NIMS provides an organizational construction to allow efficient and effective incident administration and synchronization. The Command and Coordination component focuses on the Incident Command System (ICS).
ICS fosters a unified approach by providing clear roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols for responding to incidents. This allows for streamlined decision making, resource prioritization, and allocation. Read more about : which nims component includes the incident command system ics.
When first responders from a variety of agencies are involved in incident response, it is important that all of the individuals working together have clear communications between each other and up and down the chain of command. This is achieved by using the ICS, which consists of an organizational structure with five functional areas – command, operations, planning, logistics and finance and administration – as well as an interagency communication protocol. Although ICS was originally designed to manage on-scene incident response, it can also be used by agencies that do not have on-scene incident management responsibilities (e.g., those that prepare for and train on disasters).
The initial incident commander at a highway accident or emergency will establish an ICS site, which should be clearly visible to approaching personnel. ICs should ensure that all assisting agency resources report to the ICS, either via an Agency Representative or the Liaison Officer. Agency Representatives are individuals designated by a responding agency to make authoritative decisions on matters affecting the agency’s participation in the incident. They should be able to check in all agency personnel and equipment resources, and advise the Liaison Officer of any special needs or requirements.
As the incident progresses, ICs will expand and contract the ICS organization to match the incident’s needs. The ICS organization should never be larger than the number of individuals that can be effectively managed by one individual, as established by NIMS’ span-of-control guidelines. At the same time, ICS procedures should be streamlined for the rapid transfer of control between ICs.
For example, the IC may assign a ranking transportation agency responder to lead an Operations Section, if traffic management or incident clearance activities are the focus of incident operations. The IC may also designate a Planning Section Chief to oversee the development of an Incident Action Plan, which will guide incident response activities in real-time as the incident unfolds. Typically, only large incidents require the formal establishment of other ICS sections such as Intelligence.
Transportation stakeholders that might be called upon to provide their expertise, assistance or materials at highway incident scenes include road maintenance and engineering agencies, service patrols, transportation management centers, and towing and recovery companies. Many of these stakeholders are unfamiliar with NIMS and ICS, but the basic tenets of ICS can be easily applied to highway incidents.
The Coordination component of NIMS includes the organizational structures and procedures for managing personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications at incident scenes. These include Incident Command System (ICS), Multiagency Coordination System (MCS), and Public Information System. The ICS is particularly well suited to the management of highway incidents, where it can minimize recurring problems associated with these events, such as longer than necessary response times, occurrence of preventable secondary incidents, and lack of standard operating procedures. Using ICS also enables transportation agencies to work with other stakeholders, such as tow truck companies and law enforcement, that are largely unfamiliar with the system.
The first responder on-scene of a highway incident will establish the ICS structure by taking the role of Incident Commander. At this point, the IC determines whether the incident will be managed as Single Command or Unified Command (UC). The decision to use UC is based on the legal and functional jurisdiction of the responding agencies and their ability to meet incident objectives. As the incident progresses, the ICS organizational elements expand or contract to reflect actual event conditions on-scene.
To provide a consistent level of organizational control, the ICS structure incorporates functional units known as Sections. Each section is staffed by an assigned supervisor who reports directly to the next higher-level supervisor in the chain of command.
These supervisors are responsible for the daily operations and management of specific sections. They may assign resources, monitor progress, and ensure that sectional resources have been accounted for, as well as maintain an Incident Activity Plan (IAP). Read more about : which nims component includes the incident command system ics.
A Planning Section Chief is responsible for developing an IAP for the incident. The IAP outlines the overall course of action for incident control and describes how all aspects of the operation will be coordinated. The Planning Section Chief may also be responsible for preparing and maintaining the ICS’s Documentation Unit, which records key activities and resource status in real-time.
One Division or Group Supervisor is assigned to manage each established division or group in the ICS organization chain of command. Their primary responsibilities include implementing the portion of the IAP that pertains to their division or group, assigning resources within their division or group, monitoring progress and resource status in their division or group, and reporting directly to the next higher-level supervisor in their chain of command.
The ICS is used by public emergency response agencies and by businesses that interface with them during incidents. Private business owners should familiarize themselves with its basic concepts and coordinate planning with local public emergency services, as well as their own local disaster planners.
During a highway incident, the ICS structure evolves in a modular fashion in real-time based on the size and complexity of the incident. Initially, the unified command (UC) may consist of a single person from a law enforcement or fire department with jurisdictional authority over the scene. As the situation progresses, additional UC members are designated by command to assume responsibilities and duties as required. An incident action plan (IAP) guides the tactical operations of an incident. The IAP is developed in real-time, but select pre-incident plans such as alternate route plans may be used to support an IAP during a highway incident. Command may designate a Planning Section Chief to guide the planning process and develop an IAP.
Resources include personnel, teams, equipment and supplies. Resources are grouped by capability and assigned a specific NIMS national typing protocol for use in inventorying, managing and integrating resources into an operational area. The ICS system also provides for credentialing of personnel to ensure they are available for assignment when needed.
While a small number of major highway incidents require the full ICS structure, most do not. A minor incident involving a police officer and tow truck, for example, does not require formal implementation of the ICS structure.
A key component of the ICS is an emergency operation center, which is a physical or virtual location from which information and coordination is managed during an incident. Depending on the situation, other management and control functions may report to an EOC, or work directly with the incident commander. A key element of an EOC is the ability to communicate internally and externally with a single point of contact. A public information officer manages communication with the media and other stakeholders. The NIMS framework establishes the core principles that organize national response.
Join Information System
This component provides guidance and tools to facilitate sharing of incident information. It includes the NIMS national typing protocol for inventorying and describing resource capabilities, as well as a standardized terminology that supports communication among response entities. This system also enables unified public messages to be delivered by all responders and agencies during an incident.
The NIMS system allows departments and agencies at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels to work together seamlessly in order to prevent, protect against, mitigate, and recover from incidents. It also guides nongovernmental organizations and private sector businesses to join the effort when they are needed. This unified approach helps to save lives and property, minimize injuries and damage, and reduce the disruption of daily life.
NIMS also defines advance preparedness measures to enable local, state, tribal, and federal professionals to prepare for and manage their roles and responsibilities in an incident. These include training, exercises, equipment acquisition and certification, publication management, and more. This preparation ensures that all participants understand their role in a response and can operate efficiently as a team.
One of the most important NIMS components is the Incident Command System (ICS), which optimizes communication and coordination in special events. During a special event, the ICS is the organization that assigns and describes positions, duties, and responsibilities for those managing the incident. It also provides for an appointing authority and chain of command.
Most highway incidents are relatively minor and do not require full deployment of the ICS functional structure. For example, a single officer may supervise only a few vehicles or resources, such as a police car and tow truck. On these occasions, it is common to not implement a full ICS organizational structure. However, it is important to familiarize yourself with ICS so that you are comfortable using it on those rare occasions when it is required.
A good starting point for understanding NIMS is G0402/ICS-402, which introduces the basic principles of NIMS. Those who will be involved in the NIMS management of an incident should take this course, as well as receive a briefing from their emergency management director.