Apply Knowledge Globally

Providing disaster management training to southern African countries

Students in the Incident Command System courses hosted by the Emergency Management Division in Windhoek, Namibia. Forest Service photo by Louis Fleming.

WASHINGTON, DC – From March 5-30, the International Programs office implemented disaster mitigation courses in southern Africa, in partnership with and with funding from United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The courses covered various topics on the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System for 145 trainees from South Africa and Namibia. 

These trainings also included simulation exercises for several full Incident Management Teams in South Africa, to evaluate their knowledge and application of ICS.

The cadre of 12 trainers included Tim Murphy, a deputy operations specialist from Region 1; Jeff Shanafelt, assistant fire management officer on Gallatin National Forest; and Louis Fleming, Region 1 smokejumper, as well as Forest Service retirees,Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation staff, New York Fire Department employees and South African colleagues.

Since 2009 the Forest Service and OFDA have worked together to build capacity in disaster response in Southern Africa. Since the beginning of the program over 4,000 emergency responders have received training from the Forest Service, in both South Africa and the U.S. This has resulted in an elite firefighting team that in 2015 was deployed to North America to assist with international firefighting efforts. South African Incident Management Teams have also assisted with flooding in Malawi and Mozambique, and wildfires in Indonesia and Chile. Some of the trainees from this program are now acting as trainers in the ongoing Forest Service and OFDA training efforts in the region. In 2014 the program expanded to two more countries in Southern Africa—Namibia and Botswana—and broadened to encompass all-hazard emergency preparedness. The current trainings are part of this expanded regional effort.

Class photo from Incident Command System courses ICS-300 and ICS-400, hosted by Eskom in Pretoria, South Africa. Forest Service photo by Jeff Shanafelt.