5.1 General Guidance on MRO Training

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Train, Test & Learn

Date Written
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
International Maritime Rescue Federation
Type of Paper
  • Guidance Paper
  • English

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This paper discusses:

o   the place of training in MRO preparations
o   IMO's guidance on SAR training, and MRO training in particular
o   who should receive training and how much training they should receive
o   the value of joint training

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'.

1.2 The guidance in this section relates to training in MRO plans, exercising them, and learning lessons from incident and exercise experience. Guidance papers 5.3, 5.4 & 5.5 refer to exercises, learning, and reporting. Guidance paper 5.2 introduces the IMRF’s MRO workshops, which can form an early part of the planning and training processes and which also form part of the process of disseminating MRO lessons learned. This paper deals with the training process more generally.

2 Plan, Train, Test, Review

2 Plan, Train, Test, Review

2.1 It is a common theme in this guidance series that MROs should be planned for, and that key personnel identified in the plan should be trained for their roles. Both planning and training should be tested by exercises, and will be tested by real incidents: we discuss this in guidance paper 5.3. The results of the tests should then feed back into the process so that it can be improved: see guidance papers 5.4 & 5.5.

2.2 This process is illustrated below.


2.3 The planning part of the cycle is discussed in guidance paper 2.1 and other papers in that section. But planning alone is insufficient: people must be trained to various degrees in the implementation of the plan or it will not work. The adequacy of planning and training is then checked and the results, if properly acted upon, will lead to improvements in both planning and training – and the 'hill' of continuous improvement will be climbed!

2.4 Climbing a hill takes determination and effort. Training, like planning and exercising, only happens when organisations want it to happen. Training takes time and resources, both of which cost money.

2.5 It can be harder to justify this expenditure for MRO training when, almost by definition, MROs are rare events. But, as discussed in guidance paper 1.1 , the justification is provided by the high-consequence nature of such events. There may be a plan but if people are not trained in it appropriately it will fail. The consequences of failure for the response organisations and individuals concerned can be enormous – but for the people who are the subject of the MRO they can be fatal.

2.6 Training in MROs is therefore, we argue, essential. But, as discussed further below, it need not be daunting. Only a few individuals will need extensive training; for most a knowledge of their place in the plan will be sufficient. For some, all that is really needed is the knowledge that there is a plan and that the specific tasks they are given at the time will be part of a much larger overall response.

3 IMO Guidance

3 IMO Guidance

3.1 The International Maritime Organization (IMO) makes a great deal of guidance available on training, including SAR training. Most of the SAR training guidance is contained in the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual. This is supported by IMO model courses in SAR administration and on-scene coordination and, for complex incidents in particular, by MSC Circular 1186: 'Guidelines on the training of SAR service personnel working in major incidents' (see below).

3.2 Volume I of the IAMSAR Manual contains extensive guidance in chapter 3, 'Training, qualification, certification and exercises', to which the reader is referred. In general, IAMSAR notes that:

Volume I chapter 3.2.17.

"Since considerable experience and judgement are needed to handle typical SAR situations, necessary skills require significant time to master. Training can be expensive. Poor training is even more expensive and can result in poor operational effectiveness, which can result in loss of lives of SAR personnel, lives of those in distress and loss of valuable facilities. Quality of performance will match the quality of training. [...]

"All SAR specialists need training, in particular the SCs, RCC chiefs, SMCs, OSCs, ACOs and SRUs.

"Operational facilities which need training include RCCs and RSCs, aeronautical units, maritime units, land units [and] specialized units"

'SCs': SAR Coordinators; 'RCCs and RSCs': Rescue Coordination Centres and Sub Centres; 'SMCs': SAR Mission Coordinators; 'OSCs': On Scene Coordinators; 'ACOs': Aircraft Coordinators; 'SRUs': designated SAR Units.

3.3 This is as regards training in general for SAR specialists and designated SAR units. Each of these individuals and their units should have appropriate MRO training in addition, and in the 2016 edition of IAMSAR Volume II the subject will be added to the list of topics recommended for SAR training. IAMSAR also notes that "awareness training is required for those persons infrequently involved in SAR".

Volume I chapter 3.2.17.

3.4 IAMSAR Volume II, chapter 1.2.2, notes that the responsibility to coordinate the provision of this training falls to the SAR Coordinator (see guidance paper 4.2). It also comments on individual SAR service managers' responsibilities at chapter 1.8:

"The head of a SAR service is responsible for establishment of training programmes for SAR personnel to reach and maintain a high level of competence. The head of each facility is responsible for the training of personnel in the specialized techniques and procedures assigned to them, while each individual must assume responsibility to perform competently any assigned task."

3.5 IAMSAR Volume III, the 'Mobile Facilities' volume carried by ships and aircraft on international routes, provides guidance, in section 2, on training for these facilities, and notes as regards training for the masters of ships (usually a vital additional resource in an MRO) that:

"The mandatory minimum requirements for the training of masters of merchant ships in SAR operations are contained in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers."

4 Guidelines on the Training of SAR Service Personnel Working in Major Incidents

4 Guidelines on the Training of SAR Service Personnel Working in Major Incidents

4.1 In MSC Circular 1186 the IMO provide further advice, focussing on complex incident response. This text notes that:

"Successful interaction and mutual understanding between those who will have to work closely together during a major emergency are of fundamental importance to its being handled successfully. The human element and relevant training for all who may be involved are key factors in this context.

"Major incidents are, fortunately, rare. However, they must be planned and prepared for, and this preparation includes an additional element of training. SAR service personnel are generally used to handling relatively small-scale incidents; but the rarity of major incidents means that they cannot gain the same levels of direct experience in dealing with emergencies on this scale. The need for specific training therefore increases commensurately."

4.2 The Circular discusses what is meant by "SAR service personnel" and "major incidents" – of which MROs are an example – and the training needs that arise. It lists the following "fundamental concerns":

-   the structure and synergy of the wider SAR team which, in a major incident, will include members who are not used to working together as part of the everyday response;
-   the crucial importance of effective communications at all levels;
  See guidance paper 4.9.
-   the additional pressures placed on SAR service personnel during major incidents, and particularly in mass rescue operations;
-   the usefulness of major emergency exercises and simulations; and
-   the usefulness of familiarization visits and exchanges, and joint training initiatives.

4.3 Familiarisation visits and exchanges of personnel are recommended. If RCC staff, for example, do not have personal experience of ship operations, allowing them to gain relevant experience as part of their training will be very beneficial. Placing responders as observers in unfamiliar parts of the operation during an MRO exercise will better enable them to appreciate others' roles, capabilities and limitations.

4.4 MSC Circular 1186 gives the following examples of subject areas to be considered in complex incident training, with a short discussion of the subject in each case:

  recognising the scale of the incident
  survival time
  SAR facility availability
  'working with strangers'
  mutual awareness
  coordination overall
  on-scene coordination
  information, and lack of information
  language difficulties
  planning and plans
  recovery / retrieval of people in distress
  counting those recovered
  dealing with survivors
  dealing with the injured
  dealing with the dead
  places of safety
  news media interest
  friends and families
  'politics': who's in charge?
  training and exercising
  lessons learned

4.5 Most of these items are examined in other guidance papers in this series: see guidance paper 1.1 for an overview. MSC Circular 1186 is recommended reading.

5 Who Should Receive MRO Training, and How Much?

5 Who Should Receive MRO Training, and How Much?

5.1 In guidance paper 1.1 we list those who will be involved generally in an MRO, and in guidance paper 2.1 those who should be involved in MRO planning. A similar list applies when it comes to training. Naturally, in addition to the students listed, expert trainers will also be required.

5.2 The following individuals should be given at least some MRO training, with an indication of its extent in each case:

o   The SAR COORDINATOR (see guidance paper 4.2 ). So as to be able to coordinate the preparations for an MRO, the SAR Coordinator must have an appreciation of the problems associated with such operations and of potential solutions to those problems.
o   The SAR MISSION COORDINATOR (see guidance paper 4.3 ). It may not be necessary to train to MRO standard all staff who fulfil the SMC role in 'ordinary' cases, but enough need extensive MRO coordination training to have an officer ready to take on this very challenging role without delay, and for there to be sufficient reliefs available.
o   The ON SCENE COORDINATOR: as discussed in guidance paper 4.4 , the tasks that can be given to the OSC will depend on his/her training and the resources – communication resources in particular – available to him or her. It is recommended that specific individuals should be trained in the role, alongside the SMC if possible. These individuals should be people likely to be available at the time (ferry masters, for example) or who can be rapidly deployed to the scene. If this level of training is not a practicable possibility, a sliding scale operates. The SMC must delegate tasks as appropriate, based on his or her knowledge of what the appointed OSC can do. Ideally the SMC will know the OSC's capabilities and will be able to delegate appropriately. Failing that, the SMC must judge the OSC's ability and knowledge as best s/he can at the time.
o   The AIRCRAFT COORDINATOR (see guidance paper 4.5 ). This is a specialist role, requiring specialist knowledge of multiple aircraft operations, and should be trained accordingly.
o   Designated SAR UNIT COMMANDERS (see guidance papers 4.6 & 4.7). The more these commanders know of the MRO plan the better, but specific training can be limited to an understanding of what their units' roles are likely to be in an MRO – which, generally speaking, will not be essentially dissimilar to their roles in 'ordinary' emergencies – and of the communications and coordination structure overall.
o   The 'SUB-COORDINATORS' AND COMMUNICATIONS OR LIAISON OFFICERS discussed in guidance papers 4.14.3 4.4 should be trained in their roles. SAR unit commanders can be pre-selected to receive training in on-scene search coordination, for example. Staff who will be deployed to act in the liaison officer role should be trained in the function – which is to act as a communications link, not a decision-maker – and should familiarise themselves with the places they may be deployed to.
o   The SHORESIDE EMERGENCY RESPONSE AUTHORITIES (see guidance papers 2.74.8 and, as regards deployment of specialist support, 3.3). Coordinators of the shoreside response, at the tactical and strategic levels, should have extensive training in major incident response. As regards a maritime MRO, they should have an understanding of how the maritime part of the operation will be coordinated (at the sea / land interface in particular), the overall communications and coordination structure, and the particular challenges inherent in maritime SAR.
o   Where SPECIALIST SUPPORT is to be deployed – firefighting, medical or damage control teams, for example – specific formal training in these roles is essential. This should include an understanding of the overall structure.
o   The COMMANDERS OF SHORESIDE RESPONSE UNITS, like those of designated SAR units, should understand their units' roles and, again, the communications and coordination structure overall.
o   The COMMANDERS OF 'ADDITIONAL FACILITIES' such as ships at or near the scene of the incident will only have had very general, and possibly very limited, SAR training. Their 'training' in an MRO is likely to be limited to being told that there is a plan and what their own particular part in it will be.
o   The COMMANDERS and OPERATORS of potential casualty vessels, aircraft, offshore installations, etc. As discussed in guidance paper 2.1 , these people should be included in the planning if practicable, so that they will have an understanding of the support available to them and the way it will be organised. Operators with emergency response plans of their own will need to understand how their plans interlink with others'.

5.3 An MRO is a complex matter. It is more likely to be successful if individual responders understand the 'big picture' and their own place within it. Everyone should be able to 'own' the MRO plan (see guidance paper 1.2), and this implies a measure of training.

5.4 But the training given requires careful and appropriate targeting. Not everyone needs to be trained in everything, and few organisations will have the resource to conduct extensive training beyond the 'need to know' basis. Training needs should be carefully analysed. Some people will need quite extensive formal training, suitably refreshed at intervals, for MROs are rare and individuals will not have many opportunities to practice their skills (although see also guidance paper 5.3, on exercises). Most potential responders, however, need only be generally familiar with the plan as a whole.

5.5 To the accountant who asks why money should be spent at all on training for something that is unlikely to happen, the answer is: 'Precisely!' It is just because MROs are rare that specific training, to the necessary levels, is required. MROs are, by definition, not something that anyone learns about as a matter of routine. (The issue of funding is discussed further in guidance paper 3.4.)

6 Joint Training

6 Joint Training

6.1 One of the challenges faced in an MRO is the fact that responders are likely to be working with people and organisations with whom they are unfamiliar, not having come across them in their usual work. They will be 'working with strangers' as IMO's MSC Circular 1186 puts it.

6.2 There are considerable benefits to be achieved in training together, on a multi-agency basis, especially for those people who may be interacting directly when an MRO occurs. (The same principle applies in exercises conducted primarily for training purposes: see guidance paper 5.3 .) This may be limited to those identified above who need formal training, but all interaction at the training and exercising level will pay dividends if it becomes necessary to put the MRO plan into action. As discussed above, familiarisation exchanges, although less formal, are also very beneficial, particularly for those for whom full training is decided to be unnecessary but who will be in a communications or liaison role in an MRO.

6.3 Particular attention should be given to the training needs of resources identified as means of filling the 'capability gap' (see guidance paper 1.4). As discussed in guidance paper 3.1, some potential additional SAR facilities can be identified beforehand: ships that trade in a particular area, for example. Seminars and familiarisation exchanges will help build such units into the response team. (Officers pre-selected for OSC work should have rather more formal training, as discussed above.)

6.4 Similarly, when it is agreed that resources can be shared regionally in the event of an MRO (see guidance paper 3.2), some training on how this agreement is to be implemented will be required. As for the deployment of specialist resources to support the casualty unit so that evacuation can be facilitated or avoided, and/or to support survivors on scene or during their transfer to places of safety (see guidance paper 3.3 ), formal training in these activities is essential, as noted above.

7 Summary

7 Summary

o   Training is an essential part of the 'plan, train, test, review' cycle of continuous improvement.
o   Expenditure on MRO training is justified by the high-consequence nature of such events.
o   An MRO is more likely to be successful if individual responders understand the 'big picture' and their own place within it – but only a relatively few individuals, discussed above, will need extensive training. For most a knowledge of their place in the plan will be sufficient. The training given requires careful and appropriate targeting.
o   The IMO guidance on training, particularly in the IAMSAR Manual and MSC Circular 1186, should be considered, together with the list of responders discussed in this guidance paper.
o   The SAR Coordinator is responsible for ensuring that necessary MRO training is arranged, and the relevant SAR managers are responsible for ensuring that it is carried out.
o   Successful interaction and mutual understanding between those who will have to work closely together during a major emergency are of fundamental importance to its being handled successfully.
o   Familiarisation visits and exchanges of personnel during exercises are recommended, and there are considerable benefits to be achieved in training together, on a multi-agency basis, especially for those people who may be interacting directly when an MRO occurs.

8 Further Reading

8 Further Reading

8.1 For further reading on training for mass rescue operations, exercises or drills, and learning from experience, follow this link.

8.2 The IAMSAR Manual provides advice on SAR training, in particular Volume I chapter 3; Volume II chapter 1.2.2, 1.8.1-3 & 1.8.12-16; and Volume III section 2. The IMO also offer model courses, including on SAR administration and the On Scene Coordinator. A full list of IMO's model courses, together with other publications and documents, may be found on the IMRF website.

8.3 IMO's MSC Circular 1186 sets out guidelines on the training of SAR service personnel working in major incidents; and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers provides the standard for seafarer training.

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