterised by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress such that the capabilities normally available to the SAR authorities are inadequate'. In other words, the SAR authorities do not have enough resources themselves to enable them to handle a mass rescue operation. There is a 'capability gap'.

2.2 If the IMRF's MRO project can be said to have a single aim, it is to help SAR authorities and other responders to fill this capability gap. To say that such an operation is 'too difficult' is, we believe, unacceptable. The IMO does not define an MRO as being too difficult. Instead, it says that "the capabilities normally available are inadequate". Implicit in this definition is the idea that additional capabilities can be identified which will enable responders to conduct an MRO successfully. We have to 'think outside the box'.

2.3 It is also important to remember what 'rescue' means, for it is, of course, rescue that we are trying to achieve. Rescue is not just picking people up from survival craft or from the water.

2.4 The IMO define 'rescue' as the

'operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety'

and they define a 'place of safety' as

'a location where rescue operations are considered to terminate; where the survivors' safety of life is no longer threatened and where their basic human needs (such as food, shelter and medical needs) can be met; and, a place from which transportation arrangements can be made for the survivors' next or final destination. A place of safety may be on land, or it may be on board a rescue unit or other suitable vessel or facility at sea that can serve as a place of safety until the survivors are disembarked at their next destination.'

2.5 A successful MRO provides for all of this – and the IMO's list of 'basic human needs' is not exhaustive. For further discussion of what constitutes a 'place of safety', see guidance papers 2.6 & 2.7.

3 Normal Capability

3 Normal Capability

3.1 What constitutes a mass rescue operation depends on what capabilities are normally available. If there are only a few SAR units available, for example, and/or they do not have much carrying capacity, the number of people at risk need not be very great before an MRO response is called for.

A SAR unit is defined by the IMO as "a unit composed of trained personnel and provided with equipment suitable for the expeditious conduct of search and rescue operations."

3.2 The IMO definition refers, wisely, to SAR capability. It is not only the number and size of local SAR units that count: it is their capability at the time an accident occurs. Are they in service? Are their crews adequately trained? Can they operate in the prevailing conditions? Can they reach the scene of the incident within survival times? If not, they should not be considered part of the 'normal capability'. The availability and capacity of 'places of safety' are also issues that require careful analysis.

3.3 Thinking through the IMO definitions and what 'the capabilities normally available' really are is the first step on the road to developing a viable MRO plan.

4 Identifying Capability Caps

4 Identifying Capability Gaps

4.1 SAR capability will vary geographically and according to the conditions at the time an incident occurs. Capability will be higher in an area well-supplied with rescue units and in good weather, sea and visibility conditions; and lower otherwise. Many areas of the world are beyond the range of designated rescue units. Other areas cannot be reached by sufficient rescue units within survival times. Bad conditions – poor visibility and heavy sea states in particular – will hamper rescue, or may even prevent it.

4.2 SAR capability should be assessed and mapped in order to contribute to risk analysis and MRO planning: see guidance paper 1.3. It may then be found that the likelihood of an MRO being required is higher than had at first been thought.

5 Filling Capability Gaps

5 Filling Capability Gaps

5.1 The uncertainties associated with the types of incident that may give rise to an MRO, where such an incident might occur, what the prevailing weather, sea conditions and time of day will be, and what SAR facilities will actually be available at the time, mean that planning for MROs should be generic. That said, the plans should still identify areas of enhanced risk, including areas where the capability gap is wider, and any areas of enhanced capability.

5.2 The primary aims of MRO planning are to identify the gaps, which must be done locally, and to identify the means of filling them. There are essentially three means available. We will consider each in turn.

6 Regional Resources

6 Regional Resources

6.1 One solution to a shortfall in SAR capability is to 'work with the neighbours'. A small State, for example, may have only a few SAR units, meaning that many incident types may constitute an MRO. Other States nearby may have the same problem. Agreeing to share resources, however – and, very importantly, agreeing on the details of how this will be done – can significantly improve SAR capability for all.

6.2 The same is true of better-resourced States: the only difference is the point at which an incident is large enough to qualify as an MRO. Planning to work with other States in the region, where this is possible, will enhance SAR capability.

6.3 There are limits to the practicality of this approach, mostly to do with distance, SAR unit range, and expected survival times. Nevertheless, it should always be considered. Guidance on the use of regional resources may be found in guidance paper 3.2.

7 Additional Rescue Resources

7 Additional Rescue Resources

7.1 A more general solution to the problem of a shortfall in SAR capability is to identify additional resource locally. It may be that, as a result of the risk analyses conducted at an early stage in the planning process, the authorities will decide to provide additional SAR units, thereby removing some categories of incident from the list of those which will require an MRO response. This would be an excellent result – but our main concern here is with those incidents that remain beyond normal SAR capability.

7.2 If sufficient additional designated units cannot be provided, other resources must be identified. In maritime MROs these will chiefly be drawn from shipping in the area.

7.3 What shipping may be available and useful will vary according to the circumstances – but all classes of shipping, from fishing vessels and leisure craft to ships of all kinds and sizes, should be considered. In SAR such vessels are sometimes referred to as 'additional facilities', 'vessels of opportunity' or 'Good Samaritans'. They are distinguished from SAR units "composed of trained personnel and provided with equipment suitable for the expeditious conduct of search and rescue operations". Under international maritime regulations vessels of opportunity have a duty to assist if they can – but they are not specifically equipped, nor are their crews trained, for this task.

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention Chapter V Regulation 33 applies to nearly all ships – and the operators of exempted vessels are encouraged to comply with the spirit of the regulation too.

7.4 In some cases – ferries, government ships, or offshore industry vessels, for example – specific ships can be identified in particular areas which can, and should, be included in MRO planning, with their operators' and crews' active involvement. In most cases, however, shipping will be in the incident area by chance. Their operators and crews cannot be involved in the planning process for simple reasons of practicality – but the generic use of such shipping must still be included in the plan itself.

7.5 General guidance on the use of vessels of opportunity in MROs may be found in guidance papers 3.1 & 4.6.

8 Extending Survival Time

8 Extending Survival Time

8.1 A third, and perhaps less obvious, solution to the capability gap problem is to plan to extend the time available for rescue. This can be done by providing support to those on scene.

8.2 At the basic level, support packages can be delivered to people in distress to improve their chances of survival until they can be rescued. Examples include dropping liferafts, food, water and other survival equipment from fixed-wing aircraft, or from ships unable to recover people in the prevailing conditions. Fixed-wing aircraft will usually have a greater range than other shore-based units. They cannot conduct the 'retrieval' or recovery part of rescue, but they can deliver supplies that will keep people alive until other SAR facilities arrive on scene. This activity has to be planned for, however, and air-droppable material made readily available. Similarly, ships arriving at the scene may be able to provide life-saving assistance even if recovery is not, or not yet, possible. But this too should be thought about beforehand. See guidance paper 3.1 and the IMO's MSC Circular 1182, 'Guide to Recovery Techniques'.

MSC.1/Circ.1182/Rev.1. See also the IMO's Pocket Guide to Recovery Techniques, 2014 edition.

8.3 It may also be possible to provide assistance which will mitigate the risk to people on scene so that they do not need a 'mass rescue operation' in the traditional sense. We do not have to wait until people are in survival craft or in the water before responding. Providing the right sort of specialised assistance promptly may prevent an accident escalating to the point at which evacuation is necessary. Examples include taking a disabled passenger ship in tow, or providing firefighting teams to one on fire.

8.4 This is to acknowledge that 'traditional' rescue, as defined by the IMO, may not be the most appropriate response in some circumstances. As a possible alternative to retrieving people in distress, we should also think about supporting them, aboard a damaged but still tenable ship, for example, or – if an evacuation has occurred – aboard survival craft. The IMO's definition of rescue can be usefully amended to read:

'an operation to retrieve or support persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety'.

8.5 Guidance paper 3.3 discusses the use of specialist resources, including providing on-board support.

9 Planning to Fill the Capability Gap

9 Planning to Fill the Capability Gap

9.1 The common theme in the foregoing discussion is planning. Some of the proposals outlined above require SAR authorities to provide physical resources to help fill the 'capability gap' – stockpiled survival equipment, for example. However, all these means of filling the gap require careful thought at the planning stage.

9.2 For regional arrangements to work effectively, agreements have to be made and operating procedures worked out between the regional partners. If planning to use 'vessels of opportunity', alerting and coordination procedures should be decided beforehand. How will the communications structure work? What can vessels in the area reasonably be expected to do? Are there particular groups of vessels – ferries, for example – with which direct planning can be done? And how can we mitigate the effects of an accident by providing support to people on scene, so that they do not have to abandon their ship or so that they can survive for longer while arrangements are made to pick them up?

9.3 There are ways of filling the 'capability gap'. But they must be planned for.

10 Summary

10 Summary

o In planning for MROs we should consider the full IMO definitions of 'rescue', 'place of safety' and 'mass rescue operation'.
o Careful and honest analysis of normal SAR capability is required.
o SAR capability varies geographically and according to the prevailing conditions.
o In an MRO, the SAR capabilities normally available are inadequate: there is a 'capability gap'.
o MRO planning includes identification of the additional resources needed to fill this gap, and deciding how they should best be used.
o The planning should include using 'vessels of opportunity' in the incident area.
o The coordinated use of regional resources should be considered: 'working with the neighbours'.
o Also consider how survival times might be extended by providing support to those in distress prior to their rescue.

11 Further Reading

11 Further Reading

11.1 For further reading on the underpinning philosophy of complex incident planning, follow this link.

11.2 See also guidance papers 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 & 3.4.

Download the PDF Version

Download the PDF Version

Follow Us

FacebookTwitterLinkedInShare on Google+RSS FeedPinterestYoutube
Pin It

Contact Info

International Maritime Rescue Federation
50 Allardice Street
Stonehaven
AB39 2RA
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1569 767405

E-mail: info@imrf.org.uk

Log In Members

Members can log in here to view the Members Hub and other components. Have you forgotten your username/password? E-mail us at info@imrf.org.uk for resetting your password. Or use the "Forgot Login?" function below