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NIMS version: March 1, 2004
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Tab 6
NIMS - Establising an Area Command

A. Responsibilities

B. Organization

C. Location

D. Reporting Relationships

An Area Command is established when the complexity of the incident and incident management span-of-control considerations so dictate. Generally, the administrator(s) of the agency having jurisdictional responsibility for the incident makes the decision to establish an Area Command.

The purpose of an Area Command is either to oversee the management of multiple incidents that are each being handled by a separate ICS organization or to oversee the management of a very large or complex incident that has multiple incident management teams engaged.

This type of command is generally used when there are a number of incidents in the same area and of the same type, such as two or more HAZMAT spills or fires. These are usually the kinds of incidents that may compete for the same resources. When incidents are of different types and/or do not have similar resource demands, they are usually handled as separate incidents or are coordinated through an EOC. If the incidents under the authority of the Area Command span multiple jurisdictions, a Unified Area Command should be established. This allows each jurisdiction involved to have appropriate representation in the Area Command.

Area Commands are particularly relevant to public health emergencies, given that these events are typically not site specific, not immediately identifiable, geographically dispersed, and evolve over time ranging from days to weeks. Such events as these, as well as acts of biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear terrorism, call for a coordinated intergovernmental, private-sector, and nongovernmental organization response, with large-scale coordination typically conducted at a higher jurisdictional level.


The Area Command does not have operational responsibilities. For the incidents under its authority, the Area Command:

sets overall agency incident-related priorities;

allocates critical resources according to the established priorities;

ensures that incidents are properly managed;

ensures effective communications;

ensures that incident management objectives are met and do not conflict with each other or with agency policies;
identifies critical resource needs and reports them to the interagency coordination system (generally EOCs);
ensures that short-term “emergency” recovery is coordinated to assist in the transition to full recovery operations; and
provides for personnel accountability and a safe operating environment.

The Area Command develops an action plan detailing incident management priorities, needs, and objectives. This plan should clearly state policy, objectives, and priorities; provide a structural organization with clear lines of authority and communications; and identify incident management functions to be performed by the Area Command (i.e., public communications).

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The Area Command organization operates under the same basic principles as ICS. Typically, an Area Command will comprise the following key personnel, all of whom must possess appropriate qualifications and certifications:

1. Area Commander (Unified Area Command).
The Area Commander is responsible for the overall direction of the incident management teams assigned to the same incident or to incidents in close proximity. This responsibility includes ensuring that conflicts are resolved, that incident objectives are established, and that strategies are selected for the use of critical resources. The Area Command is also responsible for coordinating with Federal, State, local, tribal, and participating private organizations.

2. Area Command Logistics Chief.
The Area Command Logistics Chief provides facilities, services, and materials at the Area Command level and ensures the effective allocation of critical resources and supplies among the incident management teams.

3. Area Command Planning Chief.
The Area Command Planning Chief collects information from various incident management teams to assess and evaluate potential conflicts in establishing incident objectives, strategies, and priorities for allocating critical resources.

4. Area Command Support Positions.
The following positions are activated as necessary.

a. Area Command Critical Resources Unit Leader.
The critical resources unit leader tracks and maintains the status and availability of critical resources assigned to each incident under the Area Command.

b. Area Command Situation Unit Leader.
The situation unit leader monitors the status of objectives for each incident or IMT assigned to the area command.

c. Area Command Public Information Officer.
The PIO provides public information coordination between incident locations and serves as the point of contact for media requests to the Area Command.

d. Area Command Liaison Officer.
The liaison officer helps maintain off-incident interagency contacts and coordination.

e. Area Command Aviation Coordinator.
An aviation coordinator is assigned when aviation resources are competing for common airspace and critical resources, and works in coordination with incident aviation organizations to evaluate potential conflicts, develop common airspace management procedures, and prioritize critical resources.

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The following guidelines should be followed in locating an Area Command:

To the extent possible, the area command should be established in close proximity to the incidents under its authority. This makes it easier for the Area Commander and the ICs to meet and otherwise interact.

It is, however, best not to collocate an Area Command with any individual ICP. Doing so might cause confusion with the command and management activities associated with that particular incident.

Area commands must establish effective, efficient communications and coordination processes and protocols with subordinate ICPs, as well as with other incident management organizations involved in incident operations.

The facility used to house the organization should be large enough to accommodate a full Area Command staff. It should also be able to accommodate meetings between the Area Command staff, the ICs, and agency executive(s), as well as news media representatives.

Area Commands may be collocated with EOCs.



When an Area Command is involved in coordinating multiple incident management activities, the following reporting relationships will apply:

The ICs for the incidents under the Area Command’s authority report to the Area

The Area Commander is accountable to the agency(s) or to the jurisdictional executive(s) or administrator(s).

If one or more incidents within the Area Command are multijurisdictional, a Unified Area Command should be established. In this instance, ICs would report to the Unified Area Commander for their jurisdiction.




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