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ICS-Incident Command System

Is a standardized management tool for meeting the demands of small or large emergency or nonemergency situations. Represents "best practices," and has become the standard for emergency management across the country. May be used for planned events, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism. Is a key feature of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

ICS is not

just a standardized organizational chart, but an entire management system.

Why ICS?

All levels of government, the private sector, and nongovernmental agencies must be prepared to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from a wide spectrum of major events and natural disasters that exceed the capabilities of any single entity. Threats from natural disasters and human-caused events, such as terrorism, require a unified and coordinated national approach to planning and to domestic incident management.

HSPD-5, Management of Domestic Incidents

identified steps for improved coordination in response to incidents. It required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with other Federal departments and agencies and State, local, and tribal governments to establish a National Response Framework (NRF) and a National Incident Management System (NIMS).

PPD-8, National Preparedness

describes the Nation’s approach to preparedness-one that involves the whole community, including individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools, tribes, and all levels of government (Federal, State, local, tribal and territorial).

National Incident Management System

NIMS provides a consistent framework for incident management at all jurisdictional levels regardless of the cause, size, or complexity of the incident. Building upon the Incident Command System (ICS), NIMS provides the Nation’s first responders and authorities with the same foundation for incident management for terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other emergencies. NIMS requires that ICS be institutionalized.

NIMS integrates

existing best practices into a consistent, nationwide approach to domestic incident management. As illustrated below, five major components make up the NIMS systems approach.


Five major components make up the NIMS systems approach: Command and Management, Preparedness, Resource Management, Communications and Information Management, and Ongoing Management and Maintenance. The Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information all fall under Command and Management.

ICS Features

Common Terminology Modular Organization Management by Objectives Reliance on an Incident Action Plan (IAP) Chain of Command and Unity of Command Unified Command Manageable Span of Control Predesignated Incident Locations and Facilities Resource Management Information and Intelligence Management Integrated Communications Transfer of Command Accountability Mobilization

Unity of Command

______________ means that each individual has a designated supervisor to whom he or she reports at the scene of the incident.

Unified Command

_______________allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.

Chain of Command

___________refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organization.

The command function must be clearly established from the beginning of an incident. When command is transferred, the process must include:

A briefing that captures all essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.

Manageable Span of Control

Span of control is key to effective and efficient incident management. Within ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from three to seven subordinates.

True or False

In a major incident, personnel and equipment should be dispatched even without being requested. False


means that individuals must abide by their agency policies and guidelines and any applicable local, tribal, State, or Federal rules and regulations.

Resources include

Resources include personnel, tools, and equipment available, or potentially available, for assignment to incidents.

Unified Command

Enables all responsible agencies to manage an incident together by establishing a common set of incident objectives and strategies. Allows Incident Commanders to make joint decisions by establishing a single command structure at one Incident Command Post (ICP). Maintains unity of command. Each employee reports to only one supervisor.

Advantages of Unified Command

A single set of objectives guides incident response. A collective approach is used to develop strategies to achieve incident objectives. Information flow and coordination are improved between all involved in the incident. All agencies have an understanding of joint priorities and restrictions. No agency’s legal authorities will be compromised or neglected. Agencies’ efforts are optimized as they perform their respective assignments under a single Incident Action Plan.

Formal communication must be used when

Receiving and giving work assignments. Requesting support or additional resources. Reporting progress of assigned tasks. Other information concerning the incident or event can be passed horizontally or vertically within the organization without restriction. This is known as informal communication.

Informal Communication

Is used to exchange incident or event information only. Is NOT used for: Formal requests for additional resources. Tasking work assignments. Within the ICS organization, critical information must flow freely!

Examples of Informal Communication

The Communications Unit Leader may directly contact the Resources Unit Leader to determine the number of persons requiring communications devices. The Cost Unit Leader may directly discuss and share information on alternative strategies with the Planning Section Chief.

A good leader

Communicates by giving specific instructions and asking for feedback. Supervises the scene of action. Evaluates the effectiveness of the plan. Understands and accepts the need to modify plans or instructions. Ensures safe work practices. Takes command of assigned resources. Motivates with a "can do safely" attitude. Demonstrates initiative by taking action. The safety of all personnel involved in an incident or a planned event is the first duty of ICS leadership. This is the overall responsibility of Team Leaders, Group or Division Supervisors, Branch Directors, Sections Chiefs, and all members of the Command or Unified Command staff. Ensuring safe work practices is the top priority within the ICS common leadership responsibilities.

Leadership and Duty

Leaders should know, understand, and practice the leadership principles. Leaders need to recognize the relationship between these principles and the leadership values. Duty is how you value your job. Duty begins with everything required of you by law and policy, but it is much more than simply fulfilling requirements. A leader commits to excellence in all aspects of his or her professional responsibility.

What can you do, personally, that demonstrates your commitment to duty to those you lead?

What can you do, personally, that demonstrates your commitment to duty to those you lead? As a leader, you should try to: Take charge within your scope of authority. Be prepared to step out of a tactical role to assume a leadership role. Be proficient in your job. Make sound and timely decisions. Ensure tasks are understood. Develop your subordinates for the future.

In order to maintain leadership and respect, you should

Know your subordinates and look out for their well-being. The workers who follow you are your greatest resource. Not all of your workers will succeed equally, but they all deserve respect. Keep your subordinates and supervisor informed. Provide accurate and timely briefings, and give the reason (intent) for assignments and tasks. Build the team. Conduct frequent briefings and debriefings with the team to monitor progress and identify lessons learned. Consider team experience, fatigue, and physical limitations when accepting assignments.

To ensure sharing of critical information, all responders must:

Brief others as needed. Debrief their actions. Communicate hazards to others. Acknowledge messages. Ask if they do not know. While not always possible, the most effective form of communication is face-to-face.

Briefing Elements

Task: What is to be done. Purpose: Why it is to be done. End State: How it should look when done.

Assessment is an important leadership responsibility, and is conducted after a major activity in order to allow employees and leaders to discover what happened and why. Assessment methods include:

Corrective action report/After-action review (AAR). Post-incident analysis (PIA). Debriefing. Post-incident critique. Mitigation plans.

The ICS Organization

Is typically structured to facilitate activities in five major functional areas: command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance and administration. Is adaptable to any emergency or incident to which domestic incident management agencies would be expected to respond. Has a scalable organizational structure that is based on the size and complexity of the incident. However, this flexibility does NOT allow for the modification of the standard, common language used to refer to organizational components or positions.

A Division

is an organization level that has responsibility for operations within a defined geographic area. The Division level is organizationally between the Strike Team and the Branch.

The initial response to most domestic incidents is typically handled by local "911" dispatch centers, emergency responders within a single jurisdiction, and direct supporters of emergency responders. Most responses need go no further.

Approximately 95% of all incidents are small responses that include:

Command: Incident Commander and other Command Staff. Single Resource: An individual, a piece of equipment and its personnel complement, or an established crew or team of individuals with an identified work supervisor that can be used on an incident.

At each level within the ICS organization, individuals with primary responsibility positions have distinct titles. Using specific ICS position titles serves these important purposes:

Provides a common standard. Ensures qualified individuals fill positions. Ensures that requested personnel are qualified. Standardizes communication. Describes the responsibilities of the position.

Titles for all ICA Supervisory levels

Organizational Level: Incident Command, Command Staff, General Staff (section), Branch, Division/Group, Unit, Strike Team/Task Force Title: Incident Commander, Officer, Chief, Director, Supervisor, Leader, Leader Support Position: Deputy, Assistant, Deputy, Deputy, N/A, Manager, Single Resource Boss

The only strategy for organizing the General Staff that used correct ICS terminology is:

To organize the resources into two Branches that manage Medical (EMS and Life Support) and Investigative (Police) resources under the supervision of a Director. Remember… A Strike Team is composed of specified combinations of the same kind and type of resources, with common communications and a Leader. A Task Force is a group of resources with common communications and a leader that may be preestablished and sent to an incident, or formed at an incident. Division is the organizational level having responsibility for operations within a defined geographic area. A Supervisor manages a Division.

A Task Force is

A Task Force is a group of resources with common communications and a leader that may be preestablished and sent to an incident, or formed at an incident.

A Strike Team is composed of:

specified combinations of the same kind and type of resources, with common communications and a Leader.

A Division is

the organizational level having responsibility for operations within a defined geographic area. A Supervisor mangages a Division

Authority is

a right or obligation to act on behalf of a department, agency, or jurisdiction. In most jurisdictions, the responsibility for the protection of the citizens rests with the chief elected official. Elected officials have the authority to make decisions, commit resources, obligate funds, and command the resources necessary to protect the population, stop the spread of damage, and protect the environment. In private industry, this same responsibility and authority rests with the chief executive officer.

An Incident Commander’s scope of authority is derived

From existing laws, agency policies, and procedures, and/or Through a delegation of authority from the agency administrator or elected official.

Delegation of Authority

The process of granting authority to carry out specific functions is called the delegation of authority. Delegation of authority: Grants authority to carry out specific functions. Is issued by the chief elected official, chief executive officer, or agency administrator in writing or verbally. Allows the Incident Commander to assume command. Does NOT relieve the granting authority of the ultimate responsibility for the incident. Ideally, this authority will be granted in writing. Whether it is granted in writing or verbally, the authorities granted remain with the Incident Commander until such time as the incident is terminated, or a relief shift Incident Commander is appointed, or the Incident Commander is relieved of his or her duties for just cause.

When is Delegation of Authority not needed?

A delegation of authority may not be required if the Incident Commander is acting within his or her existing authorities. An emergency manager may already have the authority to deploy response resources to a small flash flood. A fire chief probably has the authority (as part of the job description) to serve as an Incident Commander at a structure fire.

Delegation of authority is needed when:

If the incident is outside the Incident Commander’s jurisdiction. When the incident scope is complex or beyond existing authorities. If required by law or procedures.

Elements of Delegation of Authority

When issued, delegation of authority should include: Legal authorities and restrictions. Financial authorities and restrictions. Reporting requirements. Demographic issues. Political implications. Agency or jurisdictional priorities. Plan for public information management. Process for communications. Plan for ongoing incident evaluation.

The Incident Commander establishes

Within his or her scope of authority, the Incident Commander establishes incident objectives, then determines strategies, resources, and ICS structure. The Incident Commander must also have the authority to establish an ICS structure adequate to protect the safety of responders and citizens, to control the spread of damage, and to protect the environment.

Management by Objectives includes

Establishing overarching objectives. Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols. Establishing specific, measurable objectives for various incident management functional activities. Directing efforts to attain them, in support of defined strategic objectives. Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective action.

Steps for establishing and implementing incident objectives:

Step 1: Understand agency policy and direction. Step 2: Assess incident situation. Step 3: Establish incident objectives. Step 4: Select appropriate strategy or strategies to achieve objectives. Step 5: Perform tactical direction. Step 6: Provide necessary followup.

The first responder to arrive must assume command and size up the situation by determining:

Nature and magnitude of the incident Hazards and safety concerns Hazards facing response personnel and the public Evacuation and warnings Injuries and casualties Need to secure and isolate the area Initial priorities and immediate resource requirements Location of Incident Command Post and Staging Area Entrance and exit routes for responders

Throughout the incident, objectives are established based on the following priorities

First Priority: Life Safety Second Priority: Incident Stabilization Third Priority: Property Preservation

For full effectiveness, incident objectives must be:

Specific and state what’s to be accomplished. Measurable and include a standard and timeframe. Attainable and reasonable. In accordance with the Incident Commander’s authorities. Evaluated to determine effectiveness of strategies and tactics.

The three fundamental pieces of a successful incident response are:

Incident objectives, strategies, and tactics are three fundamental pieces of a successful incident response. Incident objectives state what will be accomplished. Strategies establish the general plan or direction for accomplishing the incident objectives. Tactics specify how the strategies will be executed. The Incident Commander is responsible for establishing goals and selecting strategies. The Operations Section, if it is established, is responsible for determining appropriate tactics for an incident.

Elements of an Incident Action Plan

An Incident Action Plan (IAP) covers an operational period and includes: What must be done. Who is responsible. How information will be communicated. What should be done if someone is injured. The operational period is the period of time scheduled for execution of a given set of tactical actions as specified in the IAP.

The most common Preparedness plans are

Federal, State, or local Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs). Standard operating guidelines (SOGs). Standard operating procedures (SOPs). Jurisdictional or agency policies.

Emergency Operations Plan

EOPs are developed at the Federal, State, and local levels to provide a uniform response to all hazards that a community may face. EOPs written after October 2005 must be consistent with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

For Mutual Aid Agreements, NIMS states:

Mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements are agreements between agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions that provide a mechanism to quickly obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials, and other associated services. Jurisdictions should be party to agreements with the appropriate jurisdictions and/or organizations from which they expect to receive, or to which they expect to provide, assistance.

Mutual aid is:

the voluntary provision of resources by agencies or organizations to assist each other when existing resources are inadequate. When combined with NIMS-oriented resource management, mutual aid allows jurisdictions to share resources among mutual aid partners.

Mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements are used at all levels of government:

Local jurisdictions participate in mutual aid through agreements with neighboring jurisdictions. States can participate in mutual aid through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). Federal agencies offer mutual aid to each other and to States, tribes, and territories under the National Response Framework (NRF).

Plans may include information about

Hazards and risks in the area. Resources in the area. Other formal agreements and plans. Contact information for agency administrators and response personnel. Other pertinent information.

States can participate in mutual aid through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

True Mutual aid is the mandatory provision of resources by agencies or organizations to assist each other when existing resources are inadequate.

Emergency Operations Plans written after October 2005 must be consistent with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).


The operational period is a fixed 12-hour period within which tactics must be completed.


Mutual aid is the mandatory provision of resources by agencies or organizations to assist each other when existing resources are inadequate.


The Incident Commander

Has overall incident management responsibility delegated by the appropriate jurisdictional authority. Develops the incident objectives to guide the incident planning process. Approves the Incident Action Plan and all requests pertaining to the ordering and releasing of incident resources. In some situations or agencies, a lower ranking but more qualified person may be designated as the Incident Commander.

The Deputy Incident Commander

Deputies may be assigned at the Incident Command, Section, or Branch levels. The only ICS requirement regarding the use of a Deputy is that the Deputy must be fully qualified and equally capable to assume the position. The three primary reasons to designate a Deputy Incident Commander are to: Perform specific tasks as requested by the Incident Commander. Perform the incident command function in a relief capacity (e.g., to take over for the next operational period). In this case, the Deputy will assume the primary role. Represent an Assisting Agency that may share jurisdiction or have jurisdiction in the future.

The Command Staff

is only activated in response to the needs of the incident. Command Staff includes the following positions: Public Information Officer Liaison Officer Safety Officer


In a large or complex incident, Command Staff members may need one or more Assistants to help manage their workloads. Each Command Staff member is responsible for organizing his or her Assistants for maximum efficiency. Assistants are subordinates of principal Command Staff positions. As the title indicates, Assistants should have a level of technical capability, qualifications, and responsibility subordinate to the primary positions. Assistants may also be assigned to Unit Leaders (e.g., at camps to supervise unit activities).

Assisting Agency

An agency or jurisdiction will often send resources to assist at an incident. In ICS these are called assisting agencies. An assisting agency is defined as an agency or organization providing personnel, services, or other resources to the agency with direct responsibility for incident management.

Cooperating Agency

A cooperating agency is an agency supplying assistance other than direct operational or support functions or resources to the incident management effort. Don’t get confused between an assisting agency and a cooperating agency! An assisting agency has direct responsibility for incident response, whereas a cooperating agency is simply offering assistance.

Agency Representative

An Agency Representative is an individual assigned to an incident from an assisting or cooperating agency. The Agency Representative is delegated authority to make decisions on matters affecting that agency’s participation at the incident.

Expanding Incidents

An incident may start small and then expand. As the incident grows in scope and the number of resources needed increases, there may be a need to activate Teams, Divisions, Groups, Branches, or Sections to maintain an appropriate span of control. The ability to delegate the supervision of resources not only frees up the Incident Commander to perform critical decisionmaking and evaluation duties, but also clearly defines the lines of communication to everyone involved in the incident. Next, we’ll review the major organizational elements that may be activated during an expanding incident.

Operations Section

Directs and coordinates all incident tactical operations. Is typically one of the first organizations to be assigned to the incident. Expands from the bottom up. Has the most incident resources. May have Staging Areas and special organizations.

The Operations Section Chief

Is responsible to the Incident Commander for the direct management of all incident-related operational activities. Establishes tactical objectives for each operational period. Has direct involvement in the preparation of the Incident Action Plan. The Operations Section Chief may have one or more Deputies assigned. The assignment of Deputies from other agencies may be advantageous in the case of multijurisdictional incidents.

Staging Areas

Staging Areas are set up at the incident where resources can wait for a tactical assignment. All resources in the Staging Area are assigned and ready for deployment. Out-of-service resources are NOT located at the Staging Area. After a Staging Area has been designated and named, a Staging Area Manager will be assigned. The Staging Area Manager will report to the Operations Section Chief or to the Incident Commander if the Operations Section Chief has not been designated.

Divisions and Groups

Divisions are established to divide an incident into physical or geographical areas of operation. Groups are established to divide the incident into functional areas of operation. For example, a Damage Assessment Task Force, reporting to the Infrastructure Group Leader, could work across divisions established to manage two distinct areas of the building that had been damaged — the west side of the building (West Division) and the north side (North Division).


Branches may be used to serve several purposes, and may be functional or geographic in nature. Branches are established when the number of Divisions or Groups exceeds the recommended span of control of one supervisor to three to seven subordinates for the Operations Section Chief. Branches are identified by Roman numerals or functional name, and are managed by a Branch Director.

Air Operations Branch

Some incidents may require the use of aviation resources to provide tactical or logistical support. On smaller incidents, aviation resources will be limited in number and will report directly to the Incident Commander or to the Operations Section Chief. On larger incidents, it may be desirable to activate a separate Air Operations organization to coordinate the use of aviation resources. The Air Operations organization will then be established at the Branch level, reporting directly to the Operations Section Chief. The Air Operations Branch Director can establish two functional groups. The Air Tactical Group coordinates all airborne activity. The Air Support Group provides all incident ground-based support to aviation resources.

The Planning Section

The Planning Section has responsibility for: Maintaining resource status. Maintaining and displaying situation status. Preparing the Incident Action Plan (IAP). Developing alternative strategies. Providing documentation services. Preparing the Demobilization Plan. Providing a primary location for Technical Specialists assigned to an incident. One of the most important functions of the Planning Section is to look beyond the current and next operational period and anticipate potential problems or events.

Planning Section Key Personnel

Planning Section Key Personnel The Planning Section will have a Planning Section Chief. The Planning Section Chief may have a Deputy. Technical Specialists: Are advisors with special skills required at the incident. Will initially report to the Planning Section, work within that Section, or be reassigned to another part of the organization. Can be in any discipline required (e.g., epidemiology, infection control, chemical-biological-nuclear agents, etc.).

Planning Section Responsibilities

The major responsibilities of Planning Units are: Resources Unit: Responsible for all check-in activity and for maintaining the status on all personnel and equipment resources assigned to the incident. Situation Unit: Collects and processes information on the current situation, prepares situation displays and situation summaries, and develops maps and projections. Demobilization Unit: On large, complex incidents, assists in ensuring that an orderly, safe, and cost-effective movement of personnel is made when they are no longer required at the incident. Documentation Unit: Prepares the Incident Action Plan, maintains all incident-related documentation, and provides duplication services.

Logistics Section

Early recognition of the need for a Logistics Section can reduce time and money spent on an incident. The Logistics Section is responsible for all support requirements, including: Communications. Medical support to incident personnel. Food for incident personnel. Supplies, facilities, and ground support. It is important to remember that Logistics Unit functions, except for the Supply Unit, are geared to supporting personnel and resources directly assigned to the incident.

Logistics Section Service Branch

The Service Branch may be made up of the following units: The Communications Unit is responsible for developing plans for the effective use of incident communications equipment and facilities, installing and testing of communications equipment, supervision of the Incident Communications Center, distribution of communications equipment to incident personnel, and maintenance and repair of communications equipment. The Medical Unit is responsible for the development of the Medical Plan, obtaining medical aid and transportation for injured and ill incident personnel, and preparation of reports and records. The Food Unit is responsible for supplying the food needs for the entire incident, including all remote locations (e.g., Camps, Staging Areas), as well as providing food for personnel unable to leave tactical field assignments.

Logistics Section Support Branch

The Support Branch within the Logistics Section may include the following units: The Supply Unit is responsible for ordering personnel, equipment, and supplies; receiving and storing all supplies for the incident; maintaining an inventory of supplies; and servicing nonexpendable supplies and equipment. The Facilities Unit is responsible for the layout and activation of incident facilities (e.g., Base, Camp, and Incident Command Post (ICP)). The Facilities Unit Leader provides sleeping and sanitation facilities for incident personnel and manages Base and Camp(s) operations. Each facility (Base, Camp) is assigned a manager who reports to the Facilities Unit Leader and is responsible for managing the operation of the facility. The basic functions or activities of the Base and Camp Managers are to provide security service and general maintenance. The Ground Support Unit is responsible for supporting out-of-service resources; transporting personnel, supplies, food, and equipment; fueling, service, maintenance, and repair of vehicles and other ground support equipment; and implementing the Traffic Plan for the incident.

Finance/Admin Section

The Finance/Administration Section: Is established when incident management activities require finance and other administrative support services. Handles claims related to property damage, injuries, or fatalities at the incident. Not all incidents will require a separate Finance/Administration Section. If only one specific function is needed (e.g., cost analysis), a Technical Specialist assigned to the Planning Section could provide these services.

Finance/Admin Units

Finance/Administration Units include the following: The Time Unit is responsible for equipment and personnel time recording. The Procurement Unit is responsible for administering all financial matters pertaining to vendor contracts, leases, and fiscal agreements. The Compensation/Claims Unit is responsible for financial concerns resulting from property damage, injuries, or fatalities at the incident. The Cost Unit is responsible for tracking costs, analyzing cost data, making cost estimates, and recommending cost-saving measures.

ICS Tools

Some important tools you should have available at the incident include: ICS forms. Position description and responsibilities document. Emergency operations plan. Agency policies and procedures manual. Maps.

ICS Forms

When receiving ICS forms, some questions you should ask yourself about each form are: Purpose — What function does the form perform? Preparation — Who is responsible for preparing the form? Distribution — Who needs to receive this information?

ICS Form 201, Incident briefing

The Incident Briefing Form (ICS Form 201) is an eight-part form that provides an Incident Command/Unified Command with status information that can be used for briefing incoming resources, an incoming Incident Commander or team, or an immediate supervisor. The basic information includes: Incident situation (map, significant events). Incident objectives. Summary of current actions. Status of resources assigned or ordered for the incident or event. Occasionally, the ICS Form 201 serves as the initial Incident Action Plan (IAP) until a Planning Section has been established and generates, at the direction of the Incident Commander, an IAP. The ICS Form 201 is also suitable for briefing individuals newly assigned to the Command and General Staffs.

Commonly Used Incident Forms

ICS Form 201, Incident Briefing ICS Form 202, Incident Objectives ICS Form 203, Organization Assignment List ICS Form 204, Assignment List ICS Form 205, Incident Radio Communications Plan ICS Form 206, Medical Plan ICS Form 207, Organizational Chart ICS Form 209, Incident Status Summary ICS Form 210, Status Change Card ICS Form 211, Check-In List ICS Form 213, General Message ICS Form 214, Unit Log ICS Form 215, Operational Planning Worksheet ICS Form 215a, Incident Action Plan Safety Analysis ICS Form 216, Radio Requirements Worksheet ICS Form 217, Radio Frequency Assignment Worksheet ICS Form 218, Support Vehicle Inventory ICS Form 220, Air Operations Summary ICS Form 221, Demobilization Plan ICS Form 308, Resource Order Form

Effective briefings and meetings are

An essential element to good supervision and incident management. Intended to pass along vital information required in the completion of incident response actions. Typically, these briefings are concise and do not include long discussions or complex decisionmaking. Rather, they allow incident managers and supervisors to communicate specific information and expectations for the upcoming work period and to answer questions.

Levels of Briefings

There are three types of briefings/meetings used in ICS: staff level, field level, and section level. Staff-level briefings are delivered to resources assigned to nonoperational and support tasks at the Incident Command Post or Base. Field-level briefings are delivered to individual resources or crews who are assigned to operational tasks and/or work at or near the incident site. Section-level briefings are delivered to an entire Section and include the Operational Period Briefing.

Briefings Topic List

Current Situation and Objectives Safety Issues and Emergency Procedures Work Tasks Facilities and Work Areas Communications Protocols Supervisory/Performance Expectations Process for Acquiring Resources, Supplies, and Equipment Work Schedules Questions or Concerns

Operational Period Briefing

The Operational Period Briefing: Is conducted at the beginning of each operational period. Presents the Incident Action Plan for the upcoming period to supervisory personnel within the Operations Section. Should be concise. In addition to the Operations Section Chief, the other members of the Command and General Staffs as well as specific support elements (i.e., Communications Unit, Medical Unit) can provide important information needed for safe and effective performance during the shift.

Operational Period Briefing

The Operational Period Briefing is facilitated by the Planning Section Chief and follows a set agenda. A typical briefing includes the following: The Planning Section Chief reviews the agenda and facilitates the briefing. The Incident Commander presents incident objectives or confirms existing objectives. Note: Objectives may be presented by the Planning Section Chief. The current Operations Section Chief provides current assessment and accomplishments. The on-coming Operations Section Chief covers the work assignments and staffing of Divisions and Groups for the upcoming operational period. The Incident Commander, Planning Section Chief, Current Operations Section Chief, and On-Coming Operations Section Chief. Technical Specialists present updates on conditions affecting the response (weather, fire behavior, environmental factors). The Safety Officer reviews specific risks to operational resources and the identified safety/mitigation measures. The Special Operations Chief briefs on areas such as Air Operations (if activated). Specific Section Chiefs/Unit Leaders present information related to ensuring safe and efficient operations. The Incident Commander reiterates his or her operational concerns and directs resources to deploy. The Planning Section Chief announces the next planning meeting and Operational Period Briefing, then adjourns the meeting.

Flexibility and Standardization

A key principle of ICS is its flexibility. The ICS organization may be expanded easily from a very small size for routine operations to a larger organization capable of handling catastrophic events. Standardization within ICS does NOT limit flexibility. ICS works for small, routine operations as well as catastrophic events. Flexibility does NOT mean that the ICS feature of common terminology is superseded. Flexibility is allowed only within the standard ICS organizational structure and position titles.

Incident command organizational structure is based on:

Size and complexity of the incident. Specifics of the hazard environment created by the incident. Incident planning process and incident objectives.

ICS expansion and contraction

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, it is important to remember that: Only functions and positions that are necessary to achieve incident objectives are filled. Each activated element must have a person in charge. An effective span of control must be maintained.

Activation of Organizational Elements

Activation of Organizational Elements (1 of 2) Many incidents will never require the activation of the entire Command or General Staff or entire list of organizational elements within each Section. Other incidents will require some or all members of the Command Staff and all sub-elements of each General Staff Section. The decision to activate an element (Section, Branch, Unit, Division, or Group) must be based on incident objectives and resource needs. An important concept is that many organizational elements may be activated in various Sections without activating the Section Chief. For example, the Situation Unit can be activated without a Planning Section Chief assigned. In this case, the supervision of the Situation Unit will rest with the Incident Commander.

Resource Management

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date picture of resource utilization is a critical component of incident management. The incident resource management process consists of the following: Establishment of resource needs (kind/type/quantity) Resource ordering (actually getting what you need) Check-in process and tracking (knowing what resources you have and where they are) Resource utilization and evaluation (using the resources effectively) Resource demobilization (releasing resources that are no longer needed)

Combining Positions

Avoid Combining Positions It is tempting to combine ICS positions to gain staffing efficiency. Rather than combining positions, you may assign the same individual to supervise multiple units. Graphic showing that units should stay as separate entities, even if a single individual supervises them. On the left, a circle with a line through it shows that Bob should not supervise a single Supply and Ground Support Unit, while on the right, Bob is successfully supervising the separate Supply Unit and Ground Support Unit. When assigning personnel to multiple positions, do not use nonstandard titles. Creating new titles may be unrecognizable to assisting or cooperating personnel and may cause confusion. Be aware of potential span-of-control issues that may arise from assigning one person to multiple positions.

Anticipating Incident Resource Needs

Experience and training will help you to predict workloads and corresponding staffing needs. As the graphic illustrates, an incident may build faster than resources can arrive. Eventually, a sufficient number of resources arrive and begin to control the incident. As the incident declines, resources then exceed incident needs.

Predicting Incident Workload

Incident workload patterns are often predictable throughout the incident life cycle. Several examples are provided below: Operations Section: The workload on Operations is immediate and often massive. On a rapidly escalating incident, the Operations Section Chief must determine appropriate tactics; organize, assign, and supervise resources; and at the same time participate in the planning process. Planning Section: The Resources and Situation Units will be very busy in the initial phases of the incident. In the later stages, the workload of the Documentation and Demobilization Units will increase. Logistics Section: The Supply and Communications Units will be very active in the initial and final stages of the incident.

Analyzing Incident Complexity

It is important to strike the right balance when determining resource needs. Having too few resources can lead to loss of life and property, while having too many resources can result in unqualified personnel deployed without proper supervision. A complexity analysis can help: Identify resource requirements. Determine if the existing management structure is appropriate.

resources kinds and types

To ensure that responders get the right personnel and equipment, ICS resources are categorized by: Kinds of Resources: Describe what the resource is (for example: registered nurse, emergency physician, engineer, security officer, ambulances). Types of Resources: Describe the size, capability, and staffing qualifications of a specific kind of resource.

resource typing

Resource types range from Type I (most capable) to Type IV (least capable), letting you reserve the appropriate level of resource for your incident by describing the size, capability, and staffing qualifications of a specific resource.

resource typing and NIMS

Resource Typing and NIMS Resource typing is a key component of NIMS. This effort helps all Federal, State, tribal, and local jurisdictions locate, request, and track resources to assist neighboring jurisdictions when local capability is overwhelmed. The National Integration Center encourages Federal, State, tribal, and local officials to use the 120 NIMS Resource Typing definitions as they develop or update response assets inventories.

Additional Resource Terminology

As covered in ICS-100, the following terms apply to resources: A Task Force is a combination of mixed resources with common communications operating under the direct supervision of a Task Force Leader. A Strike Team is a set number of resources of the same kind and type with common communications operating under the direct supervision of a Strike Team Leader. A Single Resource is an individual, a piece of equipment and its personnel complement, or a crew or team of individuals with an identified work supervisor that can be used on an incident.

One Type I ambulance and crew complement.

Single Resource

One Type III Helicopter, one Urban Search & Rescue Team, and one Emergency Medical Technician with a leader.

Task Force

Five Type I ambulances and crew complements with a leader.
One Type III Helicopter, one Urban Search & Rescue Team, and one Emergency Medical Technician with a leader.

Strike Team

Incident Typing

Incidents, like resources, may be categorized into five types based on complexity. Type 5 incidents are the least complex and Type 1 the most complex. Incident typing may be used to: Make decisions about resource requirements. Order Incident Management Teams (IMTs). An IMT is made up of the Command and General Staff members in an ICS organization.

TYPE 5 Incident

Characteristics of a Type 5 Incident are as follows: Resources: One or two single resources with up to six personnel. Command and General Staff positions (other than the Incident Commander) are not activated. Time Span: Incident is contained within the first operational period and often within a few hours after resources arrive on scene. No written Incident Action Plan is required. Examples include a vehicle fire, an injured person, or a police traffic stop.

TYPE 4 Incident

Characteristics of a Type 4 Incident are as follows: Resources: Command Staff and General Staff functions are activated (only if needed). Several single resources are required to mitigate the incident. Time Span: Limited to one operational period in the control phase. No written Incident Action Plan is required for non-HazMat incidents. A documented operational briefing is completed.

TYPE 3 Incident

Characteristics of a Type 3 Incident are as follows: Resources: When capabilities exceed initial attack, the appropriate ICS positions should be added to match the complexity of the incident. Some or all of the Command and General Staff positions may be activated, as well as Division or Group Supervisor and/or Unit Leader level positions. An Incident Management Team (IMT) or incident command organization manages initial action incidents with a significant number of resources, and an extended attack incident until containment/control is achieved. Time Span: The incident may extend into multiple operational periods and a written Incident Action Plan may be required for each operational period.

TYPE 2 Incident

Characteristics of a Type 2 Incident are as follows: Resources: Regional and/or national resources are required to safely and effectively manage the operations. Most or all Command and General Staff positions are filled. Operations personnel typically do not exceed 200 per operational period and the total does not exceed 500. The agency administrator/official is responsible for the incident complexity analysis, agency administrator briefings, and written delegation of authority. Time Span: The incident is expected to go into multiple operational periods. A written Incident Action Plan is required for each operational period.

TYPE 1 Incident

Characteristics of a Type 1 Incident are as follows: Resources: National resources are required to safely and effectively manage the operations. All Command and General Staff positions are activated, and Branches need to be established. Operations personnel often exceed 500 per operational period and total personnel will usually exceed 1,000. There is a high impact on the local jurisdiction, requiring additional staff for office administrative and support functions. The incident may result in a disaster declaration. Time Span: The incident is expected to go into multiple operational periods. A written Incident Action Plan is required for each operational period.

Transfer of Command

Transfer of command is the process of moving the responsibility for incident command from one Incident Commander to another.

When Command is Transferred

Transfer of command may take place for many reasons, including when: A jurisdiction or agency is legally required to take command. Change of command is necessary for effectiveness or efficiency. Incident complexity changes. There is a need to relieve personnel on incidents of extended duration. Personal emergencies arise (e.g., Incident Commander has a family emergency). Agency administrator directs a change in command.

A more qualified person arrives

The arrival of a more qualified person does NOT necessarily mean a change in incident command. The more qualified individual may: Assume command according to agency guidelines. Maintain command as it is and monitor command activity and effectiveness. Request a more qualified Incident Commander from the agency with a higher level of jurisdictional responsibility.

Transfer of Command Procedures

One of the main features of ICS is a procedure to transfer command with minimal disruption to the incident. This procedure may be used any time personnel in supervisory positions change. Whenever possible, transfer of command should: Take place face-to-face. Include a complete briefing. The effective time and date of the transfer should be communicated to personnel.

The arrival of a more qualified person means that a change in incident command must occur.


The effective time and date of the transfer should be communicated to all personnel who need to know, both at the scene and elsewhere.


The transfer should take place face-to-face and include a complete briefing.


A formal transfer of command is unnecessary when the Deputy Incident Commander is relieving the Incident Commander for an extended rest period.


Transfer of Command Briefing Elements

The briefing should include: Situation status. Incident objectives and priorities. Current organization. Resource assignments. Resources ordered and en route. Incident facilities. Incident communications plan. Incident prognosis, concerns, and other issues. Introduction of Command and General Staff members.

Incident Briefing Form ICS Form 201

Incident Briefing Form (ICS Form 201) Agency policies and incident-specific issues may alter the transfer of command process. In all cases, the information shared must be documented and saved for easy retrieval during and after the incident. The initial Incident Commander can use the ICS Form 201 to document actions and situational information. For more complex transfer of command situations, every aspect of the incident must be documented and included in the transfer of command briefing.

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