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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 20, 2024


May 8, 2003 – While St. John emergency personnel and residents have always pulled together when disasters struck, the island's rapid growth and increasing number of tourists call for a way to streamline the process, according to Steve Clark, V.I. National Park chief enforcement officer.
The park held a three-day training session at the Westin Resort this week for representatives of numerous St. John agencies so they could learn the nuts and bolts of what emergency professionals call the "Incident Command System."
"It's okay to cross the chain of command to share information," Hugh Dougher, a special agent at Mount Rushmore National Park in South Dakota, told the gathering.
Clark recruited Dougher to share his expertise with St. John emergency responders.
Dougher said that supervisors should not get irritated when their subordinates on the scene provide information to other agencies to help the process go smoother. However, he said, decisions and orders should come from the chain of command to the subordinates at each particular agency. In other words, the top police official should not be telling firefighters what to do.
For the several dozen people who took part, the training sessions Tuesday through Thursday provided not only an understanding of how the process works but also an opportunity to get to know one another better. "It's that spirit of cooperation we're trying to foster," Clark said. He said that while faces may change at various agencies, the process will be in place.
Clark said the V.I. park has been using the Incident Command System for six years and that the National Park Service has used it for more than two decades. "It's a systematic approach to managing an incident," he said.
He said the system provides for each person to have a designated job, with the designated incident commander at the top.
"We need to come together if a safari bus goes over the cliff," he said.
Just a week earlier, Clark said, a stout woman had injured her leg on the Reef Bay Trail. Four people from Emergency Medical Service, three from the Fire Service station in Coral Bay, and four from the park hiked a half-mile down the trail and then brought her up in a stretcher.
"It was slick and steep, but we had over eight people able to manage as a team, regardless of the color of their uniform," Clark said.

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