The growing complexity and duration of wildland fires continues to challenge the capability and expertise of U.S. Forest Service agency administrators and fire managers and the wildfire response system as a whole. As wildfires become more complex and the risk to firefighters, the public, communities and resources increase, there is a demand for additional strategic decision support for administrators and managers engaged in the management of these events. In December 2016, a working group in the Forest Service developed a process to enhance the strategic evaluation process; analytics and expand response decision space with focus on minimizing firefighter exposure, protecting highly valued resources and assets, and achieving incident and land and resource management objectives. This effort is now interagency and closely linked to the cohesive strategy utilizing the best available science for safe and effective wildfire response.
Risk Management Assistance (RMA) is designed to assist agency administrators/line officers and incident commanders by providing access to experienced line officers, personnel skilled in risk management, fire operations, and enhanced fire analytics to improve fire management responses through a risk informed process. RMA products and personnel strengthen the ability to examine alternative strategies that better consider the exposure tradeoffs, assess risk to highly valued resources and assets, and seek opportunities for realizing the beneficial effects of fire. The intent is to apply existing and emerging decision support tools coupled with risk management expertise to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of wildfire response.
Support can be provided through remote, on-site or a combination of options. In response to COVID-19 in 2020, a National Enterprise Risk Management Assistance (ERMA) cadre working under the direction of the Enterprise Risk Management Team has been established to support Enterprise level decision makers (National Multi-Agency Coordination Group Agency Administrators) with the intent to provide:
- oversight structure for assessment study teams addressing enterprise mitigation topics associated with actions before, during and after fire events;
- enhanced analytics and decision support tools;
- support and facilitate development of recommended actions utilizing assessment results;
- Geographic Area Risk Management Assistance (GARMA) cadres by GACC, for Agency Administrators and Incident Management Organizations before, during and after fire events. Proposed assistance would be provided from existing rostered RMA experienced staff and the National Line Officer Team (NLOT); including interagency partners.
For additional information surrounding ERMA/GARMA, please see briefing paper and Organization Chart.
Early engagement provides for more robust use of RMA capabilities which may positively influence efficiencies throughout the duration of the incident. Requests should come as early as possible in the emergence of an incident, or when conditions indicate incident(s) are likely in the near term (1-2 weeks). For additional information on requesting RMA personnel and/or products, please visit Requesting RMA.
Risk Management Assistance (RMA) is a program that was originally developed and tested in 2017. It is designed to provide decision support cadre with specific skills to help line officers and fire managers throughout high risk incidents. Personnel are available to work for the agency administrators in areas that are most likely to experience high exposure events. By engaging this capacity during the emergence and throughout the evolution of high impact fires with appropriate levels of capacity and leadership, the opportunities for improved development and shared ownership of high risk strategic decisions can be increased.
Senior fire leaders recognize and acknowledge the importance and need to change the conversation around large fire strategies, one that does not expect all out efforts at all costs or approaches with low probability of success, given risk and exposure. The senior fire leader's desired outcome supports decision making differently, aligns with the Chief around risk and strategies and inserts new tools and processes that encourage and provide space for new conversations. They believe we can reduce unnecessary exposure by implementing a process to share risk by providing oversight on large fires through a national process with appropriate decision support resources.
Fire leadership have formed teams of highly experienced line officers, incident managers and decision analysts to enhance our strategic evaluation process. These teams can assist the agency administrator and incident commander to more thoroughly develop and consider alternative strategies that more effectively achieve incident and land and resource management objectives while weighing risk mitigation and threat to identified HVRAs. Within the current environment, existing time constraints limit line officers’ capacity to thoroughly examine strategic alternatives. RMA personnel and products will provide such capacity and analysis to ensure that the depth of our assessments and strategic planning efforts align with the potential risk posed by a wildfire to personnel exposure and resource commitments made.