Incident Command SystemIntroduction“The establishment of incident command is the first and most important control operation to take place at a high-rise fire” (Avilo 2002, p. 226). The effectiveness of an Incident Command System in managing a major incident is the focus of this report. It will present the various aspects of Incident Command System such as common terminology, integrated communication, consolidated action plans, sectorisation, span of control, geographical and functional officers, and comprehensive resource management. We will discuss its significance in emergency incidents particularly at high-rise buildings. It will discuss the role of the incident commander, sector officers, and outside agencies in incident management.
We will examine the details leading to the death of two fire fighters at the Harrow Court incident and the advantage of Incident Command System in managing such type of catastrophe. Incident Command System for Major IncidentThe Incident Command System was developed due to persistent problems created by wildfires in Southern California in the 1970s. The lack of non-standard terminology and communications, capability to expand and contract to situation, disunited Action Plans, and lack of designated facilities were the reason given for the failures of fire incident response.
The ICS, ‘a formalise system of resource control on the fire ground’ according to the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (2005, p. 8) is part of the fire brigades overall organization system for managing risk. Incident Command System is based on specific, well-defined management characteristics that include common terminology, modular organizational structure, and management by objectives, integrated communications, and unity of command (Cameron 1994, p. 64; Walsh 2005, p. 21). The incident commander is responsible for the entire rescue or recovery operation (Moore et. al.
2003, p. 67). The IC creates and maintains the strategy and resources that will be needed to manage the scene of the incident (Perry 2003, p. 409). There are three tiers of command, known as bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze control is ‘operational’ and is the area directly around the major incident site itself. Silver control is ‘tactical’ and is where all emergency services set up their emergency control vehicles. Gold control is ‘strategic’ and is remote from the scene, where chief officers monitor and control the wider picture of the incident (Jones et.
al. 2002, p. 159). Sectorisation lessens the tasks of the incident command since decisions can be made by the sector officer themselves. Sectorisation is breaking down the incident into manageable units. It helps to define opportunity and areas of responsibility. Sectorisation is directly related to the effective ‘span of control’ for emergency operations where the sector officer’s subordinates are normally limited to five (Coleman 1997, p. 114). Span of control actually refers to the number of subordinates who report to one supervisor at any level within the organization. However, the actually span of control depends on the complexity of the incident and the nature of the work being performed (Hirst 2007, p. 97). Under the direction of the incident commander are the seven group commanders.
These are Operations, logistics, planning, finance, safety, information, and liaison. Each of these section commanders has well-defined areas of authority and responsibility (Moore et. al. 2003, p. 67). The IC also appoints other required command staff with functional roles. The functional officers are the safety and security officer, the Liaison Officer, public information officers, damage control officer, water officer, Hazmat office, and others.
They perform functions that are directly reported to the IC and form part of the fundamental command staff. Moreover, they are the same IC staffs that carry out command support functions at an incident guaranteeing the accessibility of resources, reporting the status of objectives, provides public information, and maintain off-incident interagency contacts and coordination (Ward 2005, p. 301).