Key ICS Features Definitions
The initial Incident Commander will remain in charge until transfer of command is accomplished. Command may transfer to higher qualified or more experienced personnel from the same agency, or be transferred to the employee of another responsible agency. In ICS, Unified Command is a unified team effort which allows all agencies with responsibility for the incident, either geographical or functional, to assign an Incident Commander to the Unified Command. The Incident Commanders in the Unified Command establish a common set of incident objectives and strategies.
If you’re involved in emergency management in the U.S., you’ve probably heard of the Incident Command System (ICS). A key feature of the U.S. National Incident Management System (NIMS), ICS is an operational incident management structure that provides a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response in the U.S. Since it first came out in the 1970s, the system has been so popular that it’s inspired the development of new, comparable models around the world. So, the question is, what makes ICS such a durable success in all-hazards disaster response, especially given the fact that the system was originally conceived of as fire suppression-specific command structure? If we can hazard a guess, it’d be that ICS’ 14 essential features continue to be extremely apt to incident response, both in emergency and non-emergency situations. Let’s take a closer look at the features themselves: First of all, each of the 14 core principles underpinning ICS is clustered around one of a handful of categories or types: standardization, command, planning and organizational structure, facilities and resources, communications and information management, and professionalism. And these larger categories speak directly to the operational errors (in large-scale, inter-agency emergency response) that ICS was originally created to redress.
The Command Staff (CS) is responsible for carrying out staff functions which are essential in supporting the duties of an IC. These functions are incident safety, liaison, and public affairs. The information Officer is tasked with developing and releasing incident information to the media, conducting press briefing, maintaining incident information, and availing to the incident personnel any incident information. The information officer also monitors and maintains any media information that can be used for incident planning (FEMA). The Liaison Officer is responsible for coordinating incident activities between numerous agencies and IC. The duties include maintaining a list of agencies, establishing and coordinating interagency activities, and monitoring incident operations in order to identify potential problems (USDL). The Safety officer on the other hand is tasked with developing and recommending health and safety measures to the IC. The Safety Officers role is to develop Site Safety Plan, evaluate Incident Safety Action and to provide quick and accurate hazards assessment and required safety measures (FEMA).
On the whole, furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has set requirements for government and private organizations to respond to emergency incidents using ICS principles. This has been echoed by the National Fire Protection Association, Standard 1500, which recommends that all departments must embrace ICS response procedure in writing.
FEMA, 2008. Incident Command System. pdf file. Web.
USDL.n.d Occupational Safety & Health Administration. n.d. Web.