- Common terminology
- Modular organization
- Unified command structure
- Manageable span of control
- Pre-designated incident facilities
- Consolidated action plans
- Comprehensive resource management
- Integrated communications.
These concepts are accommodated in the four major sections of an ICS organization:
- Operations (under an "Operations Chief")
- Planning (under a "Planning Chief")
- Finance (under an "Finance Chief")
- Logistics (under a "Logistics Chief")
These branch "chiefs", along with the Incident Commander, make up the 'general staff'.
[Note: "Incident" is the same as a "mission" of the CAP. A CAP search is an incident. A CAP Mission Coordinator equates to an Incident Commander. Actually the ICS has always been used on CAP missions.]
The ICS is designed to provide common and effective procedures to diverse agencies who must work together under crisis situations. MACS, the Multi-Agency Coordination System, as an extension of the ICS, streamlines procedures for coordinating mutual aid and allocating resources during emergencies where more than one agency or jurisdiction is involved in the response.
The ICS is incorporated into the new Standardized Emergency Management System, SEMS, being implemented in California pursuant to legislation that followed the Oakland fire storm. It's local application may differ from a typical fire-camp use (where full support is brought into the IC camp) due to the nature of the action required.
ICS span of control is usually not more than six people. An individuals day-to day rank or positon does not necessarily relate to the ICS organization. The skills and telents required for the temporary ICS organization come from everywhere. Following demobilization, everyone reverts to their regular job, job description and rank.
Responder familiarity with the ICS is critical before its use is required. It is well proven that people resort to comfort levels in times of high stress. To assure that comfort level BEFORE the event familiarization and training are required. In reality, that is the chief purpose of any familiarization program; to set new levels of 'comfort'.
In summary, the Incident Command System (ICS) is a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure with responsibility for the management of assigned resources to effectively accomplish the stated objective pertaining to an incident.
In essence "An ICS organization requires major cultural changes for some people" in the words of Capt. Brad Thiss of the Phoenix Police Dept.
[From the "NetControl" newsletter of Orange County RACES - a review of RACES response to a search for a lost Boy Scout.]