My name is Tim Allsop, I am a Professional Registered Incident Controller who has been working in the Oil & Gas Industry for the past 24yrs, and prior to that 15yrs in the Australian Military as a special forces Clearance Diver.
In this article you’ll learn what it takes to be an effective Emergency Response Leader and Manager. Let me start by explaining the difference between the being a leader during normal activities and being a leader during emergency conditions.
During normal activities the designated leader has the added luxury of being able to control the clock, this allows them time to trouble shoot, designate time for planning activities, forecast and spend the needed time on coaching his/her team and apply several options to seek out the one that will work for the required outcome.
During emergency situations the designated leader is expected to make critical decisions in less time than the clock often allows, to act instinctively. More often than not the time the emergency response activities have started, the clock is already running in the negative, meaning the initial response activities are already late to be initiated.
This condition applies a lot more personal, internal & external stress than normal. When people are exposed to stress, especially for extended periods of time, parts of their brain de-function causing many physical & psychological problems and delays further compounding the performance and ultimately the outcome of the response efforts.
Negative stress management alone will not cause failure but when you add other ingredients like, unpreparedness in understanding response activities or plans, inability to cohese as a team, setting un-realistic goals not to mention the failure or broken item that initially caused the incident itself also leads to the recipe for failure.
There is one more element that is often forgotten but is the single most valuable skill to have during emergency response/management activities. That is the behavior & attitude of the designated leader. It is the personal skills, the ability of the person to lead properly, coach & mentor when required to get the best from the team, in the shortest amount of time. More often than not there is more value in the way and how something is said compared to what is being said. The leader has to win over the team, and that is a combination of his/her demeanor, behavior & attitude.
Emergency Response & Risk Management top three values
My top three values in what makes a good emergency leader are:
- The Leader must be Principle Centered – he/she must know what needs to be done
- The Leader must be Future Orientated – he/she must be focused on where they want to be in 5, 10, 20 minutes time and recheck regularly they are on track
- The Leader must be People Focused – not just for keeping people safe and away from harm, but also to be able to get the best out of their responders
Of course there are many more skills that make up the full suite of Emergency Leadership, such as being able to improvise, think outside the box, multi-task, these are also special skills to have in your ER toolbox.
These special skills that I have listed above, you are not born with, these skills are learnt or taught and allowed to develop with experience.
Similarly people are not born soldiers, they are grown into being a soldier, so how do they get ready to go into battle? Which is that emergency situation.
This education is a process of constantly practicing for “worse case” scenario, being disciplined, learning working as a team, achieves better & faster results than working alone.
So if we train all our soldiers the same way then how do we train soldiers to lead other soldiers, that is where my top 3 leadership qualities come into play, and why I call them my top 3 important ones.
So forget about being a soldier for a moment and now think about how you can apply that back at your work place, how do you become that designated leader?
How do you convince others to follow you?
Traditionally leadership comes with rank, however in the Oil & Gas industry we have dedicated emergency response teams, that is not their full time job, this is something we train them to do and it is their secondary role offshore, and it works, because of the skillset I have listed above.
We develop their attitude, their behaviour we give them the “authority to act” whilst retaining the responsibility of the outcome.
We also give them realistic “worse case” scenarios which they have to solve whilst under stressful conditions.
If your work place does not have these opportunities for you, and you want to be a better leader, then you need to seek out other opportunities that require teamwork and goal setting objectives based around a “ticking clock”. Such as sports, clubs, groups where you can practice developing your behaviour, attitude and personality to build your confidence in leading a group.
Personally I learnt my leadership skills from my time in the special branch of being a clearance diver, where every person was trained to be both a team member and a team leader if needed. These skills have served me very well in all my jobs that I have had, it is these very skills that I have been teaching others to learn for more years than I want to remember.
Train Hard, Fight Easy
In summary, we don’t have the time in our lives to wait 20yrs for us to learn how to be a leader at work let alone an Emergency Response Leader, like we did a long time ago, the work place is changing more often than it did before. A perfect example is where we are right now with the global response to COVID19; possibly the CEO & Presidents of large enterprises today do not have the necessary skills to lead their companies into the future.
Emergency Response Leadership is not rocket science or brain surgery, but if it is not done well enough the results have the same consequences as a failed rocket launch or medical operation. My personal mantra has always been “Train Hard Fight Easy”.
Emergency Response can only be described as a CRAFT as it is the process of “reducing escalation during changing conditions” similar to “shooting a moving target”.
Having a dedicated Incident Command Room, also commonly called “war room” is not the norm, they are considered luxury items and not necessary items.
Companies just can`t afford the real estate in their buildings or office spaces.
What my company has done for the last 5yrs is provided a fully outsourced Incident Command System compliant facility. This is what we call the Managed Emergency Response Service Centre or MERSC for short. In this facility we have 3 fully functioning “war rooms” and several additional support rooms for additional groups who might be called in if escalation dictates the necessity to manage additional activities.
The MERSC is spread across 13,000sqft, and operates on a 24/7 basis, fully integrated to the digitalization of external big data mining. We share this facility with the other part of our business which is training & assessing On Scene & Incident Commanders to the international standards of OPITO, TEEX, BTEC, AFAC.
The MERSC has been called into action on several occasions and with very good outcomes for our clients.
Our clients who all have a global network of activities, like the option of being able to respond to any emergency anywhere in the world from one location.
The MERSC not only provides the environment but also offers trained personnel to fill all the Emergency Management Team positions, from Incident Commander down to Relative Response Team Member.
The major contributing factor to our success has been, that we train personnel every week in the craft of Incident Command, so when we are asked to perform on their behalf, we are well prepared, keeping with our mantra “Train Hard Fight Easy”.
The MERSC is one of only a handful of facilities that performs this role for industries and the only one which also provides internationally accredited training for operators.
Recently Wild Geese Group, my company in partnership with WIGUNA were awarded exclusive delivery rights for the UARD accredited ERRM courses.
Ranging from Certificate Level 3, through Diploma Levels 4 &5 right up to Batchelors & Masters, this newest achievement has positioned the MERSC at a new level, now recognized as a “Center of Excellence” in the fields of Incident Command & Emergency Management, the MERSC continues to be the industry leader in Emergency Response & Competency Development for Incident Management Teams & their Leaders.
In addition to the MERSC facility we have also established a network of strategic partners which we call Cooperative Learning Sites or CLS for short.
These partners of ours allow us to expand our brand, collaborate in providing our full range of products & services to their local operators.
Having a local partner in the region is very valuable to our businesses growth, it also shows commitment to the region of business and opens the doors to ideas and opportunities, whilst reducing the risks.
WGG is not the brand the end product & service is the brand we are simply put the caretaker of the brand.
Working in partnership is nothing new to WGG, we have used this as a business model since the beginning way back in 2004, we continue to look for opportunities to collaborate.
The MERSC is a true example of a “turn key” service provider
Editor’s Note: Tim Allsop was awarded the title Dato by the country of Malaysia for the establishment of the regions first fully functional and urgently needed Managed Emergency Response Service Centre, giving him the rank of “Sir” Timothy Allsop.