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Incident Command System (ICS)

The Incident Command System (ICS) was developed to provide federal, state, and local governments, as well as private and not-for-profit entities, with a consistent framework for the preparation for, response to, and recovery from any incident or event, regardless of the size, nature, duration, location, scope, or complexity.

The Incident Command System provides for interoperability, efficiency, and effectiveness through a core set of concepts, principles, terminology, and technologies encompassing all aspects of incident management. These include multi-agency coordination, unified command, training, identification and management of resources, qualification and certification, and the collection, tracking, evaluation, and dissemination of information.

Designating a standardized emergency management system to remedy these problems took several years and extensive field testing. The Incident Command System was developed by an interagency task force working in a cooperative local, state, and federal interagency effort called FIRESCOPE (Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies). Early in the development process, four essential requirements became clear:

  1. The system must be organizationally flexible to meet the needs of incidents of any kind and size.
  2. Agencies must be able to use the system on a day-to-day basis for routine situations as well as for major emergencies.
  3. The system must be sufficiently standard to allow personnel from a variety of agencies and diverse geographic locations to rapidly meld into a common management structure.
  4. The system must be cost effective.

Initial ICS applications were designed for responding to wildland fires. It is interesting to note that the characteristics of these wildland fire incidents are similar to those seen in many law enforcement and other situations.

ICS is now widely used throughout the United States by fire agencies, and is increasingly used for law enforcement, other public safety applications, and for emergency and event management. ICS applications and users have steadily increased since the systems original development. A number of disciplines and agencies now use ICS, as it has evolved globally as a standard of incident and event management organization for any incident of any size, nature, location, or discipline.