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Command and Management

One part of the NIMS management structure is the Incident Command System. The ICS is used throughout the lifecycle of an incident, defining the operating characteristics, management components, and structure of incident management organizations.

The beauty of using ICS is that it has several built-in features that make managing any incident—from acts of terrorism to hazardous material spills to a local city's planned emergency event—a lot easier than in earlier times. The use of common terminology makes identifying facilities, members of a facility, and what takes place in that certain facility recognizable by the facility's name, which is less confusing for all involved. For instance, an incident command post one would have an incident commander, and within that post specific identifiable activities would ensue. There can be only one incident commander for each incident, and he or she is just called Commander. The head of each section is called the Chief (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The incident action plan (IAP) communicates the incident objectives for both operational and support activities. The plan addresses what is to be done, who is responsible for getting it done, and how communication will take place, as well as providing procedures and protocols for dealing with all aspects of the event. The IAP is developed for an operational period lasting 12 hours or longer. These plans depend on management to carry through a coordinated response, ensuring that everyone involved is going in the same direction toward the same goal.

Another part of the NIMS organization structure is the multiagency coordination system, containing a lot of the same components as the Incident Command System, but with the addition of emergency operations centers (EOCs). Established by emergency management agencies at the state and local levels, EOCs are the facilities that coordinate resources and information to support incident activities. Multiagency coordination systems may also include multiagency coordination entities where emergencies cross jurisdictions.

Public information systems are responsible for disseminating information to the public in a timely and accurate fashion during emergency events. In this system, the Public Information Officer (PIO) gives his or her recommendation to the incident command post. The PIO keeps control of the rumor mill, while alerting the public and the media of the facts regarding the emergency. This is not without procedures or protocols. The PIO works within the Joint Information System (JIS), which enables the PIO to disseminate the same information to all agencies. This support system is used by the decision-makers.

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