Apply Knowledge Globally

Disaster management seminar draws international crowd

A group of seminar participants sit in on a debrief of the Mendocino Complex Incident, California’s largest fire in history, led by an Incident Management Team Command Staff member. Forest Service photo by Ashlee Jackson.

CALIFORNIA – For two weeks during mid-August, 29 participants from 21 countries traveled to California to participate in the USDA Forest Service’s International Seminar on Disaster Management, which included visits to two fire incident camps. Organized by the International Programs office, the seminar provided participants with an in-depth understanding of systems utilized in disaster management at all levels of government in the U.S. and with an opportunity to explore innovative approaches to improve disaster management, including through interagency and inter-sectoral alliances and partnerships.

Through the seminar, participants explored effective disaster management in terms of policy, coordination and on-scene incident management. Using facilitated discussion and site visits, the seminar instructed participants on the history and current operationalization of the National Incident Management and Incident Command systems. The seminar also provided a unique opportunity for participants to expand their international network in the area of disaster preparedness and response.

For many participants, the highlight of the seminar was spending two days shadowing the command staff of the Incident Management teams at two fire incident camps in Northern California. Participants attended coordination and planning meetings and were debriefed by Forest Service officials. Participants camped alongside Forest Service firefighters and were able to appreciate all aspects of a Forest Service fire camp, including the professionalism and dedication exhibited by the Incident Management Team and many firefighters as they fought to contain these large fire incidents.

Regina Rahadi, a disaster liaison for the Forest Service who is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, said of the seminar, “The combination between classroom learning and site visits is very helpful for the group to understand the basic premise of the Incident Command System, what's happening on the ground, and what's happening at the policy level. I can tell my colleagues are learning through this format. Though we are all working at different levels of government, everyone can play their part to integrate ICS and to improve disaster response in his or her home country.”

All 29 participants from 21 countries pose for a photo in California’s Bay Area. Forest Service Photo by Rebecca Ciciretti.