Experts: PH needs to apply crisis incident management lessons from Thai cave rescue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — Command, control, coordination, and communication – these are the four important Cs during critical incidents and they were all at play during the miraculous rescue of a youth football team and their coach from a cave in Thailand, experts said Thursday.

As people from all over the world kept an eye on the mission to extract the Wild Boars team members and their coach from a cave in Chang Rai, it was clear that lessons could be learned about how experts and volunteers came together to make the mission a success, the experts added.

And they are lessons which could be applied to many kinds of crisis scenarios in the Philippines.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' On the Record, retired Police Deputy Director General Benjamin Magalong said rescue missions and other crises stand a chance of being more successful if the "C4" were followed.

Magalong, an experienced incident commander, said he was impressed at how the crisis situation in Thailand was handled.

"It was very well-managed, the managers know their tasks. The were able to isolate the scene...everybody has a role to play. There was an incident command system that was in place," he said.

C4, Magalong said, was in place.

In the country, Magalong said, these critical factors sometimes go missing.

"When we try to address a particular critical incident, nawawala yung coordination. Kung minsan naman, nawawala yung command dahil kung sinu-sino na lang ang gustong makisali at makialam sa management nung crisis incident," he said,

[Translation: When we try to address a particular incident, coordination gets lost. Sometimes, it's command that goes because there are people who want to join in or want to take over managing the crisis incident.]

These are things the country needs to learn from what happened in Thailand, he added.

Magalong cited the Quirino Grandstand incident in 2010 as a "classic example" of a breakdown of "C4."

"Marami tayong insidente sa Pilipinas na [There are many incidenta in the Philippines where] it seems that we never learned from it," he said,

Congressman Ruffy Biazon, a trained rescue diver, said at the onset of the events in Thailand, he didn't think the rescue mission would be successful, given the people trapped in the cave had no experience in diving.

"As a diver, I know the perils of bringing a beginner into the water – what more these kids. These are 11 to 16 who have no experience at all, you're going to try to give them a crash course in diving in the most extreme situation," he said.

Biazon stressed cave diving was a "very specialized" field, and unfortunately the Philippines did not have a program to train government cave divers.

What made all the difference in the Thai cave rescue was not just the presence of volunteers who were experts in this type of rescue, but also the system employed by the experts and crisis managers to make the rescue a success.

"You have to have somebody who will manage the plan, manage the personnel – so that's the incident commander – that's command and control," Biazon.

The incident commander will be the one to make major decisions and give orders.

In the Philippines, the procedures would give the local government chief executive the lead role. Biazon said, however it does not necessarily mean he or she would be the incident commander.

"Well, he shouldn't be," Biazon said, "Of course, we would rather have someone who is really trained to be specifically handling situations like these. The local government chief executive can serve as the overall authority for the operation but, the incident commander should be someone who has technical expertise."

In the rescue in Thailand, Biazon said, "the experts were in control."

Media must be managed well in critical incidents

Magalong said being able to deal well with media was important in moments of crisis.

"Media, for example, is one of the nightmares in crisis management because if you cannot handle them very well, they tend to go an extra mile," he said.

This happens especially, Magalong said, if media does not receive sufficient information from press information officers.

"They go inside the crime scene or the incident and they, on their own acquire or obtain information. That's the worst nightmare a manager has to handle," Magalong added.

In critical incidents, Magalong said media said should be briefed regularly and given sufficient information.

Watch the full episode of On the Record: Learning from the Thai cave rescue here: