United States Civil Defense Assoc. has adopted the Incident Command System (ICS) for years, HQ’s feels like all USCDA members are encouraged to go to our training page on our web site www.uscda.us  scroll down and click on FEMA courses there it is recommended to take  Incident Command System (ICS) and NIMS. This basic information prepares you for on site emergency missions shows you to contact the Incident Commander for assignment at any disaster you should respond to as a USCDA member. If there is not an ICS you set one up, establish it immediately. You are the “Incident Commander” until someone shows up with more experience then you, then a smooth transfer of command should take place.

Establishment and Transfer of Command

The command function must be clearly established from

the beginning of an incident. When command is transferred, the process must include a briefing that captures all essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.

Chain of Command and Unity of Command

Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organization. Unity of command means that every individual has a designated supervisor to whom he or she reports at the scene of the incident.

These principles clarify reporting relationships and eliminate the confusion caused by multiple,conflicting directives. Incident managers at all levels must be able to control the actions of all personnel under their supervision.

Incident Command System (ICS) Features

Standardization Common Terminology Using common terminology helps to define organizational functions, incident facilities, resource descriptions, and position titles.

Planning/Organizational Structure Management by Objectives

Includes establishing overarching objectives; developing and issuing

assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols; establishing specific, measurable objectives for various incident management functional activities; and directing efforts to attain the established objectives.

Modular Organization

The Incident Command organizational structure develops in a top-down, modular fashion that is based on the size and complexity of the incident, as well as the specifics of the hazard environment created by the incident.

Incident Action Planning:

Incident Action Plans (IAPs) provide a coherent means of communicating the overall incident objectives in the contexts of both operational and support activities.

Manageable Span of Control

Span of control is key to effective and efficient incident management.

Within ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from three to seven subordinates.

Facilities and Resources

Incident Locations and Facilities: Various types of operational locations and support facilities are stablished in the vicinity of an incident to accomplish a variety of purposes. Typical predesignated facilities include Incident Command Post, Bases, Camp, Staging Area, Mass Casualty Triage Area, and others as required.

Comprehensive Resource Management.

Resource management includes processes for categorizing, ordering, dispatching, tracking, and recovering resources. It also includes processes for reimbursement for resources, as appropriate. Resources are defined as personnel, teams, equipment, supplies, and facilities available or potentially available for assignment or allocation in support of incident management and emergency response activities.

Communications/Information Management

Use of a common communications plan and interoperable communications processes and


Information and Intelligence Management

The incident management organization must establish a process for gathering, sharing, and managing incident-related information and intelligence with.professionalism.


Effective accountability at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas during incident operations is essential. To that end, the following principles must be adhered to:


All respondents, regardless of agency affiliation, must report in to the incident commander and receive an assignment in accordance with the procedures established by the Incident Commander.

Incident Action Plan

Response operations must be directed and coordinated as outlined in the IAP.

Unity of Command

Each individual involved in incident operations will be assigned to only one supervisor.

Span of Control

Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their

subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision.

Resource Tracking

Supervisors must record and report resource status changes as they occur.


Personnel and equipment should respond only when requested or when dispatched by an appropriate authority.

Safety officer during briefing at Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

Levels and Types of ICS Management

The Incident Command System (ICS) is flexible, scaling up or down as complexity changes and the needs of the incidents change. Type 5 is the least complex, while Type 1 is the most complex. Learn more about the Incident Command System.

Levels and Types of ICS Management

Type 5: (very small wildland fire only)

  • Initial attack
  • Short duration, seldom lasting into the next burn period
  • Few resources assigned (generally less than 6 people)
  • Little complexity

Type 4

  • Initial attack or first response to an incident
  • IC is “hands on” leader and performs all functions of Operations, Logistics, Planning, and Finance
  • Few resources are used (several individuals or a single strike team)
  • Normally limited to one operational period
  • Does not require a written Incident Action Plan (IAP)
  • Examples: Search & Rescue (SAR), motor vehicle accidents, small fires

Type 3

  • Extended initial attack on wildland fires
  • IC walks the line between a manager and a ‘doer’
  • Resources may vary from several single resources to several task forces or strike teams
  • Some Command/General Staff positions (ie, Division Supervisor, Unit Leader), may be filled
  • May extend into another operational period (12 hours), and require an IAP
  • Examples: Larger SAR’s, law enforcement incidents, special events, technical rescues, fires

Type 2

  • IC spends all time being a manager
  • Most Command and General staff positions are filled
  • Large number of resources utilized
  • Incident extends into multiple operational periods
  • Base camp(s) established
  • Significant logistical support is required
  • Examples: Major fires, VIP visits, lengthy search and rescues, law enforcement incidents, multi-day special events

Type 1

  • All functions are filled, plus leaders, branches etc.
  • Multi-agency and national resources
  • Large number of personnel and equipment are assigned to the incident
  • It is a large, complex incident
  • Examples: A major Incident—hurricanes, very large fires, natural disasters

The National Park Service supports and participates in interagency teams at both national and geographical area levels.

Area Command

Area command is established when an incident is so large that it must be divided and managed as two or more separate incidents; or when multiple, separate incidents with Incident Management Teams (IMT) must be managed. The role of area command is to provide oversight direction to multiple incidents rather than providing direct action on any one incident as a Type 1 or Type 2 IMT would. Area command manages the efforts of various Incident Commanders to ensure that the overall objectives are being met, to set priorities among incidents and to allocate scarce resources between incidents.

Summary of Definitions

Incident Command System—The management system used to direct all operations at the incident scene. The Incident Commander (IC) is located at an Incident Command Post (ICP) at the incident scene.

Unified Command—An application of ICS used when there is more than one agency with incident jurisdiction. Agencies work together through their designated Incident Commanders at a single incident command post (ICP) to establish a common set of objectives and strategies, and a single Incident Action Plan.

Area Command (Unified Area Command)—Established as necessary to provide command authority and coordination for two or more incidents in close proximity. Area Command works directly with Incident Commanders. Area Command becomes Unified Area Command when incidents are multi-jurisdictional. Area Command may be established at an EOC facility or at a location other than an ICP.

Multiagency Coordination (MAC)—An activity or a formal system used to coordinate resources and support between agencies or jurisdictions. A MAC Group functions within the MACs, which interact with agencies or jurisdictions, not with incidents. MACS are useful for regional situations. A MAC can be established at a jurisdictional Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or at a separate facility.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC)—Also called Expanded Dispatch, Emergency Command and Control Centers, etc. EOCs are used in various ways at all levels of government and within private industry to provide coordination, direction, and control during emergencies. EOC facilities can be used to house Area Command and MAC activities as determined by agency or jurisdiction policy.

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