Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about communication and what is involved for it to be effective.
During the month of June, over 20 members of the Northwest Illinois Incident Management Assistance Team deployed to Volk Field in Wisconsin for an exercise called Patriot21, as well as the Rockton Chemtool fire.
Members of the team come from many different backgrounds including local fire departments, emergency management, hospital groups and law enforcement. Following the tornado in 2015, I realized the need and benefit of incident management teams (IMT) and I became heavily involved in the Illinois IMT, Northwest IL IMAT, and the Eastern Area IMT.
Incident management teams bring a framework of nationally-qualified, position-specific individuals, to help organize the chaos of any event whether natural or manmade.
As the incident commander, my job is to make ensure everyone is working in unison and this can only be done through effective communication, something we preached constantly at the recent exercise.
The need for clear and concise communication has to be bi-directional and was extremely crucial in Patriot21. This exercise was hosted by the Wisconsin National Guard and incorporated not only multiple National Guard air wings from across the country but also the following organizations: Wisconsin State Police, Nebraska State Police, Maine State Police, Illinois Urban Search and Rescue TF1, county and state emergency managers and multiple private organizations.
Managing a group of over 1,000 individuals, multiple air operations and a half dozen different work sites is a difficult task on the best days; however, without effective communication, response of this magnitude is impossible.
What I came to quickly realize is the communication has to flow both ways and the messages have to be understood by both parties. This was evident in the communication between the civilian and military organizations involved in this exercise.
We both spoke the same language but the meanings and acronyms caused issues. These breakdowns in communication are the same issues we face in our everyday life whether it’s with a loved one, at work or a civic organization, communication is key.
Without effective communication, ideas cannot be fully understood and problems cannot be solved. The responsibility for clear communication requires participation by both parties.
I would implore you to take this effective communication challenge and become engaged in the future. Not only the future of our local community or county but also our state.
We hear a lot from the politicians in Springfield but have they heard from you? Has the County Board heard from you? Has your city council heard your concerns? How has your communication been?
Brian VanVickle is the Sheriff of Ogle County.