Risks and potential threats are continually evolving and can affect a company’s ability to conduct business as usual. This continual augmentation challenges a company’s ability to remain prepared for, and to effectively manage, arising emergency situations. The application of a proven crisis management process and methodology, such as the Incident Command System (ICS), is essential to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the organization. By instituting ICS’s best practices into a site-specific response structure, a company is more likely to effectively manage and mitigate the consequences of an emergency.
ICS is a standardized management concept designed to enable an integrated response, despite its complexity, response demands, or jurisdictional boundaries. The following key principles of ICS should be integrated into a company's crisis management framework including, but not limited to:
1) Common Terminology: ICS establishes common terminology that allows diverse incident management and support organizations to work together across a wide variety of incident management functions and hazard scenarios.
2) Modular Organization and Teams: Organized emergency management teams can have a top-down, modular organization, serving different and separated functional components, that weave together to attain the overall common goal. Core positions should be identified and defined to support the functional purpose and scope of the team, and allow it to maintain the same core structure to manage any type of event. This allows the organization to expand and contract as necessary to accommodate the tactical and strategic needs of the incident, yet maintain standardized positions and consistent roles and responsibilities.
3) Management by Objectives: Every emergency management team at each company level can manage by objectives. Objectives can include:
- Establishing overall and operational incident objectives based on regulatory and company requirements
- Developing strategies based on situation and incident objectives
- Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.
- Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them, in support of defined strategies.
- Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions.
4) Manageable Span of Control: Span of control refers to the total number of direct subordinates assigned to a single individual. While some variation and flexibility is necessary depending on the scope and nature of the response, guidelines suggest incident management supervisory positions should limit the range from 3 to 7 subordinates, with a ratio of one supervisor to five reporting elements is recommended. During a large-scale operation, 8-10 direct subordinates may be required.
5) Chain of Command and Unity of Command: These principles clarify reporting relationships and eliminate the confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives. Although orders must flow through the chain of command, members of the organization may directly communicate with each other to ask for or share information.
- Chain of command means that there is an orderly line of authority within the ranks of the organization, with lower levels subordinate to, and connected to, higher levels.
- Unity of command means that every individual is accountable to only one designated supervisor to whom they report at the scene of an incident.
6) Unified Command (UC): A UC allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability. A Unified Command may be needed for incidents involving:
- Multiple jurisdictions.
- A single jurisdiction with multiple agencies sharing responsibility.
- Multiple jurisdictions with multi-agency involvement
Each participating agency may contribute to the process of:
- Identifying and selecting objectives
- Determining overall incident strategies
- Ensuring that joint planning for tactical activities is accomplished in accordance with approved incident objectives
- Ensuring the integration of tactical operations
- Approving, committing, and making optimum use of all assigned resources
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.