In the home of the National Interagency Fire Center the response to Sandy has special significance.
It has sent 11 incident management teams and 28 crews to New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut and to staging areas in the region. These teams are the elite squads of emergency response and their role has long expanded beyond just fire.
For these teams and managers like them the partisan sniping and demagogy that comes from politicians of all stripes gets in the way of their jobs of protecting lives and property and restoring order. They appreciated Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s involvement and support in the Idaho fires this summer.
I had a National Park Service official during the 1988 Yellowstone fires praise a Republican senator who publicly criticized the agency but stood by it when many were calling for people's heads. At the same time he expressed disdain for a Democrat who came to Yellowstone, not to survey the damage, but to simply do a photo op to say he also was mad at the Park Service.
They admired Gov. Phil Batt’s relationship built with President Bill Clinton during floods in the 1990s and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne with Clinton in 2000 during that fire season when the President then disdained by Republicans returned to Idaho during that disaster.
So what make good crisis management in these folks eyes?
Good communications, direct access to the people who are affected, and setting priorities for disaster workers are the key said Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership in the Harvard Business Review.NIFC and its incident teams are experts are carrying out these tasks on the ground.
But it takes focused leadership to carry it through.