Real-Life: Unified Command

by | Apr 5, 2024 | Gary's Blog

real life event

Pedestrian Versus Motor Vehicle


You don’t have to get hit by a car or have something bad happen at your School to learn the lessons of Unified Command.

You are the Incident Commander until Unified Command.

No, this is not me…

Not counting car crashes, I’ve been struck by a vehicle three times: twice on a bike and recently walking in the crosswalk.  The first time I was hit by a car I was twelve years old and riding my friend’s Schwinn Stingray.  The brakes didn’t work and when you peddled backwards, the chain came off. Without looking, I rode into the crosswalk and was struck by a vehicle entering the intersection.  As my dad said to me, “It’s a good think you landed on your head, or you would have been hurt.”

Fast forward forty years and I am out for a bike ride in the country and was hit by a minivan.  I broke my nose, three ribs, had a collapsed lung and a bruised kidney.  To make the injuries worse, I had been recently diagnosed with DVTs and was on blood thinners.  Large amounts of blood were coming from my nose and I was struggling to breathe.

A man came up and asked if I was okay.

“If I pass out before the medics arrive, tell them I am on Coumadin, can you remember that?” I asked. 

“Yes,” he replied. “You are on Coumadin.”

“If I pass out before the police get here, tell them my off-duty weapon is in a pouch on my waist.  Can you remember that?” 

“Yes,” he replied.  “Let me get your gun.” 

“No, wait till the police get here!”

Things were a blur after that.  Medics arrived and soon a police officer.  At that moment, I went from being the Incident Commander to being in Unified Command.  I was still responsible for me, but the medics were taking care of my injuries, and the police were directing traffic and issuing a citation.  Everyone did what they were trained to do.

A couple of weeks ago I was heading to my car after an election party.  I was legally in the crosswalk when I was struck by a vehicle.  Very minor injuries, but I was knocked off my feet and was struggling to get up.  My niece’s wife, Kelsey, saw the crash and came to help me.

“Should I call 911?”
“Yes, call 911.  Tell them pedestrian versus car at Columbus and Broadway.” 

As she talked with the dispatcher, I gave her more information:  “The victim is conscious and breathing.  No head injury.  Suspect vehicle has remained on scene.”

The police quickly arrived, followed by the medic.  I told the first officer I was off-duty and had my weapon on my ankle.  He said he would secure it once the medic had me on the cot.  My weapon secured, the medics treating my injury, and we were once again, in Unified Command.

I called Kelsey the next day and thanked her for helping me and calling 911.  She told me she was panicking and could not believe how calm I was as I gave her information. Thirty plus years in law enforcement helps, plus my work as a School Safety Director.

When working with school personnel, I get a lot of ‘What if?’ questions.  The first two priorities in any event, when you are the Incident Commander, are life safety and incident stabilization.  In terms of school safety, make sure you and your students are safe and don’t do anything to make matters worse.  When First Responders arrive on scene, you move into Unified Command.  You are still responsible for your students, but the police are in charge of the crimes and the firefighters are in charge of the flames.

You don’t have to get hit by a car or have something bad happen at your School to learn the lessons of Unified Command.  With the help of your First Responders, you should have an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). You train your staff on your EOP and conduct exercises with your First Responders to test the capabilities outlined in your plan and your training.  An After Action Plan (AAR) will help with your Corrective Actions and you begin the emergency management cycle again.  If you train for the events most likely to affect your school, you will be more successful when the event you did not exercise or train for happens…

Like getting hit by a car.

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