Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Communication Materials


Frequently Asked Questions

Q#1: What is IMS?

IMS is a standard approach to emergency management. It guides how personnel, facilities, equipment, procedures, and communications may be coordinated within a common structure during an incident. Under IMS, it is understood that in every incident the functions of command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance & administration must be carried out. This is true regardless of the number of persons who are involved in the emergency response. IMS is based on incident management principles and concepts developed over the past 30 years and is consistent with industrial and internationally recommended practices.

Q#2: How was IMS developed? How is it governed?

In 2006, more than 30 emergency management organizations in Ontario began working on developing a provincial IMS for the province. In 2008, these organizations and EMO, serving on the IMS Steering Committee, approved the first version of the IMS doctrine. This marked the creation of a standardized approach to emergency management, built on international recommended practices but designed to reflect Ontario's unique needs.

The multi-organizational IMS Steering Committee continues to govern the IMS project. This group has subsequently overseen the development of a wide range of additional IMS resources (training materials, guidelines, tools, etc.), all of which are available at

Implementation of IMS is supported by working groups organized by function or sector:

Functional Working Groups include:

  • Training
  • Resource Management
  • Communications
  • EOC Guidelines & Forms

Sector Working Groups include:

  • EMS
  • Fire
  • Health
  • Police

Additional Sector Working Groups are planned for the future, including:

  • Municipalities
  • Ministries
  • Non-Government Organizations
  • Public Works
  • Transportation
  • Social Services.

An IMS Secretariat supports the work of all committees and working groups. It is staffed by people from across EMO.

Q#3: What are the main benefits of IMS?

Using IMS during an incident helps ensure:

an efficient, flexible and consistent incident management structure;

a unified approach to incident management when multiple jurisdictions are involved (e.g., municipalities, provincial ministries, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, as well as other Canadian and international jurisdictions);

functional interoperability.

Other IMS benefits include:

Accountability: Procedures and forms track roles, responsibilities, timings and approvals.

Adaptability: IMS is built on recommended practices; it is adaptable to reflect Ontario's needs.

Standardization: IMS outlines a standard structure and standard functions for managing incidents. This allows stakeholders to work together using a common approach and understanding.

Simplicity and Flexibility: The IMS structure can be expanded and contracted to suit the situation. This flexibility means that only the required components need be activated to provide the functions needed, and this can change as the situation evolves. This allows the IMS structure to be kept as simple as possible.

Management by Objectives: Results are documented for analysis and evaluation, and where necessary, corrective actions are taken.

Applicability: IMS may be applied in all types of incident, whether small, simple, large, or complex. It is easily adapted to any given scenario. It may be applied by responder organizations, municipal and provincial governments, the private and NGO-sectors. It is suitable for scenarios involving multiple municipalities, other provinces/territories, or international partners.

Standard Terminology: IMS uses a standard terms and language for organizational elements (e.g. Sections and Units), functions, facilities, operational locales, and resources. This enhances interoperability.

Accountability: Under IMS, all functional areas and jurisdictional levels remain responsible for their own actions at all times during an incident.

Q#4: What is the difference between IMS and ICS?

ICS is primarily a command and control system for managing standard, on-scene, day-to-day operations. IMS expands upon ICS by incorporating into a single system the function of Multi-Agency Coordination System (MACS) principles at the site level and within the EOC (rather than having two separate entities as per ICS), for use at all levels of response.

In addition to having an expanded focus to include EOCs, Ontario's IMS integrates additional content (including Public Information, Resource Management, and Information Management). IMS is adapted to suit Ontario's unique governmental structures and emergency legislation and regulations.

Q#5: What colours are used to represent specific IMS functions/roles in Ontario? Why?

The following colours represent specific IMS functions in Ontario:

  • Command: Green
  • Operations: Red
  • Planning: Blue
  • Logistics: Yellow
  • Finance and Administration: Grey

These colours were established after analyzing the results of an environmental scan of colours used in Ontario, Canada and internationally. They will gradually be adopted into all IMS resources and training materials.

Q#6: What IMS resources are currently available?

The following resources are currently available to assist organizations in implementing IMS:

Q#7: Who should take IMS training?

Emergency Management Ontario's Training Development Unit aims to develop and deliver innovative training programs that provide emergency management coordinators and other key stakeholders with the skills and knowledge to implement comprehensive risk-based emergency management programs.

Our courses are aimed primarily at ministry, municipal, and First Nation representatives. We encourage applications from other emergency management stakeholders, such as the private sector and non-government organizations, and will accommodate such requests where space permits.

Q#8: What IMS training is currently available?

Currently there are four (4) IMS courses available:

IMS 100: Introduction to IMS

IMS 200: Basic IMS

IMS 300: Intermediate IMS

IMS 910: Basic IMS Instructor

Additionally, one (1) IMS course is currently under development:

IMS 250: IMS in EOCs

Q#9: How can I register for IMS training?

For information course durations, prerequisites, and/or to register for IMS training, please visit the EMO Training Portal and create a profile, or view and print a copy of the IMS course offerings in the EMO Course Catalogue 2011.

Q#10: Can I re-do courses if I score poorly?

Yes. There is no maximum number of times a participant may attend a course. Please visit the EMO Training Portal for a list of all upcoming course offerings and locations.

Q#11: I heard organizations may designate their own IMS instructors. How?

Once an individual has completed the IMS0-910: Basic IMS Instructor course they are certified to teach both the IMS-100: Introduction to IMS and IMS-200: Basic IMS Facilitator- led courses to members of their organization. How an organization goes about nominating/designating this individual is up to the organization, as IMS training is decentralized.

After participants complete the IMS-910 course, the general next steps are:

Access the course material through the EMO Training Portal;

Submit an “Application to Host a Course” form;

Manage registration using the EMO Training Portal;

Deliver the training at a facility;

Complete course administration.

An EMO Training Coordinator is available to assist instructors during the process of running their first course.

For the IMS-300: Intermediate IMS course, EMO is currently in the process of piloting an Instructor Application process.

Q#12: Who should implement IMS?

Within Ontario, as with most jurisdictions, the emergency management community is made up of a mix of organizations, each with its own mandate. While they function exceptionally well carrying out their own mandate, no single service or organizations was designed to conduct all aspects of emergency management. As the lessons learned from emergencies continue to indicate, there is an ever-pressing need for all organizations to be integrated into a standard system of emergency management.

The goal of IMS is to provide an effective, flexible, and consistent structure and process that is scalable to manage incidents by all levels of government, emergency response organizations, communities, ministries, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the private sector.

The expectation is that gradually all of Ontario's response organizations will implement IMS and will train their personnel to the extent deemed necessary within their organization.

Q#13: How can I implement IMS in my organization?

The IMS Steering Committee has identified 8 key measures to assist organizations in implementing IMS in their organizations and help determine what successful IMS implementation looks like:

8 key measures
How to Implement?
Raise awareness of IMS in your organization
Formally endorse IMS
Adopting IMS in Policy
Adopt IMS in your emergency plans and policies
Adopting IMS in Procedures
Adopt IMS in your emergency procedures
IMS Training
Support IMS training in your organization
Designate an IMS instructor for your organization
Exercising with IMS
Use IMS in exercises
Responding with IMS
Use IMS in responding to real incidents
Use IMS for planned events
Develop a plan to maintain IMS implementation in your organization
8 key measures

Recognizing that Ontario's emergency management community has a number of diverse sectors with different needs, IMS 'Sector Working Groups' are being developed. These groups are determining 'IMS implementation targets' for their sectors, and strategies to help achieve these targets. For additional information on Sector Working Groups, please visit

Q#14: What is the effort and cost to implement IMS?

Organizations wanting to implement IMS will need to dedicate staff and time to enact the measures outlined above. Appropriate training and communication efforts are key.

All IMS training is free of charge and efforts should be made to make use of existing resources to the greatest extent possible. The province will assist communities and response organizations with the training element of the implementation of the IMS for Ontario. During the initial phase of implementing training in your organization, course booklets and a provincial instructor may be provided free of charge through EMO.

Please submit your inquiries to

Q#15: Is IMS regulated?

The current plan for IMS does not involve regulation. Implementation is voluntary and rooted in recommended practices. The pace is dependent on the needs of each organization or jurisdiction. Generally, there is wide support for IMS across Ontario.

IMS has been developed to be consistent with the following standards:

Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z1600 - Standard on Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs;

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1561 - Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System, and

NFPA 1600 - Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.

The vision is that all stakeholders will implement the IMS for Ontario regardless of regulation.

Q#16: How can I learn more about IMS?

Everyone is encouraged to become familiar with the IMS Doctrine for Ontario and to complete all available IMS training. Both the Doctrine and training opportunities, in addition to a number of other IMS-related resources and information can be accessed at, Interested individuals are also encouraged to sign up for the IMS News and Updates which circulates updated IMS information through regular emails to subscribers.

If you would like to learn more about how IMS is being implemented in your sector or organization, please contact your sector or organization to learn more. If you have any further information needs, please contact your organization's representative on the IMS Steering Committee or submit your inquiries to the EMO website.

Q#17: What is the Incident Management Capacity Building Program?

The Incident Management Capacity Building Program is a training program designed to enhance Ontario's capacity to manage large-scale and complex incidents. It provides training and experiential opportunities for Ontario's emergency management community. The program is made possible through a partnership between Emergency Management Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

After completing the prerequisite training, participants will visit incident management sites and emergency operations centres operated by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). They will gain firsthand IMS implementation experience. Under the program, participants will first act as an Observer and then, subject to needs and interest, participate as a Job Shadower.

Please visit the Incident Management Capacity Building Documents for a fuller description of the program.

Q#18: How can I submit my feedback/suggestions regarding IMS?

You may provide your feedback/suggestions at anytime by email through

Generally, stakeholders are given opportunities to review and provide feedback on new IMS materials using a IMS feedback form. Sign up for IMS News and Updates to receive notification when new material is published for stakeholder review.

There are also ongoing opportunities to provide further feedback on IMS, either through your organization or through

This document aims to cover the most frequently asked questions concerning the Ontario IMS and is intended for individuals wishing to obtain succinct responses to the various questions that may arise in connection with the use and application of IMS in Ontario.

For more information about Ontario IMS please visit

If you have further questions or suggestions, please email them to us at: