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Incident Command System (ICS): 14 Essential Features

August 22, 2013 - Kestrel Management

Effective application of the Incident Command System (ICS)–a nationally recognized process of leadership and management of incident response–can be instrumental in managing company risks and events and strengthening business continuity.

Private sector companies of all sizes have begun to implement the components of ICS to manage their incidents. This is especially the case for those sectors considered to be critical infrastructure, such as railroads, gas and electric utilities, and healthcare. Regardless of industry or company size, there are 14 essential features that lead to an effective ICS.

14 Essential ICS Features

1. Common Terminology helps define organizational functions, incident facilities, resource descriptions, and position titles.

2. Modular Organization develops following the Incident Command (IC) organizational structure based on the incident size/complexity and the hazard environment the incident creates.

3. Management by Objectives includes establishing overall objectives and strategies; developing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols; establishing objectives for incident management activities and directing efforts to attain them; and measuring performance and facilitating corrective action.

4. Incident Action Plans (IAPs) communicate the overall incident objectives in the context of both operational and support activities.

5. Span of Control should range from three to seven subordinates for any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility to ensure effective and efficient incident management.

6. Incident Support Locations & Facilities are established in the vicinity of an incident to accomplish a variety of purposes (e.g., command posts, bases, camps, staging areas, mass casualty triage areas).

7. Comprehensive Resource Management maintains an accurate and up-to-date picture of resource use. Resources include personnel, equipment, supplies, and facilities potentially available for assignment/allocation in support of incident management activities.

8. Integrated Communications are facilitated by developing and using a common communications plan and interoperable communications processes and architectures.

9. Establishment & Transfer of Command must be clearly defined from the beginning of an incident. When command is transferred, the process must capture essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.

10. Chain of Command & Unity of Command clarify reporting relationships and eliminate confusion caused by conflicting directives. Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks. Unity of command means that every individual has a designated supervisor to report to at the scene of the incident.

11. Unified Command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability in incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or multiagency involvement.

12. Accountability at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas is essential and relies on the following principles:

  • Check-in. All responders must report in to receive assignments.
  • IAP. Response operations must be directed and coordinated as outlined in the IAP.
  • Unity of Command. Individuals involved in incident operations will be assigned to only one supervisor.
  • Personal Responsibility. All responders are expected to use good judgment and be accountable for their actions.
  • Span of Control. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise, manage, control, and communicate with their subordinates.
  • Resource Tracking. Supervisors must record and report resource status changes as they occur.

13. Dispatch/Deployment of personnel/equipment should only occur when requested by an appropriate authority.

14. Information & Intelligence Management should follow a defined process for gathering, analyzing, sharing, and managing incident-related information.

Your Business Continuity & ICS Resource
Kestrel’s core team comprises senior consultants with extensive EHS, quality management, operational risk management, and emergency response experience. We add to that expertise an industry leader with hands-on experience developing and establishing the ICS, serving as an Incident Commander, and instructing the complete ICS training coursework.

Our team can help you develop the systems and plans you need to effectively manage your business risks–no matter the size or complexity. For more information, contact us at 608-226-0531.

Submitted by: Tom Kunes

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