Incident Command System/Unified Command

What is an Incident Command System or Unified Command?

The Incident Command System (ICS) or Unified Command (UC) is a standardized organizational management structure developed in the early 1970’s to manage rapidly moving wildfires.  The ICS/UC is now a standardized structure that has been adopted to manage all types of emergencies and incidents.

The U. S. National Response Team (NRT), an organization of 16 federal agencies responsible for national planning and coordination of oil and hazardous substance emergency preparedness and response, has prepared a technical assistance document on the Incident Command System/Unified Command (ICS/UC):

The Incident Command System (ICS) or Unified Command (UC) provides response direction, and is specifically designed to:

  • Coordinate effective communication
  • Coordinate resources
  • Establish incident priorities
  • Develop mutually agreed-upon incident objectives and approve response strategies
  • Assign objectives to the response structure
  • Review and approve Incident Action Plans
  • Ensure integration of response organizations into the ICS/UC
  • Establish protocols
  • Ensure worker and public health and safety
  • Inform the media.

Incident Action Plan – Briefing Paper:

This two page document summarizes lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill regarding transparency in the Unified Command system.

Incident Command System Forms

There are many ICS forms (see above links) and reports that should be generated by the Incident Management Team. has a booklet that includes examples of Incident Command Structure forms that should be completed and made available to the public:

An Incident Action Plan (IAP) is the central tool for planning during a response to a disaster or emergency. The IAP is prepared by the Planning Section Chief with input from other appropriate sections and units of the Incident Management Team. It should be written at the outset of the response and revised continually throughout the response.

Some of the more useful documents that should be made available to the public include:

  • ICS201:  Incident Briefing form (current actions, organization, resources, etc)
  • ICS202:  Incident Objectives List
  • ICS203:  Organization Assignment List
  • ICS204:  Division Assignment List
  • ICS206:  Medical Plan
  • ICS207:  Organizational Chart
  • ICS209:  Incident Status Summary Report
  • ICS232:  Resources at Risk

ICS Workshops sponsored by the council

In 2013, the council hosted local workshops that gave an overview of the ICS system and explained how the response might relate to the communities in case of an oil spill.