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The Standardized Emergency Management Concepts of ICS

Posted on Mon, Oct 22, 2012

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.

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Tags: Business Risk, Crisis Management, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program

The Critical Numbers of Business Continuity and Emergency Mitigation

Posted on Mon, Sep 10, 2012

Successful businesses track their financial statistics. A company’s ability to engage in daily operations is inevitably linked to its financial bottom line. However, if an emergency incident, natural disaster, or business continuity issue arises, a company may be unable to continue operations, which could result in loss of revenue and significant impact in financial performance or potential bankruptcy.

According to a Feb. 2012 survey by Sage, only 38% of the 539 small businesses polled have a formal emergency or disaster preparedness plans in place. But if critical numbers are the basis of a successful business, companies need to ensure its longevity by investing in a functional emergency response or business continuity plan. A 2005 widely cited study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC) entitled, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities, indicated that money spent on reducing the risk of natural hazards is a sound investment. The study revealed that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, an average of $4 is saved in the future.


It is challenging to perform a cost-benefit analysis for hazard mitigation efforts. According to the MMC’s study, the cost analysis portion is typically a straightforward assessment of capital expenditures to upgrade the facility or equipment, operational costs for programs, and added maintenance expenses. However, on the benefits side of the equation, the avoided loss due to identification and mitigation efforts are much more difficult to assess. Typically, benefits resulting from mitigation efforts are dynamic in nature, and are not limited to a single structure, department or operation. Additionally, there is a high degree of beneficial uncertainty in implementing hazard mitigation efforts over a specific time span.

A benefit-cost analysis requires that hazard mitigation costs and hazard losses be measured in terms of the value of all resources used (or destroyed) and at prices that represent their efficient allocation ─ not necessarily at market prices, which often do not account for inefficiencies or may not even exist in cases such as environmental resources (Boardman et al., 1996). - Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities

The Business Continuity Institute released their The CMI 2012 Business Continuity Management Survey detailing Business Continuity efforts in the United Kingdom. According to the survey, 81% of managers with a business continuity plans (BCP) stated that the planning efforts effectively reduced disruptions and agreed that the initial mitigation costs justify the benefits. The research stated that overall business continuity planning of the companies polled increased by 3% from the previous year. Despite the improvements, the reports stated that there are still certain industries, such as manufacturing, that are lagging behind in dedicated efforts. Below are a few key numbers from surveyed managers from the study:

  • 61% state they have a BCP in place in 2012, up from 49% in 2010
  • 42% stated corporate governance initiated BCP efforts
  • 37% were prompted for a BCP by potential of existing customers
  • 33% cited legislation of the catalyst for a BCP
  • 54% without a BCP stated their company rarely experiences disruptions
  • 46% without a BCP stated they will deal with disruptions on an as-needed basis
  • 55% experienced business disruption due to public sector strikes
  • 49% experienced business disruption due to severe weather
  • 39% state they would have to look up their business continuity role in case of disruption
  • 47% with a BCP have exercised their plan
  • Develop the plan
  • Train employees on the plan

Transforming a company into a dynamic and responsive organization requires set, monitored and unified goals. The critical numbers in mitigation efforts may be abstract, but business continuity plan can provide the bridge to longevity and a clear direction for success. To begin the process of building an effective business continuity plan, a company must:

  • Involve key employees in the process
  • Define business goals for each department or facility
  • Utilize goals to develop objectives
  • Determine how to measure potential costs and benefits
  • Analyze data
  • Mitigate where possible
  • Develop the plan
  • Train employees on the plan
  • Exercise the plan

For a sample Crisis Management Framework, download our helpful and informative guide.

Corporate Crisis Management


Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Risk, Business Continuity Plan, Business Disruption