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The Basics of Incident Command

The Basics of Incident Command

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Published by RobVajko
An article covering the basics of the Incident Command System (ICS) which is mandated in case of emergency. The emergency management requires the various departments to adhere to set principles and guidelines set in place by the ICS.
An article covering the basics of the Incident Command System (ICS) which is mandated in case of emergency. The emergency management requires the various departments to adhere to set principles and guidelines set in place by the ICS.

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Published by: RobVajko on May 08, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Rob Vajko5/1/2009
The Basics of Incident Command
ICS got its start back in the1970s as a result of fires inCalifornia”
Page 2
National Safety, Inc.
The Basics of Incident Command
Defining the Terms
The first step in setting up an ICS (Incident Command System) is to identify the terms:
– FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) defines an incident as “anoccurrence, either caused by humans or natural phenomena, that requires response actions toprevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or the environment.”This would include earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hazardous material spills, search and rescuemissions, acts of terrorism, fires, crimes and crime scene investigations and more.The nature of these incidents usually means that there is more than one federal, State or localagency involved. Furthermore, there may be several different departments involved (emergency,fire, medical, police, public works, EMS, DOT, etc…). Private contractors may also be present.
Command System
– Is exactly what it says it is, namely a system of hierarchy or chain of command designed to make clear who’s in charge and who is to report to whom and to facilitateinterdepartmental cooperation. In the words of the Homeland security document it
“allows itsusers to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.”
Where ICS got its start 
ICS got its start back in the 1970s as a result of fires in California. As they looked at how thesefires were handled, it became clear that there was a lot of work to do to help the variousorganizations involved work together better in the future. “Inadequate Management” was themost serious issue and involved such problems as:1.
Unclear chain of command2.
Poor communication most due to different codes and systems from one department andagency to the next3.
Lack of planning4.
Poor supervision5.
Rigid structures that didn’t allow for the flexibility needed in such situationsIn 2003, Bush signed the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 which mandated a NationalIncident Management System (NIMS). At the core of this directive was the implementation of aprocedure for handling multi-departmental emergencies. This was primarily a result of the 9/11
Page 3
National Safety, Inc.
terrorist attacks that necessitated almost every single agency, including the private sector to work together.
The Goals and Purposes of ICS
The ICS was designed to:1.
Provide a means of dealing with any incident regardless of the type and size of theincident.2.
Allow various agencies to work together effectively3.
Provide the logistics and administrative support needed4.
Provide the most cost effective means of dealing with the incident(s)
How ICS goes about attaining their goal
ICS seeks to provide a comprehensive and functional program by following these 14management characteristics:1.
Common Language
- Ban all agency specific codes or jargon. These have been replacedwith cross-departmental and cross-agency words, functions and titles. This commonterminology applies to organizational functions, resources, facilities and titles.2.
- Create a modular approach to the organization of the personnel on site.This modular approach allows for flexibility. As the complexity of the incident increases,the organization expands from the top down.3.
Manage by objectives
– A step by step procedural approach allows all on-site personnelto share goals and objectives. This is done by…
 Establishing overarching incident objectives.b.
 Developing strategies based on overarching incident objectives.c.
 Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.d.
 Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them, insupport of defined strategies.e.
 Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions.
Incident Action Planning
(IAP) – The IAP may be written or oral. It must contain theobjectives and direction. The purpose of the IAP is to clearly communicate the directionand goals to all personnel involved in the management of the incident.
Taken from the ICS Management Characteristics page of the FEMA website athttp://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/ICSpopup.htm#item3 

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