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Stigler Research Conclusion Implemented in Regional Response Team

CAPTION: CHDS alumni Mark Stigler and Brian Satula participate in SIMCOM 2012 in southeastern Wisconsin.
Press Release

A firm believer in the worth of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), Mark Stigler’s views on how to broadly implement the systematic approach to disaster response changed as he researched his thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

"Before I started my research, my solution was just a stronger federal mandate, but after listening to my instructors and talking to emergency managers all over my state I quickly realized adding more mandates to those overworked people was not going to work," said Stigler.

Stigler is a retired Deputy Chief of Police for the City of Waukesha (Wis.) Police Department and is now a full-time instructor at Waukesha County Technical College where he teaches criminal justice and homeland security courses. He recently developed and taught a unique homeland security education program for officers of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which is tailored to their discipline.

What he devised in his CHDS thesis is an efficient, economical way to bring NIMS proficiency to regions that may not have the resources, money or time to implement the system. The result is a 43-member, multi-disciplinary team – the Southeast Wisconsin Incident Management Team (SEW IMT)– that lends expertise in the Incident Command System and NIMS to local governments unable to implement the complex requirements of the systems.

The Southeast Wisconsin IMT, which Stigler leads with three assistant team leaders, comprises professionals who are highly trained in NIMS and work on a volunteer basis to lend their know-how to localities that have not, or may be unable to utilize all the complex components of the system.

Key to the team’s success is that its members already have relationships with the localities they would aid during an incident, event or exercise.

"Our team is made up of local professionals who understand and utilize NIMS on a daily basis. We are fortunate to have such great-hearted people from several dozen diverse agencies across our region who want to use their skills to help local communities in their time of need," Stigler noted. "Because our team is multi-disciplinary and multi-agency in its makeup, many team members end up knowing the municipalities they are assisting. The combination of those prior relationships and our knowledge of how to effectively implement NIMS during complex incidents, whether in the EOC or the field, can really aid in quick and effective mitigation and recovery. We can come out as team and help facilitate any large event or disaster by using a complex system many don’t understand or remember from their training."

Though largely composed of local and regional subject matter experts from police, fire, emergency management services, public health, public works and emergency management personnel from 8 counties in Southeast Wisconsin, the team also includes participation from the private-sector, a non-governmental organization (Citizens and Organizations Active in Disasters) and a retired FEMA responder. Including an non-government organization and a private sector hospital helps foster the collaboration public agencies need to respond to and mitigate large-scale events. That embodies the "Whole of Communities" approach to disaster response embraced by FEMA and emergency management professionals.

"This team builds on the old rural concept of neighbors helping neighbors and is really an important part of building a resilient community," Stigler said. "The federal government cannot do it alone and no single local agency or municipality can do it alone. We need to bring in all of the response and recovery elements from the government, but we also have to bring in the NGOs and the private sector. We want to facilitate the building partnerships through our team."

The team began operations in the winter of 2012 and has deployed three times. The most recent exercise on May 31 was dubbed "SIMCOM 2012" and involved more than 200 participants and agencies as well as Wisconsin Emergency Management Director Brian Satula, who is a December 2011 CHDS graduate.

The exercise was designed to display, educate and test Mobile Emergency Communications and interoperability between the Department of Defense and federal, state, tribal and local governments. The goal of the exercise was to develop relationships and understand the capabilities of other agencies before they are needed in a real emergency. The exercise was funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant through the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.

The Southeast Wisconsin Incident Management Team (SEW IMT) reflects recommendations that Stigler made in his thesis, "Strategy for Upgrading Preparedness in Small and Rural Communities to Meet National Preparedness Standards." He credits his CHDS education with expanding his view of homeland security in his profession.

"The education I received at CHDS was an integral part of my maturation process as a homeland security practitioner," he said. "Without the school I would have never had the broad view of homeland security that I have now. When I work with others to build homeland security or emergency management courses, documents or teams, I always keep in mind the lessons I learned at CHDS. It makes me feel good when I can apply the things I learned at that school here at home. The education I received at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security was state of the art and the instructors were true mentors, many who I still reach back to when I need help. I feel duty bound to take back the new understanding they helped me reach and apply it here in my state."