14 ICS Management Characteristics – 5 Tips for ICS Chain of Command and Unity of Command

Chain of Command: Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organization.

Unity of Command: Unity of command means that all individuals have a designated supervisor to whom they report 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 direct the actions of all personnel under their supervision.

Tip #1 – Use Deputies where possible

Tip #2 – Follow command transfer procedures

Tip #3 – Communicate “through channels.”

ICS provides a hierarchical chain of command that expands and contracts based on the size and needs of incidents. Through this classical organization of human functions, each person fulfilling a role has a clear route, if not means, of communications up and down the chain of command.

ICS responders speak of the need to “talk up one and down one,” meaning that they need to talk up the command chain one slot to their supervisor and down one to everyone they supervise. Beside the Incident Commander (IC), who is the top-level supervisor from an incident command perspective, and the lowest crew member, who supervises no one, every other person in the command chain needs to talk through channels up one and down one.

Tip #4 – Incident Commanders should be willing to allow independent action

Events may be moving so rapidly that a central command cannot keep up and therefore needs to be willing to allow independent action within and under control of the Section Chiefs.

Tip #5 – Strengthen network relationships by communicating shared challenge and purpose

Crises can create a sense of common challenge and mutual trust, which in turn can foster a sense of esprit de corps (Moynihan, 2005). As responders perceive that they are working together to overcome the same challenge, they perceive the ICS less as a collection of organizations and more as a single team. Once a crisis begins, ICS managers should communicate to their staff the shared nature of the challenges they face, the difficulties they may encounter, and the goals they are pursuing.

14 ICS Management Characteristics – 5 Tips for ICS Accountability

Effective accountability of resources at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas during incident operations is essential. Adherence to the following ICS principles and processes helps to ensure accountability:

  • Resource Check-In/Check-Out Procedures
  • Incident Action Planning
  • Unity of Command
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Span of Control
  • Resource Tracking

Tip #1 – Commander and Planning Section Chief set Tone
The Incident Commander and the Planning Section Chief set the tone for accountability across the organization ensuring that the principles of ICS are upheld.

Tip #2 – Keep unit and personal logs
This will demonstrate transparency and allow for learning post incident.

Tip #3 – Ensure Meeting Schedules are kept

Tip #4 – Use a standardized status reporting procedure for operational units
It provides basic information for command decision-making and responder accountability, while making efficient and effective use of communications channels.
The unit can prepare a quick report that provides its current position, progress with its current task, a statement of any resource or support needs, and a simple statement accounting for personnel assigned to the person preparing the report. Such a personnel accountability report provides a positive acknowledgment that the unit is intact and safe.

Tip #5 – Ensure unity of the chain of command
Accountability relies on each individual in the active ICS structure having a direct supervisor and that the supervisor accepts responsibility for subordinates.

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 10 network

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 10 Discuss public authority and third-party support activities with peers

Review public authority and third-party support activities with industry peers. Business continuity training courses and events are a great time to do this. Business continuity professionals who pursue training and further education may be able to connect you to key people in your priority agencies.  Networking meetings, conferences and professional organizations provide other opportunities to gather this information.

Embed your organization in the network of professionals who will provide emergency support and recovery services when an incident occurs.  Following these ten tips will build up mutual understanding and co-operation between your organization and external agencies in the event of a disaster.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 9 be active

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 9 Participate in professional associations

Participate in local Emergency Management or Business Continuity professional associations and other organizations that support your industry.  Become an active member of professional organizations such as Disaster Recovery Information Exchange (DRIE) or International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). Join LinkedIn and participate in Business Continuity management groups. Attend meetings, sponsor events and give talks in your area of expertise. Get out of the office and network.

Attend professional conferences such as the World Conference on Disaster Management. They are a good opportunity to connect with a wide variety of emergency professionals from many different sectors.

Participate in Emergency Preparedness Week. Your organization could lead or sponsor a public gathering or invite others to your internal awareness event.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 8 share exercises

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 8 Share exercises and training opportunities

When you exercise your plan, notify and include external authorities where applicable.  Invite fire, police and emergency medical service departments to participate in appropriate lunch and learn programs.

Participate in local emergency planning committee meetings as well as in local and regional training and exercises. Experts will often divulge more and better information ‘face-to-face’ then via e-mail or any other form of communication.

Some communities have run large scale exercises that business and government are invited to participate in such as the 2009 and 2011 Greater Toronto Incident Management Exchange.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 7 identify any staff with conflicting responsibilities in a crisis

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 7 Find out which staff members are a member of a public authority or support group

Staff members may be volunteer firefighters, Red Cross volunteers or Salvation Army. Your internal readiness and response will be affected if you are not aware of their obligations. Speak to employees during team selection and training to ensure all participants are aware of their organizational responsibilities and identify any conflict with commitments to the community.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 6 document resources

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 6 Document excess resources that could be used by others  

Identify and document assets potentially available in support of public authorities and other organizations during an emergency. Some examples of helpful items:

  • Chemicals
  • Fuel supplies
  • Water & foam (fire suppression) sources
  • Communication devices & support equipment
  • Ham radio
  • Equipment (trucks, back hoes, ships, etc.)
  • Organizational contacts
  • Locations
  • Skilled and trained personal
  • Shelter capability
  • Ability to provide food to emergency workers/community

Build strong relationships with supporting agencies by bringing important resources to the table.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 5 understand laws and regulations

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip #5 Understand potential impact of laws and regulations on your plans

Determine how emergency procedure laws, regulations, codes, zoning, standards or practices will affect your plans. These could be specific to your location and/or industry.

Responsibility for maintaining current knowledge of these must be assigned to a specific individual on the business continuity planning team. You may want to leverage your internal legal department. This individual should attend public meetings, monitor press releases and even meet with public officials. They may also partner with other organizations who have similar interests and provide information sharing, encouragement or even lobbying resources.

Hold regular meetings with this individual to discuss any changes and how they might impact current response and recovery procedures. Subscribe to online newsletters or RSS feeds to keep up to date on emergency regulations or continuity issues.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 4 prepare potential documents

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip #4 Determine the information that will be needed by each agency

Ask the internal liaison for each agency to obtain a list of documents that would be required at an emergency.  Information that will be required immediately by public authorities during an incident must be readily available.  Examples of information that may be required:

  • Electrical and telecommunications sources
  • Floor plans
  • Hazardous Waster Storage facilities (ie: PCB’s)
  • Chemical storage & supplies
  • Laboratories
  • Organizations site layout information
  • Secure areas
  • Water
  • Foam for fire suppression

Include in the go-bag an envelope for each agency containing all of their required information.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Coordination with External Agencies – tip 3 examine local and regional EMPs

Internally, all your plans are written and exercised, your people are trained and aware of their roles and your messages are prepared.  Maybe after your first exercise, you will appreciate that your organization can not respond or recover on its own. The following 10 tips will facilitate your coordination with external agencies.

Tip # 3 Examine local and regional Emergency Management Plans and procedures

Obtain a copy of your municipal, provincial and federal Emergency Management Plan. Also obtain a copy of and study the emergency operations procedures of local authorities.  You may want to examine public authority policy and procedure manuals for:

  • Fire
  • Police
  • Transportation department
  • HAZMAT

Routinely check for up-dates.

Understand your provincial emergency management protocols. Basic ICS (Incident Command System) and IMS( Incident Management System) training can ensure that internal and external emergency responders are speaking the same language.

Vanguard EMC Inc. and other organizations offer free introductory courses on ICS/IMS.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Ten –  Coordination with External Agencies DRII Professional Practices June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

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