Facility and workplace emergencies occur quickly and often unexpectedly. Decisive responses must be immediate in order to minimize potentially escalating impacts. Use of the Incident Command System (ICS) provides companies with a proven response management structure, process, and methodology.
ICS is a widely applicable management system designed to enable flexible, effective, efficient all-hazards incident management. By integrating a common emergency planning organizational structure, response operations can be streamlined, coordinated, and coherent to every necessary responder.
ICS standardizes titles, clarifies reporting relationships, and eliminates the confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives. Prior to an incident, standardized roles and responsibilities should be clearly established and assigned in the response plan. The individuals assigned to each area of response should be trained accordingly and be familiar with applicable response plans.
Five ICS Components
A typical ICS organizational structure is built around five major management activities or functional areas:
1. COMMAND: According to FEMA, the command function is “the act of directing, ordering, or controlling by virtue of explicit statutory, regulatory, or delegated authority.”
With a significant or prolonged incident, command may be transferred to other individuals. When command is transferred, the process must include a briefing that captures all essential information for continuing safe and effective operations. Command transfers should be expected during an extended incident, and does not reflect on the competency of the acting Incident Commander. Companies must train each individual for their designated role to ensure a smooth command transfer, or at a minimum, coordinate transfers with external responders or agencies.
The ICS Unified Command structure allows federal, state, and local On-Scene Coordinators to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.
2. OPERATIONS: The operations function of ICS is responsible for the direction and coordination of all incident tactical operations. ICS operations enables short and long-term field-level operations for a broad spectrum of emergencies, from small to complex incidents, both natural and manmade. The designated Operations Section Chief organizes, assigns, and supervises all of the tactical field resources assigned to an incident. However, a manageable span of control is established to monitor the number of resources that report to any one supervisor. Per ICS guidelines, a supervisor optimally should not have more than five subordinates.
3. PLANNING: The planning function of ICS accounts for the collection, evaluation, and distribution of information regarding incident development and the necessary resources required to counteract the circumstances. Despite potential incomplete scenario details, planners must implement an Incident Action Plan that can be communicated through concise briefings during the initial stages of incident management. Pre-planning applicable emergency scenarios is highly recommended and can greatly minimize the initial planning stage. Implementing an unexercised plan during an incident may result in a prolonged and inefficient response.
As the incident management effort evolves over time, additional lead time, staff, information systems, and technologies enable more detailed planning and cataloging of events and “lessons learned.” Coordinated communication is a critical planning element that enables targeted directives to be carried out.
4. LOGISTICS: The logistic component of ICS is responsible for providing the necessary facilities, services, and materials to meet the needs of the incident response. The potential complexity of response logistics should be analyzed, optimized, and communicated within an established and exercised response plan.
During an emergency, logistics personnel may be involved in:
- Participating in preparation of the Incident Action Plan (IAP)
- Providing utility maps to emergency responders
- Providing material safety data sheets to employees
- Coordinating and processing requests for additional resources
- Repairing equipment
- Arranging for medical support, food and transportation
- Arranging for shelter facilities
- Providing for backup power
- Providing for backup communications
- Implementing the Incident Demobilization Plan
5. FINANCE/ADMINISTRATION: The Finance/Administration Section has two key missions during an incident:
- Cost monitoring and payment: Account for all financial elements related to the incident. This may include providing financial and cost analysis information as requested. The Finance / Administration Section Chief is responsible for tracking all costs incurred during the event.
- Administration: Collects, details, and maintains a record of the incident events, investigations, and recovery operations. The administrative component may also be responsible for gathering pertinent information from agency briefings and ensuring all documents initiated at the incident are properly prepared, completed, and submitted as necessary. All teams, sections, and divisions must establish logs and submits copies to the Finance / Administration Section Chief, or delegate every 12 hours (or at determined increments).
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