The original Intent
Jurisdictions that want to build an AHIMT from a pool of first responders needed a course that takes the concepts of the baseline ICS material (100, 200, 300, 400) and translate it into what an AHIMT would perform on-scene. The original 0-305 course and each of the revisions include a review of the Command and General Staff positions, a review of how those positions interact with each other, a comprehensive section on how the planning process works, and exercises designed to demonstrate how a team should come together and manage an incident and develop an incident action plan. For the first-responders that come from disciplines that do not practice implementing ICS on a daily basis, without this course that “levels the playing field,” personnel from those disciplines would likely be overwhelmed when discussing the concepts presented in the position specific courses. Many first responders have had little or no additional exposure to ICS since they first completed the baseline courses. In addition, the time lapse from their original baseline ICS training is often significant — possibly several years — resulting in many of the ICS concepts being forgotten. Without a course such as the O-305 that reviews and builds on those original concepts, a significant number of students would struggle with any additional ICS concepts presented, including the position specific courses. The simulations used during the final two days of the O-305 course allows for the mentor to regulate the pace and quantity of the injects, thereby varying the degree of difficulty. This permits the team and individuals to proceed through the Planning Cycle in a non-threatening environment that maximizes the learning environment.
The O-305 Provides an Opportunity to Decide if AHIMT Participation is Desired
Discussions with both the attendees as well as program managers developing AHIMTs is enlightening. Based on the experience of presenting hundreds of USFA O-305 courses over the past twenty years, and discussing the results with both attendees as well as program managers, a student’s experience fits into one of three categories. The categories of experience are:
- They enjoy the concepts of the AHIMT and being a member. They like the position they filled during the course and would like to pursue further education and experience in the position.
- They enjoy the concepts of the AHIMT and being a member. Although they filled the position of “X” during the course they would rather pursue further education and experience in the position of “Y” on the team.
- They understand the concepts of the AHIMT, its use, and how it can assist first-responders. However, they are not interested in pursuing a position on an AHIMT.
If the student elects to not pursue a position on an AHIMT, they have still gained a valuable and more in-depth understanding of how to implement ICS and how to interact with an AHIMT on an incident where one is deployed. That means they are a far better prepared first responder. Since its development in 2004, student evaluations from the 0 305 course have consistently rated it as “the best ICS course available” or “one of the best ICS courses I’ve ever taken” because of these experiences.
It is important to note that this course helps students decide whether they would like to pursue a position on the incident management team at all. That reinforces the design that the O-305 course should be taken first. If a student attends a position specific training course first, they may determine that not only is the position is not a good fit for them, but by bypassing the O-305 course they would not have gained a good understanding of the other positions available on a team or how it all fits together. As a result, the investment in taking the position-specific course might be lost.
In summary, the USFA 0-305 course was originally developed as a standalone “now you are qualified” course because no additional curricula or process existed. As a result of that course there was a strong push to have the USFA develop follow-on courses to increase the knowledge and skills needed to properly perform the ICS positions. As a direct result, the position specific training courses were developed, and they were developed with the understanding that they would be taken after the introductory 0-305 course that refreshed everyone’s awareness and knowledge of the ICS and gave them an overall view of all the positions. Although some students do wind up taking position specific training courses first because of scheduling issues, that should not be the norm because it is not the order of progression originally designed into the program or how the courses were built from an instructional systems design standpoint.
This graph shows the original design of how the training would progress. This is the optimal order but course availability should be the over-riding determining factor.