Operation: Go West



Operation name: Go West

Duration: 4 days

Dates: 04/18/2013 – 04/21/2013

Locations: West, TX


Executive Summary


Paragraph 1: Pre-Deployment


On April 17 30, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution center in West, TX. Emergency responders were on scene fighting a fire at the facility when the explosion occurred. Emergency responders were killed in this incident and substantial injuries to people and damage to homes and structures ensued.


At 0900 on April 18, 2013, Region VI DFO received State request via the TDEM state VAL for IMT support to establish framework for volunteer and donations management and to establish situational awareness and response to a massive fertilizer plant explosion resulting in several fatalities including local city manger, first responders and local citizens. This event created a mass causality incident that quickly overwhelmed local capabilities.


Paragraph 2: Deployment


Region VI DFO conducted advanced assessment of the incident site, and requested TR IMT support. TR HQ DFO approved the request and three TR IMT members were dispatched to incident site.


Team Rubicon IMT served as the planning section in support of TDEM. Team Rubicon IMT developed the Incident Command Structure for the Volunteer and Donations Management operations, in addition to establishing the over all operations, processing system and IAP development for that portion of the overall operational response.


April 18, 2013 the TR IMT worked through the night to establish the IAP and plans for the operations on April 19. On April 19, 2013 over 1500 volunteers were processed and assigned tasks and over 20 metric tons of donations were processed and accepted. April 20, 2013 alternate storage locations were identified which included the designation of sorting and routing donations systematically to these locations. April 20, 2013 also included the processing of over 1200 volunteers and over 20 metric tons of donations. On April 21, 2013 the TR IMT began transitioning the incident management over to the Texas Conservation Corps, who took over the volunteer and donation management on April 22, 2013.


Paragraph 3: Post-Deployment


As part of the established planning process, the Team Rubicon IMT began developing a transition plan within the first 2 days of arriving. This proved to be an invaluable part of the planning process, through developing the capacity within the Texas Conservation Corp to continue the work and operations in a seamless process and transition. This transition methodology was extremely successful and provided a smooth turn over of operations.




Shane ValVerde, USMC, 4 days


Ryan Moeller, USA, 4 days


Brian Brown, Civ, 4 days


Christa Lopez, Civ, 3.5 days


Areas of Ananlysis


  • Planning
  • Communications
  • Risk Management
  • Information Gathering
  • Volunteer management
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • On-Site Incident Management


Lessons Learned & Key Actions


Lessons Learned

  • Operations must begin and end at the regional level for proper accountability & planning purposes.
  • Time invested in objective setting, information gathering, & planning is key to operational success.
  • Partnering with both the local jurisdiction/authority & other local organizations to leverage resources proved successful.
  • Fitting into the role needed for that particular response is good for the community, the jurisdiction/authority and Team Rubicon.
  • Sometimes all an operation requires is a small but impactful response.


Key Actions

  • Established the planning unit for the volunteer and donation management sector.
  • Established a framework and process for volunteer management.
  • Coordinated all efforts with both the supporting / supported organizations and jurisdictional agencies.
  • Acknowledged and adapted to the local community culture and was respectful of their practices & priorities that proved invaluable at gaining both trust and by in.
  • Requested and utilized the TR IMT.






OBSERVATION: Prior to the start of each operational period a plan was developed utilizing the ICS forms to develop an IAP (Incident Action Plan) which was then utilized to brief all responders and organizational / agency representatives. This ensured that all parties were working towards a common goal and that all parties remained aware of the day’s efforts.


RECOMMENDATION: This has been identified as a best practice. It is recommended that the creation of an IAP integrated and adopted into the planning process by providing training to all future TR leaders in the creation of an IAP.


ACTION: Identify and procure an electronic copy of all TR ICS forms with paper backups and operational planning posters.




  1. TASK / CAPABILITY: Communications


OBSERVATION: Radios and cellphones were used. Personal hot spots (TR personnel) were used for accessing Internet.


RECOMMENDATION: Team Rubicon should research and procure hot spot creation capabilities for each operation/mission/region.


ACTION: Research hot spot options for each region.


Risk Management


3 TASK / CAPABILITY: Risk Management


OBSERVATION: As part of the planning process, a complete risk analysis was conducted of both the area of operations along with the recovery activities that would be taking place; This was done by utilizing the two ICS forms 208 safety message and the 215A Safety analysis. This proved effective in the analysis as traffic incidents and weather related incidents were eliminated.


RECOMMENDATION: Ensure a Safety Officer is designated for each operation.


ACTION: Provide ICS planning materials to all regions along with training for risk analysis and safety.


Intelligence & Information Gathering , Analysis & Production


4 TASK / CAPABILITY: Information Gathering


OBSERVATION: Prior to deploying to the area, 1 TR member was asked to assess the area and need with TDEM.


RECOMMENDATION: Ensure that a local point of contact is established prior to deployment by leveraging previous contacts made in the state or area during prior responses, continue to build state relationships within each region.




1) Develop a state-by-state regional point of contact list for: State OEM; Volunteer Coordinator; Disaster and/or Preparedness District for area; State VAL (Voluntary Agency Liaison) roster; Previous Area Partners.


2) Create Regional reference electronic copy to be stored on shared drive.


Volunteer management


5 TASK / CAPABILITY: Volunteer Liability protection


OBSERVATION: Due to the high volume of untrained and unvetted community volunteers present during this operation, it was imperative that safety and safety briefings be thorough with team leaders to limit any liability and risk.


RECOMMENDATION: In cases where TR will be responsible for large-scale volunteer coordination, a simplified liability waiver should be available for use.


ACTION: Ensure that Operational leadership is provided with an electronic copy of a simplified liability waiver, vetting and check-in sheet to use when managing volunteer centers or emerging volunteers.


6 TASK/CAPABILITY: Identify volunteer opportunities


OBSERVATION: In order to empower the community to take charge of the situation, TR must immediately help identify and coach volunteers to step in to key roles when and where gaps exist. When TR continues to provide support in key areas without identifying local members to take over those roles, community leaders become dependent upon TR to make all decisions and formulate all plans.


RECOMMENDATION: The transition process should start immediately by assigning local volunteers to serve alongside TR leadership as deputy’s or assistants. This was accomplished with some key roles from the beginning.


ACTION: Develop a volunteer management SOP / SOG & VRC FOG, Develop a VRC logistics “push kit” that has all necessary items needed to establish a VRC.




7 TASK / CAPABILITY: Equipment management, ordering, procuring & distribution


OBSERVATION: There was a limited need for equipment in this operation due to the scale of the Team Rubicon response.


RECOMMENDATION: Having a full cache for office supplies to equip the Planning Section is a necessity, including laptops, printer/scanner/copier and hot spot.


8 TASK / CAPABILITY: Resource Tracking


OBSERVATION: During the incident the need to effectively track and account for resources was critical due to the large amount of SUV’s (Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteer). The operation was effective in checking in volunteers and providing them wristbands to identify that they checked in, however there wasn’t follow through on the check-out.


RECOMMENDATION: Tracking resources are critical to success and must therefore be carried out to the fullest. Identifying and procuring an electronic and paper T-card system and or adopting software to accomplish this task should be investigated.




9 TASK / CAPABILITY: Mission Objectives


OBSERVATION: Utilizing the ICS proved to be successful. Team Rubicon fit well into the established system and by utilizing common language we were successful in working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management. The Team Rubicon IMT structure and use of ICS and development of IAPs and Sit Reps proved to be highly successful.


RECOMMENDATION: Ensure that all operational personnel understand the unified command concept and the planning process in particular developing IAPs and Sit Reps. Next operation that requires an IMT response from TR should include a group in training to observe and learn the process to continue to grow the system.


10 TASK / CAPABILITY: Personnel Accountability


OBSERVATION: Using ICS form 211, each TR member was accounted for every day. Each member signed in and out on this form at the beginning and end of each day.


RECOMMENDATION: This is an established Best Practice. Continue use of ICS Form 211 for personnel accountability during Operations.


On-Site Incident Management


11 TASK / CAPABILITY: Conduct operational planning to develop an IAP


OBSERVATION: The volunteer and donation management planning process was the overall mission objective for Team Rubicon IMT. The IAPs developed we complimented and used as model examples higher up in the operation’s management.


RECOMMENDATION: Continue to train new Team Rubicon IMT personnel for depth.


ACTION: Provide all regions with an electronic copy of ICS forms and supporting educational material to be reinforced by providing training to all regional leadership and key volunteers in this process.