Manageable Span of Control

Depending on your role within the Incident Command System (ICS) structure, you may be asked to manage the activities of others.

Span of control refers to the number of individuals or resources that one supervisor can manage effectively during an incident. The optimal span of control is one supervisor to five subordinates (1:5).  However, effective incident management may require ratios significantly different from this. This ratio is a guideline--incident personnel should use their best judgement to determine the appropriate ratio for an incident.

If too much responsibility is given to the supervisor, the span of control may become unmanageable. A manageable span of control on incidents may actually vary depending upon the type of incident, nature of the task, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources.

Maintaining a manageable span of control is particularly important at incidents where safety and accountability are a top priority.

An organizational chart showing three resources below one supervisor.