2 Command, Control Coordination
2 Command, Control, Coordination
2.1 In planning for, and carrying out, a mass rescue operation, the most important consideration is how to find the additional resources needed to fill the rescue 'capability gap' (see guidance paper 1.4). However, identifying the extra resources is not the end of the matter. Their use must also be effectively and efficiently coordinated.
2.2 In guidance paper 2.1 we used the analogy of the jigsaw puzzle to illustrate the need for coordination. All the pieces of the puzzle are needed to complete the picture, and all need to be fitted carefully together so as to ensure that there are no gaps and no overlaps.
In guidance paper 2.1 we used this analogy to describe the planning process. But it is equally useful in describing the activity that must take place at the time of the emergency if the MRO is to be as successful as possible. Somebody must take the available SAR resources – the pieces of the puzzle – and fit them neatly together so that, so far as is possible in the circumstances, no-one is lost because they were overlooked or because units wasted time getting in each other's way.
2.3 COORDINATION may be defined as 'the organisation of the different elements of a complex activity so as to enable them to work together effectively'. It is useful to distinguish 'coordination' from two other activities with which it will co-exist in an MRO: 'command' and 'control'.
2.4 COMMAND is the authority to direct; to give orders. There will, for example, be someone in command of each responding unit – each ship, aircraft or other SAR unit. There may be longer chains of command, extending beyond the individual unit, especially in military organisations. In these circumstances senior commanders, in other units on scene or ashore, will be able to give orders to junior unit commanders.
2.5 CONTROL in this case refers to overall authority, typically that of the coastal State within whose waters the incident is occurring. There may be national rules and regulations which will impact on the way an MRO is managed. This is more usually the case in a counter-pollution or salvage response, when the State may wish to take measures to protect its environment or other interests: it is less likely to be an issue in lifesaving. However, controls of this type may be in place, and should be borne in mind.
2.6 The important point here is that the three 'C's – command, control and coordination – co-exist. Chains of command and national controls are not somehow set aside in an MRO. There are likely to be several different command structures in place simultaneously as different types of unit respond, even if all are operating within a single overarching control framework. All these command and control structures will continue to function. They therefore need to be coordinated.
2.7 Once again, it is very important that this element of coordination – the coordination of different command structures within an overall framework of control – is planned for beforehand and understood by all responders. The commander of one military unit, for example, may be senior to the commander of another and can therefore issue orders to the junior unit – but s/he cannot expect to issue orders to other responding units not in his or her command structure. Similarly, the authority to control operations may be vested in a particular government organisation. Other organisations, or individual units, should understand that they cannot override this controlling authority, even in an MRO.
2.8 These can be uncomfortable issues, particularly for those used to a command structure and unused to a coordinated one which relies on cooperation rather than the issuing of orders. All responders, therefore, need to have an understanding of how their activities will be coordinated, and who is responsible for coordinating them – and they need to accept this structure. Effective coordination is vital to successful response, and to be effective the principles and practice of coordination must be accepted by all concerned.
2.9 Here we must make mention of the fourth ‘C’: COMMUNICATION. Efficient communication is vital to effective coordination at all stages, including the planning and plan implementation stages. We discuss this vital fourth ‘C’ in guidance paper 2.1 as regards planning and in guidance paper 4.9 as regards communications during the MRO itself. We also discuss the need for good communication after the event, in guidance papers 2.1, 5.4 & 5.5.
2.10 At this point in our discussion, the most important point to communicate is that coordination does not mean command or control. The SAR Mission Coordinator (SMC: see guidance paper 4.3), On Scene Coordinator (OSC: guidance paper 4.4) and Aircraft Coordinator (ACO: guidance paper 4.5) will be seeking to use the facilities available to them in the most efficient and effective way. They will be asking unit commanders to undertake certain actions, or not to do so, as part of this coordination process. But these are usually requests, not orders. In most cases the SMC, OSC and/or ACO will not have command or control authority over the units responding: they are coordinators.
2.11 In the spirit of cooperation that underpins all SAR, and to facilitate the coordination that is so particularly vital in an MRO, individual units should comply with the coordinators' requests if they can do so, or explain why they cannot or why they would prefer alternative action.