Taking Charge when Incidents Occur
October 16, 2013 - Kestrel Management
Who is in charge when your Business Continuity Plan is activated?
If your company has an internal emergency, does your Business Continuity Plan state who is in charge? If emergency responders (e.g., police, fire) arrive to assist, then who is in charge? When the responders leave and your company is now working with the insurance company, who takes the reins? Once the insurance company leaves and you are repairing the damages, who is leading the efforts?
During all of these response phases—starting with your company’s initial response, to mitigating life safety issues, to returning your business to normal operations—someone needs to be “in charge.”
Taking Command under the Incident Command System (ICS)
The Incident Command System (ICS) defines that a person is established as the Incident Commander from the beginning until the end of an incident. This is so important to effectively managing an incident that three of the thirteen essential principles of the Incident Command System deal with command issues as to who is in charge.
Principle 1. Establishment of Command must be clearly defined from the beginning of an incident. The Business Continuity Plan must establish who will be in charge when an incident occurs and what authority they have to manage the incident. When command is transferred, the process must capture essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.
Principle 2. Chain of Command is established to clearly state the reporting relationships of the personnel working on the incident management team and to eliminate confusion caused by conflicting directives. Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the incident management team. Following the chain of command ensures that every individual has a designated supervisor to report to at the scene of the incident.
Principle 3. Unified Command allows internal company personnel, personnel outside the company (e.g., insurance company), and government agencies (e.g., police and fire) with different legal, geographic, and functional responsibilities to effectively work together without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability in incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or agencies.
Because of the different players that have responsibility for managing an incident, the unified command principle should be used from the beginning of the incident until the company has fully recovered and is able to meet customers’ needs. Here’s how it works:
- When a company has an incident, it establishes command through an Incident Commander based on the Business Continuity Plan. If needed, the company Incident Commander can activate other positions on the incident management team to manage tasks. Further, the Incident Commander may pull in existing company personnel (e.g., planning, logistics, finance, EHS, operations & maintenance, purchasing, public relations, customer service) and leverage staff skill sets to perform similar duties as defined by the Incident Command System’s eight Command and General Staff positions. For example, the company public relations manager would take on the responsibilities of the Incident Command System Information Officer; the company production manager would take on the responsibilities of the Operations Section Chief.
- If the incident goes beyond the company’s capabilities to necessitate assistance from police, fire, etc., the public responders should be brought into a unified command setting to work together on the incident.
- When the first responders leave, the unified command then includes the company and the insurance company representative until the claim is satisfied.
- Once the insurance claim is addressed, unified command brings in other contractors until the company has returned to normal operations and is able to meet customer needs.
Following the above principles of the Incident Command System to make sure that the right person is in charge throughout an incident will help ensure that the incident is resolved as efficiently and effectively as possible so the company can get back to business as usual.
Your Business Continuity & Incident Command System 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 Incident Command System, serving as an Incident Commander, and instructing the complete Incident Command System 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