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What is the Incident Command System (ICS)?
ICS is a standardized on-scene incident management concept designed specifically to allow responders to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of any single incident or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.

In the early 1970s, ICS was developed to manage rapidly moving wildfires and to address the following problems:
• Too many people reporting to one supervisor;

• Different emergency response organizational structures;

• Lack of reliable incident information;

• Inadequate and incompatible communications;

• Lack of structure for coordinated planning among agencies;

• Unclear lines of authority;

• Terminology differences among agencies; and Unclear or unspecified incident objectives.

In 1980, federal officials transitioned ICS into a national program called the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS), which became the basis of a response management system for all federal agencies with wildfire management responsibilities. Since then, many federal agencies have endorsed the use of ICS, and several have mandated its use.

An ICS enables integrated communication and planning by establishing a manageable span of control. An ICS divides an emergency response into five manageable functions essential for emergency response operations: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance and Administration. Figure 1 shows a typical ICS structure.


What is a Unified Command (UC)?
Although a single Incident Commander normally handles the command function, an Incident Commnad System (ICS) organization may be expanded into a Unified Command (UC). The UC is a structure that brings together the "Incident Commanders" of all major organizations involved in the incident in order to coordinate an effective response while at the same time carrying out their own jurisdictional responsibilities. The UC links the organizations responding to the incident and provides a forum for these entities to make consensus decisions. Under the UC, the various jurisdictions and/or agencies and non-government responders may blend together throughout the operation to create an integrated response team.

The UC is responsible for overall management of the incident. The UC directs incident activities, including development and implementation of overall objectives and strategies, and approves ordering and releasing of resources. Members of the UC work together to develop a common set of incident objectives and strategies, share information, maximize the use of available resources, and enhance the efficiency of the individual response organizations.

We currently use the ICS for our incident response operations. How will our current ICS system relate to the NIMS?
The NIMS utilizes ICS as a standard incident management organization for the management of all major incidents. These functional areas include command, operations, planning, logistics and finance/administration. Additionally, the principle of unified command has been incorporated into NIMS to ensure further coordination for incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or agencies. This unified command component not only coordinates the efforts of many jurisdictions, but also provides for and assures joint decision on objectives, strategies, plans, priorities and public communications.

Is current Incident Command System (ICS) training applicable to NIMS?
The NIMS recognizes the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) ICS training as a model for course curricula and materials applicable to the NIMS:

ICS-100, Introduction to ICS
ICS-200, Basic ICS
ICS-300, Intermediate ICS
ICS-400, Advanced ICS

The USFA’s National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute both follow this model in their ICS training curricula. At the local level, agencies may contact the fire department for information and training on ICS.

 

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