Taking command of personal and professional projects

CarolinaFireJournal - DAVID ELLIOTT
01/11/2010 -

We’ re all very familiar with the incident command or incident management system. You have either been trained on it, or like myself, have applied it to successfully mitigate large-scale, multi-agency responses.  About 13 years ago I responded to a large woods fire. I established and maintained command until the incident was terminated. By the end of the day, fire equipment from the state and multiple counties was requested and utilized. The high number of news helicopters present prompted me to request restriction of air space over the incident in order for forestry aircraft to survey the scene. The extended duration of the incident necessitated delivery of replacement batteries for portable radios. EMS was needed to evacuate invalid residents in the area. 


Another familiar process we utilize on a regular basis is that of triage. There’s a particular call that comes to mind when I think of my many memorable triage experiences. We were dispatched to one of the simplest medical calls there is —“choking.”   We were presented with four patients, two of them critical. They had been driving for an hour and a half with an exhaust leak in the car resulting in one respiratory arrest, one critically hypoxic and near arrest, another with shortness of breath and a patient with nausea. All the telecommunicator could get out of the caller was his approximate location along the highway and the reasonable assumption was that he was choking.

It struck me, some time later, how often we cast aside personal or professional projects because the idea and all of its components seem too overwhelming. Then, I reflect upon incidents such as the two preceding scenarios. It is inconceivable to consider any outcome but a successful one. I arrived at the concept of integrating the medical triage system for prioritization and the incident command system for overall organization and their application for personal or professional projects. The result was 100 percent success, 100 percent of the time, no matter the scope, scale or nature of the project.

With regards to planning, simply ask yourself, “What information and/or materials will I need to complete this project?” Compile the list and refer to it later in the process.

The next step takes logistics into consideration. Once again, a single, simple question completes the step: “Where might I obtain this information or material?” Next, it is time for finance, and two simple, straightforward questions: “How much do I anticipate this project to cost and how might I fund it?”

Referring to the lists compiled during the first three steps, you’ ve acquired a list of items that need to be completed. This is the seemingly overwhelming part. I say seemingly, because you can’t use the overwhelming excuse when you’ re faced with an apartment fire, people jumping, two may days, broken hydrant, blocked access to a ladder truck and five newscasters shoving microphones in your face. This is where medical triage experience comes into play.

Simply break the items down into two lists based upon how long they’ ll each take to complete. Any item that might be completed over the course of a day such as phone calls, forms, faxes, letters or applications are to be entitled “tasks.” Any matter that is likely to require multiple tasks or steps and may require a week or more to achieve is an “objective” and makes the second list.

Now you prioritize the objectives. The most critical objectives are “Level A” and they are assigned to be completed within the next four weeks.  Objectives of lesser importance, “Level B” are to be completed within the next quarter.  The procrastination-buster rule is that any Level B Objective remaining incomplete at the end of the assigned quarter must be upgraded to Level A and therefore, must be completed by the end of the next month.

Finally, prioritize the tasks using the old red, yellow and green triage system. Red tasks are of critical importance and are to be completed by the end of the assigned day. Yellow tasks are to be completed by the end of the week. Green tasks are to be completed within two weeks. Once again, what makes this system procrastination-proof is the following rule:  Just as a yellow tag patient can crash and become red, any “yellow task” left incomplete by the close of business on Friday afternoon is upgraded to a “red task” on Monday! The same holds true with incomplete green tasks at the end of the two-week period. They are upgraded to “yellow” and are to be completed by the end of the next week.

This is an amazing discovery, and is guaranteed to result in the successful realization of any project you have the funding for. It can be applied to any departmental, station or company event to include: fundraising events, pilot medical programs, equipment acquisition proposals, fitness programs, employee performance evaluations or training programs. You may also use it for guaranteed success in personal applications such as attaining a higher degree, pursuit of a promotion, planning a party or even a yard sale. I’m delighted to share this with you and encourage your feedback and success stories.

David Elliott wrote and self-published “The Illustrated History of Rescue and EMS,” available at www.bluerampublishing.com and can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Elliott is currently a firefighter/paramedic with Horry County Fire Rescue in South Carolina. He is a former Chief of Orange County Rescue Squad and Assistant Chief of South Orange Rescue Squad in North Carolina. He was also a Lieutenant with the Parkwood VFD in North Carolina. He has been in the fire service and in EMS since age 14 when he was a junior member of Williamston Fire Rescue in North Carolina.
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