Folsom police chief heads to land down under

By: Laura Newell, Of the Telegraph
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Folsom Police Chief Cynthia Renaud recently traveled to Australia in mid-November to present at a conference on disaster leadership in front of fire, ambulance, police and a host of other authorities.

“I feel a very weighty responsibility to deliver something meaningful to them,” Renaud told Cal Chief news in a recent interview.

Renaud is the recent recipient of a master’s degree in National Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Renaud, 42, was the keynote speaker on Nov. 16 at the Control Line conference outside Melbourne.

The invitation followed the publication, in June, of a controversial article Renaud wrote for the academic journal Homeland Security Affairs, officials said.

Within her 15-page article that was based on her award-winning, 125-page master’s thesis, “Making Sense in the Edge of Chaos: A Framework for Effective Initial Response Efforts to Large-Scale Incidents,” Renaud suggests improvements to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which focused on teaching first arriving incident commanders how to function in the initial chaos inherent in a large-scale incident.

Far from declaring NIMS as useless, Renaud argued that it’s a very useful management system. She said it’s useful only after a certain amount of order has been restored and the chaotic, initial stage of the large-scale incident has been dealt with.

Renaud, in her article, writes that the “missing piece” of NIMS taught incident commanders how to function in the “edge of chaos.” As an analogy, she takes a page from molecular biology and how cells are formed.

“What happens on the edge of the cell will determine if the cell lives or dies,” Renaud said. “What happens in the first stage of a large-scale incident largely will determine how successful the incident is managed — which could make the difference between life and death, in some cases.”

During her 20 years at the Long Beach Police Department, Renaud was involved in several chaotic incidents, including large protests, officer-involved shootings and natural disasters, officials said.

“We have to be better prepared for these (relatively rare) but high-impact events,” she said.

Renaud and her family were in Australia Nov. 12 through Nov. 23.

Although Renaud details in her article the challenges involved in managing large-scale incidents in the “edge of chaos,” she acknowledges that, for now, there are few answers.

But, she is talked to officials at POST to put together a group of subject matter experts who plan to meet in February to begin talking about constructing a POST course specific to teaching first responders how to function in the initial phase of chaos. She mentioned reality-based scenario training as a possibility.

“We really need to look at how to teach, educate and train people better to most effectively respond during chaotic incidents,” said Renaud.