Emergency Operations Center
The Incident Command System and the Incident Action Plan provide guidance to the management of an incident. It is necessary that the staff who manage and create the ICS and IAP have a centralized location. This location is called the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The purpose of the EOC is to provide a space for teams to collaborate, consolidate, and communicate with each other. Like an ICS, EOCs are scalable depending on the incident. They could be the back of a van for a simple missing person search, or they could be a massive warehouse with many departments and resources. The ability to house all the different emergency services in one, centralized area is critical to mission success.
Many Emergency Operations Centers use an ICS-like structure. Because the ICS structure and standards are familiar to many different agencies, it is common to manage an EOC with an ICS layout. Another common structure for the EOC is the Incident Support Model (ISM). The ISM structure is often during substantial incidents, where high-level guidance is necessary. Often, a centralized Emergency Operations Center will be created according to the ISM structure, which then commands smaller, more specific EOCs.
ICS-like EOC Structure
ISM EOC Structure
Another structure that is used, albeit not as often, is the Departmental Structure. This structure focuses on a department-based approach. It is used during the incident where many different sectors are impacted, like a natural disaster.
As the scope, size, and complexity of an incident grows, the EOC changes activation levels. The activation levels provide information to everyone on-scene about the needs of the EOC. The three different EOC activation levels are:
Normal activation occurs when no specific risk is occurring at the scene, and the scene is constant in size
Partial activation occurs when there is a threat to the scene or the scene is increasing in complexity
Full activation occurs when the EOC commander requests all available resources for the incident/EOC
The Emergency Operations Center is a critical component of the ICS process and structure. It allows for a successful outcome of an incident.
Incident Action Planning Process
The Incident Command Structure (ICS) is the broad classification of individuals at a scene. Those individuals create and execute the Incident Action Plan (IAP). The incident action plan helps to synchronize the different resources at a scene, to achieve the best outcome. The IAP dictates the incident objectives and who completes what. The IAP, " provides a consistent rhythm and structure to incident management". The goals of the IAP are:
To inform incident personnel of the incident objectives
To inform partner agencies and other cooperating personnel about incident objectives and progress
To identify work assignments and provide information to personnel about how their effort helps the operation
To show how various personal and sectors fit into the organization of the incident
The diagram to the left provides a visual explanation of the IAP. The first gray blocks, show the initial steps of an incident. This part involves the first resources arriving at the scene and determining that the particular incident is upgraded to a major incident. Once that occurs, the Incident Command Structure is established. The personnel that is part of the ICS begin to create the IAP. The Core Command staff starts by creating incident objectives. These objectives could be a variety of activities, such as a wilderness search for a person or an excavation of a collapsed building. Once the objectives have been established, the command staff meet to discuss strategy and provide directions to the various branches of the ICS.
The next phase of the Incident Action Plan involves the operations branch of the ICS. The operations command determines what the sector can complete to further the incident objectives. Once the decision is made about what the operations sector can complete, that information is sent over to the planning sector. The planning sector meets and approves the incident action plan. They assign specific resources to objectives and communicate with incident command, the logistics sector, and the administration sector.
Once the IAP has been approved, all of the resources gather at incident command. A member from the planning sector or the incident commander briefs the entire group of resources about the operational period's goals and the specific assignments of each resource. After the briefing, all the resources execute their respective assignments. Throughout the period, the command staff and planning sector continuously reassess the incident and conditions to determine if any changes to the IAP are necessary.
This entire process is repeated for every operational period. An operational period is traditionally defined as a 24-hour period. This is often adjusted for different incidents. A new group of resources is assigned for every operational period.
The IAP is part of FEMA's ICS 300 framework. There are many documents that get completed during the various stages of the IAP. The Incident Action Plan continues with the overall goal of creating the best outcome possible through the use of a systematic Incident Command System.
The diagram above shows the process for creating and exectuting an Incident Action Plan
During the briefing phases of the IAP, the incident objectives are clearly communicated to the incident staff
Organizational Structure of Incident Command Systems
The strategy of the Incident command systems is to have no, one person managing more than six other people. This allows everyone at the scene to stay focused on creating the best outcome.
The primary position in the incident command system is the Incident Commander. Under the Incident Commander, there are three other positions. These four people make up the core Command Staff.
The Incident Commander establishes the incident and coordinates the different resources necessary for the particular incident
The Public Information Officer manages media coverage of the incident. They speak directly with the media and approve what information is allowed to be released to the public and what should be withheld
The Safety Officer identifies any immediate hazards intrinsic to the scene. They ensure that safety messages are released and safety briefings are conducted
The Liaison Officer acts as a conduit between all the different emergency agencies working on the incident. Due to varying standards, they make sure that the various agencies work together toward the common goal
Under the Command Staff, there is the General Staff. The General Staff is responsible for the functional aspects of the Incident Command System. The commander of each sector reports directly to the primary Incident Commander. The General Staff is separated into four different sectors.
The Operations Sector is responsible for all the tactical operations during the incident. This sector includes different teams assigned to complete missions that are vital to the success of the incident. The majority of the resources at an incident work in the operations sector. This sector is the workforce of any incident
The Planning Sector is responsible for planning every aspect of an incident. They work on creating formal briefings, digrams, and action plans for the rest of the sectors. The planning sector also keeps track of what resources are on scene, as well as requests more resources. The planning sector is also tasked with closing out an incident when it has been resolved
The Logistics Sector is responsible for managing all the needs of an incident. Because incidents often involve hundreds of people, working for multiple days, the logistic sector often acts as a city. They create and manage the services that are necessary for the success of the other sectors
The Finance and Administration Sector is responsible for managing and tracking all the financial aspects of an incident. Often, a finance and administration sector is only created at substantial incidents where many agencies are involved
All of these various sectors need to work together to create a successful outcome for the incident. In future posts, I'll explore each sector more thoroughly as well as the Incident Action Plan (IAP). The IAP creates a framework for the planning of an incident and the successful control of the Incident Command System
Having a well organized system of command is essential for a succseful outcome
At a major incident like this, it is critical that every team knows their mission
An Introduction to Incident Command Systems
Every day major emergency incidents occur throughout the world. These range from substantial vehicle collisions to major terrorist incidents. People expect events like these to be managed properly, resulting in the best outcome possible. Often, when a major emergency occurs many agencies are involved in the event. In a vehicle collision, the agencies involved could be relatively simple, like the fire service and the police. In a terrorist incident, over 40 agencies could be involved, ranging from local emergency medical services to strategic military command. Many countries, including the United States, have standards on how these incidents should be controlled and managed. These protocols combined are called the Incident Command System (ICS).
The poster I made about MSAR when I was in first grade