Chief's Honor Awards 2017: Honorable Mention - Tim Murphy

2017 Chief Awards: Applying Knowledge Globally

Tim Murphy conducting the Leadership & Structure Firefighter 1 Course in Prays, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Ron Spadafora, New York City Fire Department.

WASHINGTON — Since 2011, Tim Murphy, Region 1 Fire and Aviation Management Staff, has played a critical leadership role in designing and implementing all of the technical program elements of the Southern Africa Disaster Management Program, including coordinating trainings, recruiting teams of instructors, and facilitating knowledge exchange. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and program management by the Africa and Middle East Team of Forest Service International Programs, the SADMP has provided National Incident Management System training, including the Incident Command System component, and helped institutionalize ICS as the fire and all hazard management system in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.

The SADMP uses a multipronged approach to facilitate technology transfer, capacity building, and international exchange. Borrowing directly from Forest Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency curricula, training is a primary component. SADMP instructors have provided 174 training sessions to 4,455 students attending courses held in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. These courses have included students from Botswana, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Spain, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The diversity of students has been enormously valuable in sharing knowledge and experience.

Another major component of this program has involved the recruitment of a diverse cadre of instructors, including in-country partners with sufficient experience and training. Participating in these training sessions has been an extraordinary professional (and personal) opportunity for all of these instructors and helps to diversify and “internationalize” the Forest Service ranks. This cadre of 70 people is comprised of Forest Service employees and retirees, as well as colleagues from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Fire Department of New York City, and partner entities in Canada and South Africa. The program has enabled 40 additional Forest Service specialists to apply their expertise in Southern Africa.

A final component of the SADMP is the opportunity for knowledge exchange and capacity building in the United States. Ninety-four SADMP attendees have participated in U.S.-based seminars and study tours, which has provided significant opportunities for technology transfer between Forest Service employees and study tour participants.

Murphy has served as a mentor to many leaders from Southern African disaster management and fire management organizations and has helped them use NIMS/ICS in coordinating and responding to all-hazard emergencies. In addition to numerous training courses, the SADMP has developed an ICS Tool Kit, Fire Protection Association Digest, and a Southern Africa Firewise Program. This has led to a decrease in fatalaties and forest cover loss during disaster incidents.

As was demonstrated during the 2015 wildfire season, the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces have adopted NIMS and ICS on all-hazard incidents and have tailored the system to South Africa.  Furthermore, the South Africa Incident Management Teams have been mobilized internationally and have successfully assisted other countries in their disaster management responses (e.g., flooding in Malawi and Mozambique; wildfires in Indonesia and Chile).  The South Africa Incident Command System working group was also officially considered a sub-committee of a national disaster management advisory forum in South Africa.  Many of these outcomes were a direct result of Murphy’s leadership.  His work on the program also encouraged Forest Service counterparts in South Africa and neighboring countries to contribute many of their own resources to coordinate and implement training courses.

Additional SADMP accomplishments, led by Murphy, include:

  • Formation of the South Africa Fire ICS Working Team
  • Development of the South Africa Forest, Veld, and Prescribed Fire Qualification System
  • Development of South Africa-specific training and course material
  • Implementation of a community-based Firewise program
  • Completion of a Train-the-Trainer program
  • Establishment of incident management teams and pools of qualified personnel
  • Recognition of NIMS and formalization of the South Africa ICS Working Team under the National Disaster Management umbrella.
  • Institutionalization of NIMS in North-West, Stenden, and Nelson Mandela Universities, and development of pending programs at Free State and Johannesburg Universities

The SADMP is an outstanding nominee for the Applying Knowledge Globally category of the 2017 Chief’s Honor Award.

Crew Boss Leadership course with Missoula Smokejumper Keith Woods in Nelspruit, South Africa . Forest Service photo by Tim Murphy.

Division Group Supervisor training in Cape Town, South Africa. Forest Service photo by Tim Murphy.

Introduction to ICS and Basic Leadership training in Nelspruit, South Africa. Forest Service photo by Bill Miller.


Aerial Supervision exercise at 3rd International Wildfire Conference in Sun City, South Africa. Forest Service photo by Tim Murphy.

Operations Chief Course simulation exercise of a building collapse and explosion in Cape Town, South Africa. Forest Service photo by Mike Fritsen.