This lesson focuses on incident-site organization using the Incident Command System (ICS). The ICS is an internationally recognized best practice for emergency management and is the recommended method for managing AvSAR operations. It consists of procedures for controlling personnel, facilities, equipment, and communication, and is designed to be applied from the time an incident occurs until the requirement for management and operations no longer exist.
Eleven principles create a framework for ICS that allows execution to occur consistently:
The key to mastering ICS is to understand these 11 principles and how to consistently apply them to emergency response.
The ICS organizational structure develops in a modular fashion based on:
The ICS organization builds up from the ground up, meaning another layer of management is created only when needed. Initial responsibility is placed with an Incident Commander. If the need exists, the Incident Commander may expand the structure to include Sections, Units, Groups, or Divisions. Consider that in an ICS organization:
An effective span of control must be maintained at all times. This means that each leader should be in charge of no more than seven individuals at a time, with five being the ideal number. If the number of reporting elements falls outside of three to seven, expanding or consolidating the structure may be necessary.
There are five primary management functions within the ICS. Not all functions need to be utilised or staffed, however they exist for every type of response.
In a small-scale response the Incident Commander performs each of these functions, including directing the response. In a large-scale event, each function can be expanded and resources assigned to a corresponding role. In this way, top-heavy management structures are not established; instead, a “light” management structure ensures clear communication and effective leadership.
There are five levels of incident-response:
The Incident Commander is responsible for all aspects of avalanche incident response, including activation, extension, and termination of the AvSAR effort. They develop operation periods (duration of a work shift), objectives for that period, an Incident Action Plan (a road map of everyone’s roles and responsibilities), and then they manage that plan. They set priorities, and define the ICS organizational structure. This position is always designated even if other positions are not.
The Incident Commander must:
Transfer of command is the process of moving the responsibility for incident command from one Incident Commander to another.
Transfer of command may take place when:
The arrive of a more qualified person on scene does not necessarily mean a change in incident command. The more qualified individual may:
The Incident Commander determines whether there is need for a separate Operations Section at an incident. Until such a section is established, the Incident Commander has direct control over tactical resources and activity. If an Operations Section is needed, the Operations Section Chief carries out the response activities described in the Incident Action Plan.
Operations Section Chief. The OSC is responsible for managing all operations directly related to the incident, and reports to the Incident Commander. The OSC is part of the General Staff and develops and manages the Incident Action Plan in conjunction with the Command Staff. The OSC also direct the preparation of various team operational plans, requests or issues resources, and makes required changes to the action plan.
OSC responsibilities include:
The Operations Section builds from the ground up. As more resources converge at the incident site, supervision must expand to maintain an adequate span of control.
The Operations section may include the following resources (starting from the initial response):
Examples of Strike Teams and Task Forces include:
As the incident expands and resources increase:
Additional Operation roles:
The Communications Log can be digital or hand-written. It further establishes a chronology of the rescue, assists with debriefing, helps the rescue team improve for future operations, and reduces liability through having a written timeline to refer to after the operations. The Communications Log also helps track resources by documenting a check-in schedule.
In large organizations, radio and phone communications may be handed off to a Communications Unit if a Command Post is formed. The Communications Unit reports to the Logistics Section Chief, and works closely with Operations to ensure clear and effective communications.
Once the Incident Commander has assessed the initial incident details and ensured that the correct number and type of personnel have been requested, the Incident Commander or Operations Section Chief works with dispatch to complete the ICS Resource Request Form. Dispatch will then work to fill the resource request as quickly as possible. If the incident is large and complex, it is recommended that a Logistics Section Chief be added to the ICS structure. This person is responsible for filling resource requests.
Once resource needs are determined and reported, the appropriate resources are contacted in a priority sequence, using a pre-determined call list within the AvSAR plan. Available equipment resources and locations are also listed in the plan.
When all subjects are accounted for and are in transit, organized demobilization should be implemented. Built into the AvSAR plan, the Demobilization Plan provides specific instructions for all personnel and resources to demobilized. It occurs gradually as resources return to the Staging Areas or Incident Command Post. Follow the demobilization plan to “check off” all personnel, equipment, and aircraft.
The Planning Section Chief is responsible for:
The Logistics Section is responsible for implementing the demobilization plan. This required coordination between on-site and the Incident Command Post Personnel.
Each Section Chief should identify: