Lesson 5: NIMS Command and Management

Related NIMS Document Section

This lesson summarizes the information presented in Component IV: Command and Management, including:

  • Incident Command System
  • Multiagency Coordination Systems
  • Public Information
  • Relationships Among Command and Management Elements


What Is NIMS Command and Management?

The NIMS components of Preparedness, Communications and Information Management, and Resource Management provide a framework for effective management during incident response. Next, we’ll cover the fundamental elements of incident management including: Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information. Together, these elements comprise the NIMS Command and Management component.

The Incident Command System, or ICS, is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazard incident management concept. ICS allows its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of incidents.

As an incident becomes more complex, multiagency coordination becomes increasingly important. Multiagency coordination is a process that allows all levels of government and all disciplines to work together more efficiently and effectively. Multiagency coordination is accomplished through a comprehensive system of elements. These elements include facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications. Emergency Operations Centers and Multiagency Coordination Groups are just two examples of coordination elements.

The final Command and Management element is Public Information. Public Information includes processes, procedures, and organizational structures required to gather, verify, coordinate, and disseminate information – information that is essential for lifesaving response and community recovery.

NIMS is best summed up by Craig Fugate: “. . .When we fail to work as a team, we fail our citizens and what NIMS is is a system to provide a framework for all of the team to work together towards common goals.”


Understanding Command and Coordination

This lesson presents information on command and coordination.  Both elements are essential to ensuring a successful response.  Remember that:

  • Command is the act of directing, ordering, or controlling by virtue of explicit statutory, regulatory, or delegated authority at the field level.
  • Coordination is the process of providing support to the command structure and may include incident prioritization, critical resource allocation, communications systems integration, and information exchange.


Command and Management Elements

Building upon all of the components covered in the previous lessons, the NIMS Command and Management component facilitates incident management. This component includes the following elements: Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information.


Incident Command System

The first Command and Management element is the Incident Command System (ICS).

This lesson reviews the key ICS concepts and terminology used within NIMS and is not a substitute for comprehensive ICS training. Additional information on ICS training requirements is available at the National Integration Center Web site.


What Is ICS?

ICS is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazards incident management approach that:

  • Allows for the integration of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.
  • Enables a coordinated response among various jurisdictions and functional agencies, both public and private.
  • Establishes common processes for planning and managing resources.


ICS: Not Just for Large-Scale Incidents

ICS is flexible and can be used for incidents of any type, scope, and complexity.

ICS allows its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents.

NIMS prompts the use of ICS for every incident or scheduled event. Using ICS on all incidents helps hone and maintain skills needed for the large-scale incidents.


Management Characteristics

ICS is based on 14 proven management characteristics that contribute to the strength and efficiency of the overall system.

  • Common Terminology
  • Modular Organization
  • Management by Objectives
  • Incident Action Planning
  • Manageable Span of Control
  • Incident Facilities and Locations
  • Comprehensive Resource Management
  • Integrated Communications
  • Establishment and Transfer of Command
  • Chain of Command and Unity of Command
  • Unified Command
  • Accountability
  • Dispatch/Deployment
  • Information and Intelligence Management

Common Terminology

ICS establishes common terminology that allows diverse incident management and support organizations to work together across a wide variety of incident management functions and hazard scenarios. This common terminology covers the following:

  • Organizational Functions: Major functions and functional units with incident management responsibilities are named and defined. Terminology for the organizational elements is standard and consistent.
  • Resource Descriptions: Major resources—including personnel, facilities, and major equipment and supply items—that support incident management activities are given common names and are “typed” with respect to their capabilities, to help avoid confusion and to enhance interoperability.
  • Incident Facilities: Common terminology is used to designate the facilities in the vicinity of the incident area that will be used during the course of the incident.

Incident response communications (during exercises and actual incidents) should feature plain language commands so they will be able to function in a multijurisdiction environment.  Field manuals and training should be revised to reflect the plain language standard.

Modular Organization

The ICS organizational structure develops in a modular fashion based on the size and complexity of the incident, as well as the specifics of the hazard environment created by the incident. When needed, separate functional elements can be established, each of which may be further subdivided to enhance internal organizational management and external coordination. Responsibility for the establishment and expansion of the ICS modular organization ultimately rests with Incident Command, which bases the ICS organization on the requirements of the situation. As incident complexity increases, the organization expands from the top down as functional responsibilities are delegated. Concurrently with structural expansion, the number of management and supervisory positions expands to address the requirements of the incident adequately.

Management by Objectives

Management by objectives is communicated throughout the entire ICS organization and includes:

  • Establishing overarching incident objectives.
  • Developing strategies based on overarching incident objectives.
  • Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.
  • Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them, in support of defined strategies.
  • Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions.

Incident Action Planning

Centralized, coordinated incident action planning should guide all response activities. An Incident Action Plan (IAP) provides a concise, coherent means of capturing and communicating the overall incident priorities, objectives, and strategies in the contexts of both operational and support activities. Every incident must have an action plan. However, not all incidents require written plans. The need for written plans and attachments is based on the requirements of the incident and the decision of the Incident Commander or Unified Command. Most initial response operations are not captured with a formal IAP. However, if an incident is likely to extend beyond one operational period, become more complex, or involve multiple jurisdictions and/or agencies, preparing a written IAP will become increasingly important to maintain effective, efficient, and safe operations.

Manageable Span of Control

Span of control is key to effective and efficient incident management. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision. In ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from 3 to 7 subordinates, with 5 being optimal. During a large-scale law enforcement operation, 8 to 10 subordinates may be optimal. The type of incident, nature of the task, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources all influence span-of-control considerations.

Incident Facilities and Locations

Various types of operational support facilities are established in the vicinity of an incident, depending on its size and complexity, to accomplish a variety of purposes. The Incident Command will direct the identification and location of facilities based on the requirements of the situation. Typical designated facilities include Incident Command Posts, Bases, Camps, Staging Areas, mass casualty triage areas, point-of-distribution sites, and others as required.

Comprehensive Resource Management

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date picture of resource utilization is a critical component of incident management and emergency response. Resources to be identified in this way include personnel, teams, equipment, supplies, and facilities available or potentially available for assignment or allocation. Resource management is described in detail in Component III.

Integrated Communications

Incident communications are facilitated through the development and use of a common communications plan and interoperable communications processes and architectures. The ICS 205 form is available to assist in developing a common communications plan. This integrated approach links the operational and support units of the various agencies involved and is necessary to maintain communications connectivity and discipline and to enable common situational awareness and interaction. Preparedness planning should address the equipment, systems, and protocols necessary to achieve integrated voice and data communications.

Establishment and Transfer of Command

The command function must be clearly established from the beginning of incident operations. The agency with primary jurisdictional authority over the incident designates the individual at the scene responsible for establishing command. When command is transferred, the process must include a briefing that captures all essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.

Chain of Command and Unity of Command

  • Chain of Command: Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organization.
  • Unity of Command: Unity of command means that all individuals have a designated supervisor to whom they report at the scene of the incident.

These principles clarify reporting relationships and eliminate the confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives. Incident managers at all levels must be able to direct the actions of all personnel under their supervision.

Unified Command

In incidents involving multiple jurisdictions, a single jurisdiction with multiagency involvement, or multiple jurisdictions with multiagency involvement, Unified Command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.


Effective accountability of resources at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas during incident operations is essential. Adherence to the following ICS principles and processes helps to ensure accountability:

  • Resource Check-In/Check-Out Procedures
  • Incident Action Planning
  • Unity of Command
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Span of Control
  • Resource Tracking


Resources should respond only when requested or when dispatched by an appropriate authority through established resource management systems. Resources not requested must refrain from spontaneous deployment to avoid overburdening the recipient and compounding accountability challenges.

Information and Intelligence Management

The incident management organization must establish a process for gathering, analyzing, assessing, sharing, and managing incident-related information and intelligence.


Incident Commander

When an incident occurs within a single jurisdiction and there is no jurisdictional or functional agency overlap, a single Incident Commander is designated with overall incident management responsibility by the appropriate jurisdictional authority.

The designated Incident Commander develops the incident objectives that direct all subsequent incident action planning. The Incident Commander approves the Incident Action Plan and the resources to be ordered or released.

Incident Commander Responsibilities

The Incident Commander is the individual responsible for all incident activities, including the development of strategies and tactics and the ordering and the release of resources. The Incident Commander has overall authority and responsibility for conducting incident operations and is responsible for the management of all incident operations at the incident site.

The Incident Commander must:

  • Have clear authority and know agency policy.
  • Ensure incident safety.
  • Establish the Incident Command Post.
  • Set priorities, and determine incident objectives and strategies to be followed.
  • Establish the Incident Command System organization needed to manage the incident.
  • Approve the Incident Action Plan.
  • Coordinate Command and General Staff activities.
  • Approve resource requests and use of volunteers and auxiliary personnel.
  • Order demobilization as needed.
  • Ensure after-action reports are completed.
  • Authorize information released to the media.


Unified Command

As an incident expands in complexity, Unified Command may be established. In a Unified Command, individuals designated by their jurisdictional or organizational authorities (or by departments within a single jurisdiction) work together to:

  • Determine objectives, strategies, plans, resource allocations, and priorities.
  • Execute integrated incident operations and maximize the use of assigned resources.


Advantages of Using Unified Command

In multijurisdictional or multiagency incident management, Unified Command offers the following advantages:

  • A single set of objectives is developed for the entire incident.
  • A collective “team” approach is used to develop strategies to achieve incident objectives.
  • Information flow and coordination are improved between all jurisdictions and agencies involved in the incident.
  • All agencies with responsibility for the incident have an understanding of joint priorities and restrictions.
  • No agency’s legal authorities are compromised or neglected.
  • The combined efforts of all agencies are optimized as they perform their respective assignments under a single Incident Action Plan.


Area Command

Area Command is an organization to oversee the management of multiple incidents handled individually by separate ICS organizations.

An organization chart.  The Emergency Operations Center/Multiagency Coordination Group connects (by a dotted line) to the Agency Administrators/Executives box and the Area Commander/Unified Area Command box.  The dotted lines represent the link between an Emergency Operations Center/Multiagency Coordination Group and the Command structure.  This connection is meant to show coordination and communication between the two.  The Agency Administrators/Executives box connects below to the Area Commander/Unified Area Command.  The Area Commander/Unified Area Command box connects below to Unified Command A, Incident Command B, and Unified Command C.

An Area Command is activated only if necessary, depending on the complexity of the incident and incident management span-of-control considerations.

Area Commands are particularly beneficial to incidents that are typically not site specific, are not immediately identifiable, are geographically dispersed, and evolve over longer periods of time (e.g., public health emergencies, earthquakes, tornadoes, civil disturbances). Incidents such as these, as well as acts of biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear terrorism, require a coordinated intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and private-sector response, with large-scale coordination typically conducted at a higher jurisdictional level. Area Command is also used when a number of incidents of the same type in the same area are competing for the same resources, such as multiple hazardous material spills or fires.

For incidents under its authority, an Area Command has the following responsibilities:

  • Develop broad objectives for the impacted area(s).
  • Coordinate the development of individual incident objectives and strategies.
  • Allocate/reallocate resources as the established priorities change.
  • Ensure that incidents are properly managed.
  • Ensure effective communications.
  • Ensure that incident management objectives are met and do not conflict with each other or with agency policies.
  • Identify critical resource needs and report them to the established EOC/MAC Groups.
  • Ensure that short-term “emergency” recovery is coordinated to assist in the transition to full recovery operations.


Incident Command Post

The incident Command and Management organization is located at the Incident Command Post (ICP). Incident Command directs operations from the ICP, which is generally located at or in the immediate vicinity of the incident site. Typically, one ICP is established for each incident.

As emergency management/response personnel deploy, they must, regardless of agency affiliation, report to and check in at the designated location and receive an assignment in accordance with the established procedures.


Command Staff

Organization chart with Incident Command supervising the Command Staff, including the Public Information Officer, the Safety Officer, and the Liaison OfficerIn an Incident Command organization, the Command Staff typically includes the following personnel:

  • The Public Information Officer is responsible for interfacing with the public and media and/or with other agencies with incident-related information requirements.
  • The Safety Officer monitors incident operations and advises the Incident Commander/Unified Command on all matters relating to operational safety, including the health and safety of emergency responder personnel.
  • The Liaison Officer is the point of contact for representatives of other governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

Additional Command Staff positions may be added depending upon incident needs and requirements.

Public Information Officer The Public Information Officer is responsible for interfacing with the public and media and/or with other agencies with incident-related information requirements. The Public Information Officer gathers, verifies, coordinates, and disseminates accurate, accessible, and timely information on the incident’s cause, size, and current situation; resources committed; and other matters of general interest for both internal and external audiences. The Public Information Officer may also perform a key public information-monitoring role. Whether the command structure is single or unified, only one Public Information Officer should be designated per incident. Assistants may be assigned from other involved agencies, departments, or organizations. The Incident Commander/Unified Command must approve the release of all incident-related information. In large-scale incidents or where multiple command posts are established, the Public Information Officer should participate in or lead the Joint Information Center in order to ensure consistency in the provision of information to the public.
Safety Officer The Safety Officer monitors incident operations and advises the Incident Commander/Unified Command on all matters relating to operational safety, including the health and safety of emergency responder personnel. The ultimate responsibility for the safe conduct of incident management operations rests with the Incident Commander/Unified Command and supervisors at all levels of incident management. The Safety Officer is, in turn, responsible to the Incident Commander/Unified Command for the systems and procedures necessary to ensure ongoing assessment of hazardous environments, including the incident Safety Plan, coordination of multiagency safety efforts, and implementation of measures to promote emergency responder safety, as well as the general safety of incident operations. The Safety Officer has immediate authority to stop and/or prevent unsafe acts during incident operations. It is important to note that the agencies, organizations, or jurisdictions that contribute to joint safety management efforts do not lose their individual identities or responsibility for their own programs, policies, and personnel. Rather, each contributes to the overall effort to protect all responder personnel involved in incident operations.
Liaison Officer The Liaison Officer is Incident Command’s point of contact for representatives of other governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector (with no jurisdiction or legal authority) to provide input on their agency’s policies, resource availability, and other incident-related matters. Under either a single Incident Commander or a Unified Command structure, representatives from assisting or cooperating agencies and organizations coordinate through the Liaison Officer. Agency and organizational representatives assigned to an incident must have the authority to speak for their parent agencies or organizations on all matters, following appropriate consultations with their agency leadership. Assistants and personnel from other agencies or organizations (public or private) involved in incident management activities may be assigned to the Liaison Officer to facilitate coordination.
Technical Specialists Technical specialists can be used to fill other or additional Command Staff positions required based on the nature and location(s) of the incident or specific requirements established by Incident Command. For example, a legal counsel might be assigned to the Planning Section as a technical specialist or directly to the Command Staff to advise Incident Command on legal matters, such as emergency proclamations, the legality of evacuation orders, and legal rights and restrictions pertaining to media access. Similarly, a medical advisor—an agency operational medical director or assigned physician—might be designated to provide advice and recommendations to Incident Command about medical and mental health services, mass casualty, acute care, vector control, epidemiology, or mass prophylaxis considerations, particularly in the response to a bioterrorism incident. In addition, a Disability Integration Advisor might be designated to provide expertise regarding communication, transportation, supervision, and essential services for diverse populations in the affected area.


General Staff (Section Chiefs)

The General Staff includes a group of incident management personnel organized according to function and reporting to the Incident Commander. Typically, the General Staff consists of the Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief, and Finance/Administration Section Chief.

Org chart showing the General Staff; Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief, and Finance/Administration Section Chief.

Operations Section

The Operations Section is responsible for all tactical activities focused on reducing the immediate hazard, saving lives and property, establishing situational control, and restoring normal operations. Lifesaving and responder safety will always be the highest priorities and the first objectives in the Incident Action Plan.

Organization chart showing, from the bottom, Resources reporting to Divisions/Groups, who report to Branch(es), who report to the Operations Section (at the top)The chart on the right depicts the organizational template for an Operations Section.

Expansions of this basic structure may vary according to numerous considerations and operational factors. In some cases, a strictly functional approach may be used. In other cases, the organizational structure will be determined by geographical/jurisdictional boundaries. In still others, a mix of functional and geographical considerations may be appropriate. The ICS offers flexibility in determining the right structural approach for the specific circumstances of the incident at hand.

Operations Section Chief: The Section Chief is responsible to Incident Command for the direct management of all incident-related tactical activities. The Operations Section Chief will establish tactics for the assigned operational period. An Operations Section Chief should be designated for each operational period, and responsibilities include direct involvement in development of the Incident Action Plan.

Branches: Branches may serve several purposes and may be functional, geographic, or both, depending on the circumstances of the incident. In general, Branches are established when the number of Divisions or Groups exceeds the recommended span of control. Branches are identified by the use of Roman numerals or by functional area.

Divisions and Groups: Divisions and/or Groups are established when the number of resources exceeds the manageable span of control of Incident Command and the Operations Section Chief. Divisions are established to divide an incident into physical or geographical areas of operation. Groups are established to divide the incident into functional areas of operation. For certain types of incidents, for example, Incident Command may assign evacuation or mass care responsibilities to a functional group in the Operations Section. Additional levels of supervision may also exist below the Division or Group level.

Resources: Resources may be organized and managed in three different ways, depending on the requirements of the incident:

  • Single Resources: These are individual personnel, supplies, or equipment and any associated operators.
  • Task Forces: These are any combination of resources assembled in support of a specific mission or operational need. All resource elements within a Task Force must have common communications and a designated leader.
  • Strike Teams: These are a set number of resources of the same kind and type that have an established minimum number of personnel. All resource elements within a Strike Team must have common communications and a designated leader.

The use of Task Forces and Strike Teams is encouraged wherever possible to optimize the use of resources, reduce the span of control over a large number of single resources, and reduce the complexity of incident management coordination and communications.

Planning Section

The Planning Section collects, evaluates, and disseminates incident situation information and intelligence for the Incident Commander/Unified Command and incident management personnel. This Section then prepares status reports, displays situation information, maintains the status of resources assigned to the incident, and prepares and documents the Incident Action Plan, based on Operations Section input and guidance from the Incident Commander/Unified Command.

Organization chart showing the Planning Section and its primary units: Resources Unit, Situation Unit, Demobilization Unit, Documentation Unit, and Technical Specialist(s)As shown in the chart on the right, the Planning Section is comprised of four primary units, as well as a number of technical specialists to assist in evaluating the situation, developing planning options, and forecasting requirements for additional resources. These primary units that fulfill functional requirements are:

  • Resources Unit: Responsible for recording the status of resources committed to the incident. This unit also evaluates resources committed currently to the incident, the effects additional responding resources will have on the incident, and anticipated resource needs.
  • Situation Unit: Responsible for the collection, organization, and analysis of incident status information, and for analysis of the situation as it progresses.
  • Demobilization Unit: Responsible for ensuring orderly, safe, and efficient demobilization of incident resources.
  • Documentation Unit: Responsible for collecting, recording, and safeguarding all documents relevant to the incident.
  • Technical Specialist(s): Personnel with special skills that can be used anywhere within the ICS organization.

The Planning Section is normally responsible for gathering and disseminating information and intelligence critical to the incident, unless the Incident Commander/Unified Command places this function elsewhere. The Planning Section is also responsible for assembling and documenting the Incident Action Plan.

The Incident Action Plan includes the overall incident objectives and strategies established by Incident Command. In the case of Unified Command, the Incident Action Plan must adequately address the mission and policy needs of each jurisdictional agency, as well as interaction between jurisdictions, functional agencies, and private organizations. The Incident Action Plan also addresses tactics and support activities required for one operational period, generally 12 to 24 hours.

The Incident Action Plan should incorporate changes in strategies and tactics based on lessons learned during earlier operational periods. A written Incident Action Plan is especially important when: resources from multiple agencies and/or jurisdictions are involved; the incident will span several operational periods; changes in shifts of personnel and/or equipment are required; or there is a need to document actions and decisions.

Logistics Section

The Logistics Section is responsible for all service support requirements needed to facilitate effective and efficient incident management, including ordering resources from off-incident locations. This Section also provides facilities, security (of the Incident Command facilities), transportation, supplies, equipment maintenance and fuel, food services, communications and information technology support, and emergency responder medical services, including inoculations, as required.

The Logistics Section is led by a Section Chief, who may also have one or more deputies. Having a deputy is encouraged when all designated units are established at an incident site. When the incident is very large or requires a number of facilities with large numbers of equipment, the Logistics Section can be divided into two Branches. This helps with span of control by providing more effective supervision and coordination among the individual units. Conversely, in smaller incidents or when fewer resources are needed, a Branch configuration may be used to combine the task assignments of individual units.

Organization chart showing the Logistics Section and its primary units: Supply Unit, Ground Support Unit, Facilities Unit, Food Unit, Communications Unit, and Medical UnitAs shown in the chart on the right, the Logistics Section has six primary units that fulfill the functional requirements:

  • Supply Unit: Orders, receives, stores, and processes all incident-related resources, personnel, and supplies.
  • Ground Support Unit: Provides all ground transportation during an incident. In conjunction with providing transportation, the unit is also responsible for maintaining and supplying vehicles, keeping usage records, and developing incident traffic plans.
  • Facilities Unit: Sets up, maintains, and demobilizes all facilities used in support of incident operations. The unit also provides facility maintenance and security services required to support incident operations.
  • Food Unit: Determines food and water requirements, plans menus, orders food, provides cooking facilities, cooks, serves, maintains food service areas, and manages food security and safety concerns.
  • Communications Unit: Major responsibilities include effective communications planning as well as acquiring, setting up, maintaining, and accounting for communications equipment.
  • Medical Unit: Responsible for the effective and efficient provision of medical services to incident personnel.

Finance/Administration Section

A Finance/Administration Section is established when the incident management activities require on-scene or incident-specific finance and other administrative support services. Some of the functions that fall within the scope of this Section are recording personnel time, maintaining vendor contracts, compensation and claims, and conducting an overall cost analysis for the incident. If a separate Finance/Administration Section is established, close coordination with the Planning Section and Logistics Section is also essential so that operational records can be reconciled with financial documents.

The Finance/Administration Section is a critical part of ICS in large, complex incidents involving significant funding originating from multiple sources. In addition to monitoring multiple sources of funds, the Section Chief must track and report to Incident Command the accrued cost as the incident progresses. This allows the Incident Commander/Unified Command to forecast the need for additional funds before operations are negatively affected.

The basic organizational structure for a Finance/Administration Section is shown in the figure on the right. Within the Finance/Administration Section, four primary units fulfill functional requirements:

  • Organization chart showing the Finance/Administration Section and its primary units: Compensation/Claims Unit, Cost Unit, Procurement Unit, and Time UnitCompensation/Claims Unit: Responsible for financial concerns resulting from property damage, injuries, or fatalities at the incident.
  • Cost Unit: Responsible for tracking costs, analyzing cost data, making estimates, and recommending cost-saving measures.
  • Procurement Unit: Responsible for financial matters concerning vendor contracts.
  • Time Unit: Responsible for recording time for incident personnel and hired equipment.


Incident Management Teams

Organization chart of an Incident Management Team showing the Command Staff (Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer) and the General Staff (Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief, and Finance/Administration Section Chief)An Incident Management Team (IMT) is an incident command organization made up of the Command and General Staff members and appropriate functional units in an ICS organization and can be deployed or activated, as needed.

National, State, and some local IMTs have formal certification and qualification, notification, deployment, and operational procedures in place. In other cases, IMTs are formed at an incident or for specific events.


Multiagency Coordination Systems

The second Command and Management element is Multiagency Coordination Systems.

Multiagency coordination is a process that allows all levels of government and all disciplines to work together more efficiently and effectively.

The ICS 400 Advanced Incident Command System (ICS) course presents more detailed training on Multiagency Coordination Systems.


A System . . . Not a Facility

A Multiagency Coordination System is not simply a physical location or facility. Rather, a Multiagency Coordination System is a process that:

  • Defines business practices, standard operating procedures, processes, and protocols by which participating agencies will coordinate their interactions.
  • Provides support, coordination, and assistance with policy-level decisions to the ICS structure managing an incident.


Examples of System Elements

Multiagency coordination provides critical resource and information analysis support to the Incident Command/Unified Command. Coordination does not mean assuming command of the incident scene. Common coordination elements may include:

  • Dispatch Center: A Dispatch Center coordinates the acquisition, mobilization, and movement of resources as ordered by the Incident Command/Unified Command.
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC): During an escalating incident, an EOC supports the on-scene response by relieving the burden of external coordination and securing additional resources. EOC core functions include coordination; communications; resource allocation and tracking; and information collection, analysis, and dissemination. EOCs may be staffed by personnel representing multiple jurisdictions and functional disciplines and a wide variety of resources.
  • Department Operations Center (DOC): A DOC coordinates an internal agency incident management and response. A DOC is linked to and, in most cases, physically represented in the EOC by authorized agent(s) for the department or agency.
  • Multiagency Coordination (MAC) Group: A MAC Group is comprised of administrators/executives, or their designees, who are authorized to represent or commit agency resources and funds. MAC Groups may also be known as multiagency committees or emergency management committees. A MAC Group does not have any direct incident involvement and will often be located some distance from the incident site(s) or may even function virtually. A MAC Group may require a support organization for its own logistics and documentation needs; to manage incident-related decision support information such as tracking critical resources, situation status, and intelligence or investigative information; and to provide public information to the news media and public. The number and skills of its personnel will vary by incident complexity, activity levels, needs of the MAC Group, and other factors identified through agreements or by preparedness organizations. A MAC Group may be established at any level (e.g., national, State, or local) or within any discipline (e.g., emergency management, public health, critical infrastructure, or private sector).


On-Scene and Off-Scene Multiagency Coordination

Initially the Incident Command/Unified Command and the Liaison Officer may be able to provide all needed multiagency coordination at the scene. However, as the incident grows in size and complexity, off-site support and coordination may be required.

graphic showing Incident Commander/Unified Command providing on-scene multiagency coordination. As incident grows and transitions, coordination moves off-scene. Incident Commander/Unified Command provides requests and information to off-scene EOCs and/or MAC Groups (Dispatch Centers, Jurisdictional EOCs, MAC Groups, and DOCs) who in turn provide support and coordination to Incident Command/Unified Command.


Public Information

The final Command and Management element is Public Information.

Public Information consists of the processes, procedures, and systems to communicate timely, accurate, and accessible information on the incident’s cause, size, and current situation to the public, responders, and additional stakeholders (both directly affected and indirectly affected).

Public Information must be coordinated and integrated across jurisdictions, agencies, and organizations; among Federal, State, tribal, and local governments; and with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.


Public Information

Public information, education strategies, and communications plans help ensure that numerous audiences receive timely, consistent messages about:

  • Lifesaving measures.
  • Evacuation routes.
  • Threat and alert system notices.
  • Other public safety information.


Public Information Officer

The Public Information Officer supports the incident command structure as a member of the Command Staff. Public Information Officers are able to create coordinated and consistent messages by collaborating to:

  • Identify key information that needs to be communicated to the public.
  • Craft messages conveying key information that are clear and easily understood by all, including those with access and functional needs.
  • Prioritize messages to ensure timely delivery of information without overwhelming the audience.
  • Verify accuracy of information through appropriate channels.
  • Disseminate messages using the most effective means available.


Joint Information System

The Joint Information System (JIS):

  • Provides the mechanism to organize, integrate, and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent messaging across multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.
  • Includes the plans, protocols, procedures, and structures used to provide public information.

Federal, State, tribal, territorial, regional, or local Public Information Officers and established Joint Information Centers (JICs) are critical supporting elements of the JIS.


Joint Information Center

The Joint Information Center (JIC) is:

  • A central location that facilitates operation of the Joint Information System.
  • A location where personnel with public information responsibilities perform critical emergency information functions, crisis communications, and public affairs functions.

JICs may be established at various levels of government or at incident sites, or can be components of Multiagency Coordination Systems (e.g., MAC Groups or EOCs). A single JIC location is preferable, but the system is flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate virtual or multiple JIC locations, as required.