Incident Command System/Survey of Emergency & Disaster Management.

Topic: Incident Command System/Survey of Emergency & Disaster Management Foreword One of the criterions of a modern nation is its level of preparedness for meeting any type of emergency. The possible emergent situations which might confront a country include:

1. Natural disasters or calamities as: earthquakes. landslides, floods, cyclones, Hurricanes, Tornados, Twisters, wildfire or jungle-fire and many more.

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2. Man-created Disasters as: arson, structural fire, vehicle or train crashes, industrial accidents, terrorist bombing, suicidal bomb blasts, riots, loot & plunder, revolt, mutiny, revolution, insurgency, incursion and war (the use of nuclear weapons and the weapons of mass destruction in modern warfare remain a hanging sword and a permanent threat to global security).

How far and how best a country has done its homework and made peace-time preparations to meet such emergencies, is the real test of a developed nation.

Introduction to Incident Command System


The concept of Incident Command System for short ICS, incorporated in NIMS (National Incident Management System) and other security agencies within Homeland Security System was developed thirty years back in the aftermath of a devastating wildfire in southern California in 1970, completely destroying nearly 601,00 acres of land in just two weeks time. Thus the US Homeland Security Department, created a special project called FIRESCOPE. The chief product emanating from the FIRESCOPE was the Incident Command System.

The ICS came into being because of the long felt dearth and a vacuum of an organized leadership during the heat of crisis. It was observed that often during fire-fighting or other emergencies, there had usually been a complete mess rather a shemozzle because of lack of leadership especially when more than one responder were called in to fight the disaster at a common site of incident. Thus to address the issue of the lack of effective leadership or absence of an absolute commander, creating chaos and confusion, the ICS was developed. (Cardwell, Michael, 1994, n.p.)

The Management Concepts

Primarily established for fire-responding, the ICS has emerged as a multidimensional system for immediate and instant dealing with all kinds of disasters and eventualities. Among the various management concepts greatly contributing to the success of the ICS include:

a) The innate flexibility of the ICS that allows other security personnel to easily meld with it.

b) Owning the Common Terminology by the ICS.

c) The Unified Command.

d) The ICSs Consolidated Action Plan.

e) The ICSs modular Organization

f) Competent Resource Management

g) The sound and built-in Communications.

h) The Special Facilities the ICS is equipped with

Salient Features of the ICS

Besides others, the two unique features of the ICS include:

1. The ICS is intrinsically a very flexible system, and therefore can meet all needs of the incident no matter what size or kind it is.

2. The ICS is a largely standard system which has enough room or space within its organizational structure so as to accommodate or absorb other personnel from myriad geographical locations, and other security agencies to bind together under a common management structure to fight the emergency collectively as a big but single unit. (Cardwell, Michael, 1994, n.p.)

Who is the Incident Commander?

If it appears that the fire is getting out of control and threatening the neighboring buildings and businesses especially in an industrial area, and that the assistance of more Engine companies is genuinely needed, the ICS, innately having this provision allows this call for more fire-fighting units or brigades to arrive at the incident. Now if from the arriving engine companies there happens to be one having a Battalion Commander, it will then be mandatory for all other Incident Commanders of individual units to accept the leadership of that Battalion Commander because of his superior rank and also because he is more qualified. The battalion commander then takes over as the leader of the incident and all other commanders of respective engine companies will have to obey his orders and command. Thus as a rule of thumb, a responsibility role within the ICS can be transferred to other superior commander during the crisis or an incident. The command transfer as this is invariably accompanied by a transfer of command briefing, whether verbal or written, and in this case as above, all incident commanders would be duty-bound to take the briefing of the battalion commander. (Cardwell, Michael, 1994, n.p.)

The Command Composition

The types of commanders in the ICS include:

1. Single Incident Commander: In incidents involving a single incident, only one person commands the incident and is considered final authority in the decision-making.

2. Unified Incident Commander – A unified incident commander takes over when several agencies get involved in relatively bigger incidents. But a unified-commander is considered a single entity.

3. The Area Commander: It is in multi-incidents that Area Commander is employed at one location providing chain of command down to various incident commanders at scattered locations. Area commander too is a single entity and acts more as an administrative and logistic supporter rather than executive incident commander for operations function.

There are basic principles which govern ICS in both the organization table as well as in the management decisions and also include the personnel and resources utilized in an emergency. Thus the supreme incident commander, in this case the battalion commander, may not continue to make next call or issue directives once the law enforcing officials from federal or state arrive at the site of incident. (Cardwell, Michael, 1994, n.p.)


It is concluded, therefore, that ICS is a highly crucial part of the Incident Management System. Although many incidents occur locally, but when a national catastrophe hits the nation, all responding agencies are required to come forward and work together to either avert or fight the disaster in the national and patriotic spirit. It is in particular through ICS that this objective is achieved. It is also worth the note that there is possibly one ICS only that correlates with the establishment of the NIMS. The specialty of the ICS is that it is basically flexible and can easily expand to cope with the increasing needs of the response irrespective of the fact that what number or size is that of the responders. Therefore the rule of thumb in ICS is how best and efficiently we may strike a healthy balance between flexibility and standardization. (Cardwell, Michael, 1994, n.p.)

Works Cited

Cardwell, Michael. Security Management&nbsp.38.n8&nbsp.(August 1994):&nbsp.64(4).&nbsp.&nbsp.”Survival among the ruins. (Incident Command System allows integrated and efficient approach to emergency management) (Disaster Management). Retrieved on March 3, 2008. from:

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