Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Incident Management System (IMS) Guidance Version 2.0

INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (IMS) GUIDANCE VERSION 2.0

Incident Management System (IMS) Guidance Version 2.0

Office of the Fire Marshal & Emergency Management

Ministry of the Solicitor General

Approval

Office of the Chief, Emergency Management, Ministry of the Solicitor General. APPROVAL. Incident Management System (IMS) Guidance Version 2.0. By affixing my signature below, I hereby approve this document: signed by Teepu KhawjaChief, Emergency Management.

Acknowledgements

The Ontario Incident Management System (IMS) Guidance Version 2.0 is a part of the Government of Ontario's ever-improving emergency management program. The development of this guidance document was overseen by the IMS Steering Committee, chaired by the Chief of Emergency Management, Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, supported by the Doctrinal Advisory Group. Members of the IMS Steering Committee and Doctrinal Advisory Group participated on a voluntary basis, both on their own time and in time made available by the communities and organizations they represent.

The communities and organizations represented on the IMS Steering Committee at the time of publication included:

  • City of Guelph
  • City of Ottawa
  • City of Sault Ste. Marie
  • City of Toronto
  • County of Essex
  • County of Frontenac
  • Emergency Management Ontario
  • Emergency Medical Assistance Team
  • Lake Huron/Elgin Area Water System
  • Metrolinx
  • NGO Alliance
  • Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Ontario Association of Emergency Managers
  • Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs
  • Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs
  • Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
  • Ontario Ministry of Health
  • Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
  • Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General
  • Ontario Municipal Social Services Association
  • Ontario Provincial Police
  • Public Health Ontario
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Region of Durham
  • Toronto Fire Services/HUSAR/CBRNE
  • Town of Cobourg
  • Township of Otonabee-South Monaghan

Emergency Management Ontario gratefully acknowledges the generous contributions made by members of the IMS Steering Committee, the Doctrinal Advisory Group and outside experts:

  • Alain Normand
  • Amanda Davy
  • Andrew J. Henry
  • Andy Glynn
  • Brad Taylor
  • Brian Schwartz
  • Cathy Cousins
  • Cheryl McNeil
  • Clint Shingler
  • Courtney Askin
  • Dan Metcalfe
  • Dave Elloway
  • Denise Blinn
  • Donna Huen
  • Frank Barredo
  • Gina Cliffe
  • James Kilgour
  • James Montgomery
  • Jennifer Smysnuik
  • Jim Kay
  • Joanna Beaven-Desjardins
  • Jose Camacho
  • Katrina Grantis
  • Kenneth J. McBey
  • Leanne Latter
  • Mark Bett
  • Mark Phair
  • Mark Podgers
  • Melissa Lavery
  • Michael Huk
  • Michael Sanderson
  • Michelle McKain
  • Mike O'Brien
  • Mike Vilneff
  • Naomi Thibault
  • Nina Diaz
  • Nora Johnson
  • Paola Parenti
  • Patrick Auger
  • Ray Lazarus
  • Ray Zarb
  • Rebecca Hanson
  • Robert Smith
  • Russell Mawby
  • Sandy McKinnon
  • Steve Elliott
  • Ted Bryan
  • Tim Neufeld
  • Todd Pittman
  • Tom Berczi
  • Trevor Sinker
  • William Neadles

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the many representatives of municipal, regional, Indigenous, and unincorporated communities across the province for sharing their wisdom and expertise with Emergency Management Ontario.

Emergency Management Ontario acknowledges its presence on lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous Peoples. You can search the specific treaty area for addresses across Ontario on the digital map of Ontario treaties and reserves.

Version Control

This is version 2.0 of the IMS Guidance (issue 2, no revisions).

This replaces the first version published in 2008, which was known as the Incident Management System Doctrine for Ontario. Hereafter, the word “Doctrine” shall be replaced with the word “Guidance.”

The Incident Management System Doctrine for Ontario published in 2008 will be referred to as “IMS 1.0” for the purposes of this document.

Revision List

Revisions to the current version can occur at any time. The version number should be updated with each revision by changing the number after the decimal point and recording it using the table below.

Revision Table
Revision Number (2.X) Description of Change Date of Revision Revision Made By (Name) Approved By (Name)
2.0 IMS Guidance Version 2.0 document creation 2021-03-31    

Publications Management

Copies of the IMS Guidance Version 2.0 are to be widely distributed among the emergency management stakeholder community and posted to emergency management stakeholders' websites. This includes the websites of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Emergency Management Ontario (EMO), shown below.

This publication is subject to review and amendments. This process is the responsibility of the Office of the Chief, Emergency Management. Stakeholders are encouraged to review and evaluate the IMS Guidance Version 2.0 as they use it and to submit comments and suggestions.

Until a new guidance document supersedes this version, amendments may be published from time to time. The amendment form in this section will be used to keep a record of approved amendments.

Comments and suggestions relating to the IMS Guidance Version 2.0 should be directed to:

Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management
Attn: Program Development Manager, Program Development Unit
Ref: Incident Management System (IMS) Guidance Version 2.0, 2021
25 Morton Shulman Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M3M 0B1, Canada

E-mail: AskOFMEM@ontario.ca

Website:

Table of Contents

Executive Summary – IMS 2.0 Guidance Document

Overview

IMS 2.0 is a refresh of the Ontario Incident Management System. The IMS 2.0 Guidance document describes how communities and organizations can use IMS to coordinate a structured incident response of any scale and communicate and collaborate effectively. For the purposes of the guidance document, an incident is an occurrence or event that requires a coordinated response by emergency services or other responders to protect people, property and the environment.

IMS 2.0 is simpler to understand and has been updated to improve its interoperability and effectiveness. At the site, roles, responsibilities and structures remain the same. IMS 2.0 is more flexible while maintaining standardized roles, responsibilities and structures.

The core principles of IMS 2.0 are:

  • Communication
  • Coordination
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility.

The 17 principles and concepts found in IMS 1.0 are important tools for the effective and efficient implementation of IMS. They can be found in Section 2 – IMS Principles and Tools.

Background

The first version of the Incident Management System Doctrine for Ontario (now referred to as IMS 1.0) was developed in 2008. Its purpose was to provide communities and organizations in Ontario with a framework to allow them to coordinate and collaborate effectively during an incident. IMS was based on similar systems used internationally, including those used by our response partners.

IMS 2.0 builds on the strong foundation of IMS 1.0. Its development has been guided by best practices and lessons learned from responders from all areas of incident management. IMS 2.0 aligns with developments in other jurisdictions such as the United States National Incident Management System (NIMS) 3.0 update. IMS 2.0 is also interoperable with systems used by neighbouring jurisdictions and other partners.

IMS 2.0 addresses several recommendations of The Elliot Lake Inquiry.[1] It simplifies the guidance document and updates it “to increase the acceptance and actual use of the Incident Management System (IMS).” IMS 2.0 was developed in collaboration with more than 30 stakeholder organizations including municipalities, responder organizations, ministries, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and others.

Highlights of IMS 2.0

Emergency Operations Centre Options

The site-based guidance in IMS 2.0 remains largely unchanged. However, in consideration of developments around the world and stakeholder feedback, IMS 2.0 adds more flexibility for Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) incident response structures by offering three EOC options.

More information on the three EOC options can be found in Section 7 – Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and Additional Incident Management Locations.

Emphasis on Coordination

IMS 2.0 places greater emphasis on the role of coordination for effective and efficient incident management. As a result, the oversight function within IMS is now referred to as Coordination and Command. There is also new guidance around Multi-Organization Coordination and an expanded emphasis on the importance of collaborative coordination, which may occur during a network-wide response in sectors such as health care.

Expanded Functions

IMS 2.0 continues to be built on the core functions of Coordination and Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance and Administration. IMS 2.0 also recognizes the importance of communication with the public about an incident and the incident response effort. To address this, Public Information Management has been added as a core function of IMS 2.0.

The core functions of IMS 2.0 are:

  • Coordination and Command
  • Operations
  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Finance and Administration
  • Public Information Management.

IMS 2.0 also recognizes that incidents have unique needs. This may be due to a large need for emergency social services, investigation services or for other reasons. To address this, IMS 2.0 explains that in some incidents, additional functions may need to be considered.

Common additional IMS functions include:

  • Intelligence
  • Investigations
  • Emergency Social Services (ESS)
  • Continuity of Operations
  • Scientific/Technical.

Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination)

IMS 2.0 offers specific guidance around the use of Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination). It notes that Unified Command should only be considered when Single Command cannot be established. The guidance document explains when Unified Command may be used. IMS 2.0 also provides guidance and a checklist for the effective use of Unified Command.

EOC Director

In order to maintain interoperability and alignment with common practices, IMS 2.0 introduces the title of EOC Director for the Coordination and Command function within an EOC. In cases where an EOC plays a direct role in the command of an incident rather than an incident support role, the title of EOC Commander can be used as an alternative option.

New Response Escalation Criteria

IMS 2.0 includes a new section aimed at helping incident responders properly scale resources to meet the needs of an incident. Section 5 – Response Escalation Guidelines provides support to responders by offering guidance on the inclusion of three EOC options or Multi-organizational Coordination for the overall response effort.

A table outlining the elements of each level of response is also included in Section 5 for quick reference.

Future Additions to IMS 2.0

IMS 2.0 offers an overview of the Incident Management System for Ontario. It also includes three appendices: IMS Glossary and Definitions, IMS Facilities and References. Future appendices will continue to expand on existing concepts as well as introduce new concepts to help communities and organizations ensure an effective and efficient incident response.

Future appendices will include:

  • Site-Specific Roles and Responsibilities
  • EOC Roles and Responsibilities
  • Resource Guidance.

Conclusion

IMS 2.0 offers clear, straightforward guidance on communicating, coordinating and collaborating during an incident response. The guidance document uses plain language to help communities and organizations improve their understanding of terminology and concepts. This does not change the basics. IMS is still built on a strong foundation of familiar functions; Coordination and Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and now includes the important function of Public Information Management.

Familiar roles and responsibilities continue to be in use. For example, the Incident Commander coordinates the site response. The Operations Section Chief manages the Operations Section, and so on.

IMS can also be used to help communities and organizations build their own standard operating procedures that reflects responsibilities, resources and legislative requirements specific to that community or organization.

IMS 2.0 offers new tools and options which can help new users adopt IMS more easily. It also gives the ever-growing community of experienced IMS practitioners a larger, more flexible toolbox to help them meet the varying needs of incident response. IMS 2.0 is an important step towards the growth of the IMS program in Ontario.

1 Introduction: The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of IMS

1.1  What is the Ontario Incident Management System (IMS)?

The Ontario Incident Management System (IMS) is designed to be a response system, but it can be used to manage all stages of an incident. It is created to give communities and organizations a common framework to communicate, coordinate and collaborate during an incident response.

An incident is an occurrence or event that requires a coordinated response by emergency services or other responders to protect people, property and the environment. Whether an incident is small or large, IMS can help communities and organizations work together more effectively and efficiently.

IMS provides guidance on all aspects of coordinating an incident response, including:

  • Support to the site
  • Coordination of incident response efforts
  • Command of incident response efforts
  • Communication.

IMS can be used at the site of an incident, for a planned event, in an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) or a designated location (for non-site-based incidents) where incident coordination and support take place. IMS is flexible and can be used in both small and large incidents.

1.2 Why use IMS?

Every day, communities and organizations in Ontario work together to respond to incidents and to plan events. Their success depends on the ability to communicate, coordinate and collaborate with one another.

IMS helps incident response organizations respond effectively and efficiently by:

  • Providing common structures, systems and roles
  • Helping incident response organizations communicate clearly through the use of common terms and concepts
  • Creating a flexible framework that can adapt to any level or type of incident.

IMS is an important element in building a comprehensive and effective emergency management program; one that includes IMS in its plans, procedures, training and exercises. IMS can help communities and organizations prepare for incidents and manage planned events.

1.3 Who is it for?

IMS can be used by:

  • All levels of government, Indigenous partners, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector partners
  • Everyone involved in an incident response including, but not limited to:
    • Responders at the site of an incident. This includes first responders (paramedic, police and fire services) as well as personnel from social services and public works.
    • Personnel (such as leadership, incident responders, volunteers etc.) who provide support to the site(s) or coordinate a non-site-based incident in an EOC.
    • Personnel involved in creating and sharing official communications. This can include media releases and social media communications.
    • Organizations and personnel managing resources such as emergency shelters and reception centres.

1.4 When to use IMS

IMS can be used to manage the following:

  • Severe winter weather
  • Hazardous materials incident
  • Fire/explosion
  • Flood
  • Food contamination
  • Infectious disease outbreak
  • Nuclear incident
  • Public safety incident
  • Humanitarian emergencies
  • Transportation emergencies
  • Electrical energy failure
  • Structure failure
  • Incidents resulting in mass casualties
  • Cyber-attack
  • Planned events (such as parades, celebrations, official events)
  • Multiple incidents (which can include related cascading hazards such as mudslides after flooding or unrelated hazards such as a fire during an ice storm)
  • Long-term incidents (which may not have a defined beginning or end).

IMS provides the foundation to establish a common incident management structure. It is important to note that not every section in an incident management structure is needed for every incident. This may happen for several reasons as discussed in Section 5 – Response Escalation Guidelines.

Communities and organizations can also use IMS to build their own standard operating procedures that reflect responsibilities, resources and legislative requirements that are specific to that community or organization.

1.5 Where does IMS come from?

The Ontario Incident Management System (IMS) was first developed in 2008 to provide a standardized approach to incident management. It was based on and aligned with the United States National Incident Management System (NIMS). IMS is in line with a global shift in incident response to develop ways to help communities and organizations work together more effectively and efficiently during an incident.

The second version of the Incident Management System (also known as IMS 2.0) builds upon and replaces the first version, Incident Management System Doctrine for Ontario. IMS 2.0 has addressed several recommendations from The Elliot Lake Inquiry to “put in place strategies that will increase the acceptance and actual use of the Incident Management System (IMS) – including simplifying its language. …”[2] It also reflects updates to NIMS, global best practices and lessons learned by Ontario's emergency response community. A list of references used to develop IMS 2.0 can be found in Appendix C – References.

1.6 How does the Incident Command System (ICS) relate to IMS?

The Incident Command System (ICS) is one of the key building blocks of the Incident Management System. ICS is a site-specific response system that was developed in the 1970s to manage the response to wildfires in California. It has been adopted by communities and organizations worldwide to manage incidents and planned events through the use of commonly used practices, structures and terms.

It is important to note that ICS is site-specific; therefore, it was not designed for EOCs, non-site-specific responses or to meet the demands of a complex long-term health emergency.[3] In contrast, Ontario's IMS is designed to meet the needs of all levels of response, ranging from the site(s) to EOC(s) to the complex network coordination within the health care sector. Ontario's IMS also reflects best practices worldwide.

The site-based guidance in IMS 2.0 is compatible with NIMS-ICS and the ICS taught by ICS-Canada. It is important to note that while there is a standardized structure with commonly used practices, structures and terms, there are several interoperable variations of ICS (with no single official ICS).

The Government of Ontario has ensured that IMS is interoperable with incident management systems in other provinces and territories in Canada. It also reflects needs specific to Ontario, including governance structures and legislative processes.

1.7 Accountability

All responders involved in an incident should carry out their duties with diligence and respect for those affected by the incident and for the community at large. Governments and organizations also have legal obligations to the people they serve.

IMS ensures accountability by defining clear roles and responsibilities. Incident responders involved in the coordination and command function are responsible for tracking:

  • All resources (personnel and equipment) assigned to an incident
  • The safety of all incident response personnel and individuals affected by an incident.

All incident responders should document their actions taken throughout an incident by filling out standardized IMS forms. Documentation ensures that actions throughout an incident are captured and can be accounted for if asked to provide reasoning.

1.8 Key Terms and Definitions

Several key terms used throughout the document are listed and defined below. A complete list of terms and definitions can be found in Appendix A – IMS Glossary and Definitions.

Complex Incident: This type of incident involves many factors which cannot be easily analyzed and understood. They may be prolonged, large-scale and/or involve multiple jurisdictions.

Emergency Operations Centre (EOC): An EOC is a designated location where personnel representing communities and organizations come together to support site response efforts. Activities in an EOC include managing and providing information and resources, long-term planning and other forms of coordination. In some non-site-based incidents such as widespread flooding, an EOC may coordinate and command direct response efforts.

Function: A function is a set of related tasks and responsibilities. Incident management is divided into six main functions: Coordination and Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and Public Information Management. In some incidents, additional functions may need to be carried out. This can include Intelligence, Investigations, Scientific/Technical, Emergency Social Services and Continuity of Operations. Other functions may need to be considered depending on the size and nature of an incident.

Incident Action Plan (IAP): A verbal or written plan which describes how an incident will be managed. It includes incident objectives, strategies and tactics. In a simple incident, objectives, strategies and tactics may be determined by the Incident Commander or EOC Director. In a complex incident, a network of organizations may work together to determine objectives, strategies and tactics. The written IAP is coordinated by the Planning Section and explains how incident responders will work together and utilize resources to achieve the response objectives.

Incident: An occurrence or event that requires a coordinated response by emergency services or other responders to protect people, property and the environment.

Responder: Any person who is involved in responding to an incident. They range from first responders from paramedic, police and fire services to personnel from public works, regional conservation authorities and those in an EOC. Personnel from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector may also be involved in an incident response.

Site: The location where an incident is or has happened (e.g., the scene of a high-rise fire or motor vehicle accident). Some incidents, such as ice storms, do not have one single, defined site.

2 IMS Principles and Tools

2.1 Principles of Effective Response

The core principles of IMS are:

  • Communication
  • Coordination
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility.

IMS helps incident responders work together to achieve common objectives. By using IMS, responders can adapt to the specific needs of an incident through the use of common roles, responsibilities and structures. This section explains the importance of the principles of effective response.

All core principles of IMS are equally important. Effective communication provides shared situational awareness and protects responders and the public. Coordination helps incident responders from different communities and organizations achieve common objectives under a shared governance system. Collaboration fosters an environment to help incident responders work well together. Flexibility allows communities and organizations to use only the resources and tools necessary to achieve common objectives.

This section also outlines the specific tools that support the core principles of IMS.

2.2 Communication

Clear communication throughout an incident is essential. Failures in communication undermine the overall response effort and can endanger incident responders and the general public.

During incidents, the demand for information can be overwhelming. IMS provides guidance on effective communication during an incident. Aspects of communication that IMS provides guidance on includes:

  • Information Management, which involves:
    • Public Information Management
    • Internal Information Management
  • Telecommunications Technology and Systems Management.

Information Management

There are two types of incident information that need to be managed:

  • Public Information
  • Internal Information.

Public Information

It is critical to share up-to-date and accurate incident information with the public. This can be achieved through warnings and alerts, social media and/or traditional media. In IMS, the Emergency Information Officer (EIO) is responsible for public communications and coordinating the communications team.

In larger or more complex incidents, there may be a need to coordinate communication across multiple response organizations. EIOs from the incident response organizations may need to coordinate their messages and/or work together in a Joint Emergency Information Centre (Joint-EIC).

It is also important to use plain language and avoid the use of acronyms. The safety of responders and the general public depends on clear and easy-to-understand communication and messaging.

Internal Information

Incident response and communication is a team effort. Sharing accurate and up-to-date incident information is everyone's responsibility. It is critical that urgent and time-sensitive information is shared as soon as possible with all necessary incident response personnel (e.g., the Incident Commander, IMS Section Chiefs etc.) who require the information to perform their duties. This includes the sharing of information between communities and organizations.

Situation updates should be routinely shared with the section responsible for maintaining situational awareness. This section will maintain and share situational awareness throughout the planning cycle, which includes regularly scheduled meetings as well as a schedule for developing and sharing information products such as situation updates. The section responsible for situational awareness manages information through the Four Phases of Information Management.

Figure 1: The Four Phases of Information Management
A cycle diagram to describe the four phases of information management. The four phases of information management are collect, confirm, analyze and share.

The Four Phases of Information Management are to collect, confirm, analyze and share information.

The section responsible for situational awareness should share information:

  • With incident responders and leadership
  • With decision-makers such as senior and elected officials
  • Between the site(s) and the EOC(s)
  • Between incident response organizations through:
    • Liaison Officers
    • Teleconference calls and meetings which may be pre-planned or as needed
    • Situation reports and/or other briefing documents.

Note: As incidents become more complex, information must be shared more widely across responders and the organizations they represent.

Plain Language

It is important to use plain language and avoid the use of acronyms. The safety of responders and the general public depends on clear and easy-to-understand communication and messaging.

Information Management Tools

Common Terms

When multiple communities and organizations come together in an incident response, the use of common terms to describe roles, resources and procedures help in effective and efficient communication. This is also known as standardization. The use of common terms also:

  • Avoids any confusion and duplication of efforts
  • Helps speed up incident response and achieve common objectives.
Integrated Information Management

IMS sets standard procedures to create an environment where responders across communities and organizations share a common understanding of an incident in a timely manner. The Incident Action Plan (IAP) provides all responders with an overview of the objectives, strategies and tactics. IMS forms and other tools to help communities and organizations communicate situational awareness and other incident information.

Effective Public Information

Effective communication with the public throughout an incident requires common messaging, frequent updates and advance planning. It is recommended to prepare the following ahead of time:

  • An emergency information plan that outlines how the public will be notified
  • Pre-scripted messaging and warnings around likely hazards.

Telecommunications Technology and Systems Management

Just as information management depends on common terms, it also depends on telecommunications technology and systems that work well together.

Interoperable Telecommunications Systems

Interoperable telecommunications systems allow for effective and efficient communication between incident responders and the communities and organizations they represent. Where possible, all incident responders involved in an incident should have interoperable telecommunications equipment and systems. These systems may include emergency management software or hardware such as radio equipment.

Communities and organizations should work together ahead of an incident to develop communication methods to ensure effective and efficient communication. This includes:

  • Establishing and regularly testing telecommunications technology and systems
  • Developing a backup plan in case of telecommunications system disruptions/failures
  • Providing training to all necessary personnel for the effective use of telecommunications technologies and systems
  • Conducting drills and exercises to practice using the telecommunications technologies and systems with the personnel that would use them in an incident.

Telecommunications technology and systems should be:

  • Reliable
  • Interoperable
  • Resilient
  • Secure.

2.3 Coordination

In order to manage incidents effectively and efficiently, all responders and the communities and organizations they represent work together towards common objectives. This is important as incidents are often not managed alone and require multiple response organizations to work together. IMS can help incident responders coordinate effectively and efficiently through the use of several coordination tools.

Coordination of the incident response effort may take place:

  • Within a single organization
  • Between a few organizations
  • Between many organizations and/or across jurisdictions
  • Across the province and/or outside the province.

Some incidents are unstable in nature with multiple response organizations facing continuously changing circumstances that can cause an incident to escalate and de-escalate several times. In a system-wide response to incidents of this nature, it is important that response organizations are adaptable in order to achieve common objectives effectively and efficiently.

Coordination Tools

Common Terms

Common terms help incident responders across different communities and organizations effectively and efficiently coordinate response efforts in a manner understood by all responders (see Section 2.2 – Communication).

Common Roles, Responsibilities and Structures

Common roles, responsibilities and structures allow communities and organizations to work together effectively and efficiently. They also enable requests for personnel and resources from other communities and organizations. As mentioned earlier, this is also known as standardization.

Manageable Span of Control

“Span of Control” is defined as the number of individuals or teams that one individual can manage. The best ratio for span of control at the site is anywhere between three to seven resources reporting to one lead. For safety reasons, it is critical that span of control be maintained. In an EOC or additional incident management location(s), this ratio may be increased to have more people reporting to one lead as long as it does not compromise effective management.

Sustainability

Organizations can only respond if they have the resources to do so. Communities and organizations should train additional responders to provide relief to responders working in prolonged incidents. In cases where communities and organizations are limited in resources, additional capacity can be built by sharing resources through pre-arranged agreements (e.g., mutual aid, mutual assistance agreements etc.) and/or collaborating with partner communities and organizations.

2.4 Collaboration

In order to work together, communities and organizations need to share a common understanding of incident objectives and utilize tools that foster collaboration. Many of the IMS tools already mentioned such as Common Terms, Coordinated Information Management and Common Roles, Responsibilities and Structures can help communities and organizations work together effectively and efficiently.

Effective collaboration is crucial when communities and organizations work together to respond to a large, complex incident. It is important that leadership provides strategic direction that will inform the response activities carried out by incident responders.

It is important to note that some organizations may have regulatory or legislative responsibilities over specific aspects of an incident. For example, fire investigations are the legislative responsibility of the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal. Effective collaboration ensures that regulatory and legislative responsibilities of response organizations are taken into account when determining incident objectives.

It is important to use IMS to foster collaboration. This includes working together in advance to build trust and understanding between communities and organizations.

Incident responders should understand the importance of working with other communities and organizations through established networks but also through the Liaison Officer role within the IMS structure (see Section 6.2 – Coordination and Command Staff (also known as Command Staff)). It is important to maintain ongoing communication with incident response organizations to ensure actions taken are based on accurate and up-to-date information.

Communities and organizations may need to negotiate an acceptable solution to problems that span across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. To encourage collaboration and avoid conflict, incident responders and the communities and organizations they represent should:

  • Avoid working independently of one another when developing and sharing information and strategies
  • Share situational awareness updates
  • Keep all incident responders informed about response activities
  • Establish a planning cycle consisting of frequent meetings and through various means of interaction such as teleconference calls.

In addition to the above tools, IMS offers other tools to help incident responders collaborate.

Common Objectives and Plans

The Incident Commander, Unified Command or EOC Director works with the incident responders to set common objectives for the incident (at the site or in an EOC). This helps incident responders achieve common objectives, also known as unity of effort.

The process of setting common objectives, strategies and tactics includes:

  • Developing specific and measurable objectives
  • Developing strategies and tactics to meet the objectives
  • Measuring objectives, strategies and tactics and making adjustments as needed to effectively manage the next operational period
  • Assigning tasks to incident responders
  • Developing and distributing plans, procedures and protocols, including the IAP
    • The IAP guides all incident management activities
    • It outlines objectives, strategies, tactics, health and safety requirements and other key incident information to provide a common operating picture of the incident response
    • The delivery of an IAP should be written or verbal.

It is important to note that in a complex incident or an incident that involves multiple jurisdictions, a written IAP is necessary to help carry out common objectives and maintain safe operations.

Complex Incident Objectives and Plans

In complex incidents involving multiple response organizations, common objectives will usually be high-level, such as “save lives” or “preserve property.” Each incident response organization will develop specific objectives, strategies and tactics that reflect their organizational responsibilities. For example, in an incident involving emergency evacuations, organizations providing emergency social services may have objectives such as setting up emergency shelters for evacuees.

Training and Exercises

It is important for incident responders to have the skills and experience necessary to perform their duties and learn to work with communities and organizations by enrolling in IMS training. Taking part in training and exercises together builds relationships, connections and trust between communities and organizations.

2.5 Flexibility

No two incidents are alike. Flexibility enables communities and organizations to tailor IMS to the size and needs of an incident.

All incidents have common work that must be done such as incident planning. In IMS, common groups of tasks are known as functions. For example, the planning function may be performed by the Incident Commander or an EOC Director in a small-scale incident response. In a complex incident, a full Planning Section may be stood up to develop multiple IAPs (see Section 3 – What Needs to be done? IMS Objectives and Functions).

IMS allows communities and organizations to use common functions in a scalable and adaptable manner. Incidents may vary in size and require different sections or technical experts. Communities and organizations may use different but interoperable EOC options. While IMS provides flexibility, there are also standardized tools such as common terms, objectives and training. These tools allow response organizations to remain interoperable while meeting the specific needs of an incident.

Flexibility Tools

Scalability

IMS structures for an incident can vary in size. An incident may have an Incident Commander or an EOC Director performing all functions or may have several functional sections and positions stood up and staffed by a large number of incident response personnel.

Adaptable

IMS structures should adapt to the response needs of an incident. For example, a chemical spill may require scientific and technical experts, while a serious motor vehicle accident may not require such experts. IMS enables incident responders to adapt to the needs of an incident and those affected by it.

Responsive to Community Needs

The goal of an incident response is to manage and lessen the consequences for those affected. To maintain community safety, incident response personnel handling communications should communicate to the public in a clear and easy-to-understand manner and be responsive to the needs of a community.

3 What needs to be done? IMS Objectives and Functions

3.1 Setting Objectives

It is important to clearly state the overall purpose of an incident response effort. This is achieved in IMS by setting clear objectives, strategies and tactics as a part of the Incident Action Plan (IAP). The IAP informs incident responders of the desired outcomes for an incident and helps coordinate activities to achieve a common goal.

The effectiveness of an incident response effort can be measured by assessing whether incident objectives outlined in the IAP were met over the operational period.

Common Response Objectives

Common response objectives help incident responders:

  • Protect the safety of all incident responders and those affected by the incident
  • Save lives
  • Treat the sick and injured
  • Protect the health of those affected by the incident
  • Ensure the continuity of government and critical services
  • Protect property and the environment
  • Prevent and/or reduce economic and social losses.

3.2 IMS Functions

Ontario's IMS is interoperable and closely aligned with other incident management systems around the world, including NIMS 3.0 (United States). At the site, Ontario's IMS is fully interoperable with the Incident Command System (ICS) used by other communities and organizations.

All of these systems share a common approach to divide the incident response effort. Similar tasks grouped together are known as “functions”.

IMS functions common to all incidents include: Coordination and Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and Public Information Management.

IMS Core Functions

Coordination and Command

Coordination and Command is the function responsible for overseeing, coordinating and directing the incident or incident-related support activities. The Liaison Officer, Safety Officer and the Emergency Information Officer (EIO) are all responsibilities under Coordination and Command. In addition, Coordination and Command is responsible for ensuring the delivery of all functions until a functional section such as the Planning Section has been stood up to manage the tasks associated with the respective function. For example, if the Planning Section has not been stood up, then the Incident Commander or EOC Director is responsible for the planning function until a dedicated Planning Section is stood up.

Site Coordination and Command is the responsibility of the Incident Commander. The Incident Commander must first identify urgent priorities. These priorities are often related to the safety of responders and of those affected by an incident. The Incident Commander must then set incident objectives and work with the Command and General Staff (see Section 6.1 – Site Coordination and Command) to develop objectives, strategies and tactics.

In an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), Coordination and Command of an incident is the responsibility of the EOC Director. The EOC Director will often coordinate support to the site of an incident however, in less common cases, the tactical command of the response may be managed from an EOC.

The responsibilities under the following functional sections may be performed by an Incident Commander (at the site), by an EOC Director (in an EOC) or a functional section may be stood up and staffed by personnel to fulfill each functional section.

Operations Section: The role of the Operations Section is to meet current incident objectives and priorities stated in the IAP on behalf of Coordination and Command. The Operations Section:

  • At the site: Organizes, coordinates and supervises the tactical elements of an incident such as personnel or equipment
  • In an EOC: Takes on the tactical responsibilities and involves activities such as coordinating communications and providing situational awareness to and from the site.

Planning Section: Collects, confirms, analyzes and shares incident information gathered from incident responders. Internal communication is a key activity within the Planning Section. The Planning Section also prepares the IAP and develops contingency and long-term plans.

  • Situational Awareness: Maintaining and sharing situational awareness is often the responsibility of the Situation Unit within the Planning Section. In some EOCs, situational awareness can be a section of its own or under the Operations Section. Maintaining situational awareness is a key function across any incident response. It is important to clearly identify which section is responsible for situational awareness within the incident response structure.

Logistics Section: Arranges and provides services and supports including personnel, supplies, facilities and other resources to an incident. For example, the Logistics Section may arrange transportation or source equipment such as pumps and sandbags.

Finance and Administration Section: Manages incident-specific finance and administration activities including payroll, vendor contracts and incident cost tracking.

Public Information Management Section: Develops and shares messages directly to the public and through the media. Tracks media reports including social media feeds and shares information with Coordination and Command. Incident responders under this section should connect directly with the community if required.

EOC Functions: Primarily focused on coordination of activities that provide support to the site or on rare occasions, performing command functions from an EOC.

3.3 Additional IMS Functions

There are certain incident management functions that are not used in all incidents but are common enough that guidance is provided to help keep communities and organizations interoperable with one another. In most cases, these functions can be managed through the standard IMS structure. For example, the Continuity of Operations function may be performed under the Planning Section.

Certain sectors, communities and organizations perform additional functions which may require the need for a dedicated section. The most commonly required additional functions include Emergency Social Services, Intelligence, Investigations, Scientific/Technical and Continuity of Operations. Below are some reasons why additional IMS Functions may be added:

  • The function is required to meet the specific operational needs of a community or organization in an incident
    • For example, police services often require an Investigations function when responding to an incident
    • In another example, an Emergency Social Services section may be required to meet the needs of a community affected by a large-scale disaster
  • The function involves complex information such as scientific information, which may exceed the subject matter knowledge of a Section Chief
    • For example, the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre has guidance for a dedicated Scientific Section in the event of a nuclear incident.

Additional functions may need to be performed at the site, in an EOC and/or an additional incident management location.

Examples of commonly used additional functions:

Emergency Social Services (ESS): Is responsible for providing social services to individuals and families affected by emergencies or disasters to preserve their well-being. The ESS function aims to assist individuals meet their basic human needs. They may provide food, clothing, shelter, personal services, registration and inquiry services. These services are provided on a short-term, temporary basis where individuals and families affected by an incident can receive physical, mental, social and economic support.

Intelligence: Is responsible for: (1) gathering and assessing incident-related information; (2) operations security and information security; and (3) information management. This includes preventing or deterring unlawful incidents or attacks. Since the Intelligence function involves preventing and deterring attacks, personnel performing this function may only share sensitive information with the Incident Commander or EOC Director.

Investigations: Is responsible for conducting thorough investigations to do one or all of the following:

  • Identify, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of regulatory breaches or criminal activity related to an incident
  • Determine the source or cause of an incident (e.g., disease outbreak, fire or cyber-attack) to control its impact and/or help prevent the occurrence of similar incidents
  • Identify, collect, process, create a chain of custody for, protect, analyze and store probative evidence.

Scientific/Technical: Performs ongoing monitoring and surveillance of scientific or technical issues including field-based monitoring, sampling and surveillance. This function also analyzes and evaluates scientific data to provide expert technical advice to leadership and makes recommendations for protective action, mitigation and remediation.

Continuity of Operations: Ensures that the day-to-day operations within a community or organization are maintained. In certain incidents, there may be a need to closely coordinate these efforts with the overall response.

Every incident has unique needs. Communities and organizations may require other functions such as Victim Services which reflect the specific needs of their operational mandate.

4 Coordination and Command: Managing the Response Effort

Whether at the site or in an EOC, a clear coordination and command structure is a key element in effective and efficient incident management. Managing an incident response requires coordination and command at multiple levels: at the site, in an EOC and through Multi-Organization Coordination.

Incident management at the site begins as responders arrive at the location(s) of the incident. The first arriving responder immediately assumes the role of Incident Commander. If a more experienced or appropriate incident responder arrives to the location, there may be a transfer of command.

A transfer of command is the official hand over of command. The hand over process can either be verbal or written. Transfer of command is optional and depends on the needs of the incident and the response organization(s) involved. In some communities and organizations, site Incident Commanders are chosen ahead of time and may be pre-assigned to an incident.

EOCs often have a formal incident management structure with pre-determined EOC Directors on-call to coordinate and command an incident or a departmental EOC. In the early stages of an incident response, the first arriving responder to report to an EOC may act as the EOC Director. An EOC Director may also begin to coordinate virtually until they are able to deploy to the EOC.

Larger or more complex incidents may have Incident Commanders at multiple sites. A non-site-specific incident such as flooding may require a collaborative approach between communities and organizations. Incident response efforts that involve a complex system of organizations with their own site (such as those within the health care system) are sometimes known as networked response efforts. They may operate in a more collaborative coordination and command structure known as Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination). In order for this structure to work, Multi-Organization Coordination is required.

4.1 Site Management

Site management often involves coordinating multiple on-site incident response organizations. Effective and efficient site management enables all incident responders to work together to achieve common objectives.

The Incident Commander (also referred to as the Incident Manager) manages the incident response and the Incident Management Team (see Section 6.1 – Site Coordination and Command for more information).

The primary responsibilities of the Incident Commander include:

  • Defining the objectives, strategies and tactics for the overall incident response
  • Coordinating the activities of the incident response organizations
    • For example, a serious motor vehicle accident may require the coordination of police, paramedics, fire and transportation services
  • Maintaining the safety of all incident responders
  • Coordinating all aspects of the site including facilities, communications, logistics and other aspects as appropriate.

The Incident Commander coordinates and commands all of the incident site response activities. It is important to note that no organization has tactical command authority over any other organizations' personnel or assets unless such authority is transferred. In a search and rescue operation, incident response organizations such as paramedics and emergency social services personnel may take part in the search efforts however, the police service conducting the search and rescue would have tactical command authority as the lead response organization.

Coordination and command of an incident at the site takes place from an Incident Command Post. For more information about the Incident Command Post and other IMS related facilities, see Appendix B – IMS Facilities.

4.2 EOC Management

Coordination and command activities vary between the site and the EOC. The main purpose of most EOCs is to coordinate efforts that provide support to the site.

The EOC Director manages an EOC. In most incidents, the main task of an EOC Director is to coordinate resources and information.

Site Support from an EOC

Support to the site is different from coordination and command of the incident itself. An EOC Director providing support to the site of a high-rise fire does not provide tactical decisions for fire suppression. However, if there is a request for additional firefighters and resources, the EOC Director may coordinate the necessary arrangements to fulfill the request to support the site.

An EOC Director may have a larger coordinating role depending on the nature and extent of an incident. For example, if the high-rise fire example mentioned earlier requires street closures in surrounding areas, the EOC Director may manage a citywide transportation strategy to address traffic control issues as a result of the incident.

Coordination from an EOC

Complex incidents may consist of multiple sites or may not have a clearly defined site. In either case, it may be more effective and efficient to coordinate incident response activities from an EOC.

In complex incidents, a critical task of an EOC is coordinating and sharing incident information and situational awareness. Not all incident response organizations will be located in an EOC therefore, situational awareness will need to be shared virtually as well as through planning cycle meetings. The EOC fosters collaboration between response organizations for incidents that involve multiple sites and/or Incident Commanders or require a coordinated network approach.

EOC(s) operating under Unified Command play a vital role in effective and efficient response by maintaining a regular communication cycle with all incident response organizations. For more information, see Section 4.7 – Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination). For example, during wildfire evacuations, the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) maintains a regular communication cycle with host and evacuated communities, federal partners, provincial ministries, health agencies and NGOs.

Command from an EOC

When incident response activities are coordinated from an EOC, the EOC Director will set the objectives, strategies and tactics for the incident. For example, a municipal EOC may coordinate local flood response efforts during spring floods.

Command during a non-site-specific incident such as a nuclear incident may take place in an EOC. Command from an EOC may also occur when the incident covers a large geographic area, such as an extreme weather event.

4.3 Additional Incident Management Locations

Important aspects of an incident response effort such as the care and shelter of evacuated individuals may be coordinated out of additional incident management locations. These locations may include:

  • Hospitals
  • Reception centres
  • Family and Friends Assistance Centres (FFACs)
  • Psychosocial counselling centres
  • Evacuation shelters.

These locations must be interoperable with the site(s) and EOC(s) and the use of IMS is recommended. A site or an EOC incident management structure may be used to organize any additional incident management locations.

Coordination with the site(s), EOC(s) and additional incident management locations are central to the role of incident management locations. It is important to set up a planning cycle that includes regular contact with the site(s) and EOC(s) where applicable. The Liaison Officer may handle contact between these locations and with communities and organizations as required.

For more information on additional incident management locations, see Appendix B – IMS Facilities.

4.4  Multi-Organization Coordination

Multi-Organization Coordination is an important aspect of incident management. IMS recognizes that during an incident, stakeholder organizations must work together to make decisions. Decision-making may take place at the site or coordinated and carried out by EOC personnel. However, in the case of major or more complex incidents, communities and organizations should coordinate at more senior levels. IMS provides the structure and guidance for effective Multi-Organization Coordination beyond an EOC.

Multi-Organization Coordination relies on a regular planning cycle. Coordination may be managed through regularly-scheduled meetings, teleconference calls and through the delivery of information products such as situation reports.

Multi-Organization Coordination may include:

  • Sharing information to maintain situational awareness
  • Sharing, prioritizing and coordinating resources
  • Analyzing data and other relevant information
  • Coordinating system-wide response efforts such as evacuation shelters
  • Coordinating the movement and/or evacuation of affected individuals and families
  • Coordinating places of assistance such as Family and Friends Assistance Centres (FFACs) and call centres
  • Coordinating preventive and protective measures.

Collaborative Response Networks

Multi-Organization Coordination is a key part of a collaborative coalition or network response structure (such as those within the health care sector). In network response structures, incident response organizations may work together in Unified Command (see Section 4.7 – Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination)) or maintain coordination and command of their own incident response effort and coordinate overall efforts.

Multi-Organization Coordination (MOC) Groups

Multi-Organization Coordination (MOC) Groups may need to be set up to help senior and elected officials and incident responders make policy-level decisions and support the sharing and management of resources. If used, MOC Groups should consist of senior and elected officials from communities and organizations involved in an incident response. They can be pre-arranged or called upon as needed.

These groups are key to coordinating unity of effort during a complex, non-site-based incident affecting a large geographic area. The ability to coordinate across communities and organizations at the senior-level is crucial to maintaining unity of effort. Clear communications, effective and efficient collaboration and a flexible approach are also important factors in coordinating incident response efforts.

MOC Groups should also maintain a planning cycle with regularly scheduled meetings or teleconference calls as well as routine information sharing methods such as situation reports.

Senior and Elected Officials

It is important to recognize that senior and elected officials play an important role in incident management. They are responsible for the safety and welfare of their community and the overall effectiveness and efficiency of incident response efforts.

Incident response personnel working in an EOC and at the site must share accurate and up-to-date information with the personnel responsible for briefing senior and elected officials. It is important to keep senior and elected officials informed about an incident, possible resource needs and other pertinent information. Effective and efficient communication between incident response personnel and senior and elected officials fosters trust and helps ensure that they have the information necessary to make informed decisions.

MOC Groups can help to organize senior and elected officials and enhance unity of effort at the senior-level.

4.5 Single Command

Many incidents are coordinated by a single Incident Commander (also known as an Incident Manager). Incident Command led by a single Incident Commander has several advantages, such as quickly establishing incident objectives, strategies and tactics. This is especially important when timely decision-making involves life safety or damage to property and/or the environment.

Single Command is generally the preferred form of incident management except in rare circumstances where Unified Command is more effective (see Section 4.7 – Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination)).

Single Command occurs when the first arriving responder attends the scene of an incident. The first arriving responder is responsible for the coordination and command of an incident response and carrying out all IMS functions until additional incident responders arrive at the scene of an incident. A transfer of command may take place to a more experienced or senior-level responder representing the lead organization responsible for the incident response.

Responsibility for Single Command may be determined in one or all of the following ways by:

  • Default if only one incident response organization is involved
  • Design if multiple incident response organizations agree on which organization will be the lead organization and confirm Single Command
  • Legislation if the incident response organization or jurisdiction has a legislative responsibility to become the lead organization in the incident response.

4.6 Area Command

Area Command is set up to manage multiple sites. It can also be used to manage large or escalating incidents that include multiple response organizations. Each site and organization involved in an incident response will have their own incident management team.

Incident response organizations under Area Command will develop broad objectives for their assigned area and work with the incident management teams to coordinate individual incident objectives, strategies and tactics. Under Area Command, they will also set priorities for the sharing of critical resources across incident sites.

Situations which may require Area Command may include:

  • An infectious disease outbreak involving multiple jurisdictions and health partners
  • Multiple terrorism related incidents
  • Multiple incidents that occur at the same time such as a train derailment causing a release of hazardous materials in extreme weather conditions.

In some incidents, Area Command will be a form of Unified Command. Section 4.7 – Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination) explains Unified Command.

4.7 Unified Command (also known as Unified Coordination)

Multi-jurisdictional incidents require action from multiple response organizations that each have the accountability and responsibility to manage certain aspects of an incident. In incidents involving multiple incident response organizations, efforts should be made to agree on a single incident commander (see Section 4.5 – Single Command).

However, in rare instances, the decision-making process in an incident may require the involvement of multiple response organizations, making it difficult to establish Single Command. In this case, there is the option to establish Unified Command. It is important to note that Unified Command may make the incident response process challenging, therefore its use should be rare. There may also be the need to invest more time and effort in maintaining a common operating picture to ensure that the decisions of multiple incident response organizations are informed by the same, shared information.

Unified Command is when the management of an incident is shared between two or more lead organizations or jurisdictions through a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics.[4] It may be established when:

  • Organizations have an existing agreement to share command
  • The lead organization decides that a joint-approach will be more effective
  • Organizations have overlapping jurisdiction and/or a legislative requirement that requires them to be in command
  • Incident response organizations cannot agree about who should assume Single Command and there is a danger that response efforts will be uncoordinated with a risk to the safety of the public and responders, and/or the protection of property as a result.

If Unified Command needs to be established, the lead response organizations should:

  • Explicitly agree that they have entered Unified Command and the agreement to Unified Command should be verbally stated and signed in the written IAP
  • Establish a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics
  • Develop a single IAP.

Unified Command, by agreement, is responsible for the following:

  • Selecting one spokesperson to represent Unified Command (when necessary)
    • There may be different spokespersons on different occasions but there will only be one spokesperson at a time
  • Selecting one Operations Section Chief from the incident response organization with the greatest jurisdictional or functional involvement. This individual will be responsible for implementing the single IAP
    • The Operations Section Chief may have one or more Deputy Operations Section Chiefs
  • Selecting one Planning Section Chief to coordinate planning activities
  • Establishing a schedule for regular coordination and planning meetings
  • Setting up a single Incident Command Post or management from a single EOC
  • Developing a plan for coordinated public communications
  • Determining the circumstances in which a return to Single Command may be required
  • Documentation of actions and activities throughout the incident.

Re-evaluation of Unified Command

As an incident progresses, the command structure may need to adapt to meet the needs of the incident. Unified Command should be assessed regularly to ensure that it remains the best option to respond to an incident. A plan to return to Single Command should be developed to ensure an effective and efficient transition if necessary.

4.8 Transfer of Command

In an incident, the first arriving responder becomes the Incident Commander and they are responsible for all of the IMS functions required for the response. The transfer of command may occur if:

  • A previously appointed or more appropriate responder is needed to fill the role of the Incident Commander
  • Coordination and Command must be handed over to a different response organization
  • There is a shift change.

If the Incident Commander changes, a detailed hand-over briefing is required.

4.9  Working Together – Coordinating and Collaborating Effectively

The goal of coordination is to organize the incident response organizations into a single, cohesive response.

Working together effectively and efficiently requires:

  • Coordinated planning, resource management and integrated information sharing and communications
  • Coordination may be explicit (briefings, teleconference calls, Incident Action Plans and other documents) or implicit (discussions, planning, liaising and working together).

It is important to note that collaboration can be:

  • Vertical: between the site and an EOC
  • Horizontal: between communities and organizations.

At the site, the Incident Commander is responsible for coordinating response activities with incident response organizations as well as the personnel and resources they manage.

At an EOC, the EOC Director is often responsible for coordinating support to the site, briefing senior and elected officials and information sharing with incident response organizations.

In a complex incident, multiple EOCs may come together in a coordinated network response. Individual response organizations set their own objectives to manage their response activities while ensuring communication, coordination and collaboration through regularly scheduled planning and information sharing meetings.

At the Multi-Organization Coordination level, senior and elected officials must work together to establish and communicate policy-level priorities as well as authorizing resources and activities that require senior-level approvals.

A regular planning cycle should be established that includes all incident response organizations. A planning cycle includes:

  • Frequent communication such as briefings between the Incident Commander and incident responders within the Operations Section
  • Frequent communication between the Incident Commander and EOC Directors
  • Frequent communication between incident response organizations through Liaison Officers, teleconference calls and situation reports
  • Inclusion of EOC personnel in an incident response planning process
  • Inclusion of incident response organizations in the development and implementation of IAPs
  • Ensuring coordinated communications and information sharing (e.g., posting the operational and planning cycles).

4.10 Complex Incidents

Complex incidents involve many factors which cannot be easily analyzed and understood. They may be prolonged, large-scale and/or involve multiple jurisdictions. They may also require technical knowledge and/or training in combination with other needs and requirements.

When complex incidents involve mass casualties, they can overwhelm traditional response structures. The nature of an incident can make centralized response systems such as IMS less effective in the early stages of an incident.

In a highly complex, chaotic incident such as a mass humanitarian disaster, collaboration instead of command and control is important for an effective and efficient response. Unified Command may be more effective because of the need for greater collaboration.

A coordinated and collaborative network approach can help communities and organizations respond more effectively and efficiently to complex incidents.

Importance of Communication

In a mass humanitarian disaster or a complex non-site-specific incident such as a heat wave, internal and external communication across communities and organizations is an important step for an effective and efficient response. In the early stages of a complex non-site-specific incident, it is also important to create a common operating picture and develop ways to help communities and organizations collaborate effectively and efficiently.

A complex incident response requires:

  • Sharing a high-level overview of situational awareness
  • Leveraging the flexibility within IMS and adapting as needed
  • Collaboration with incident response organizations (the liaison function is important in a complex incident response)
  • Understanding and accepting that establishing coordination systems may take time
  • Understanding and accepting that incident response organizations may have different objectives, but it is important that these objectives do not conflict with the objectives of other organizations.

United Nations Collaboration Model for Mass Humanitarian Disasters

The United Nations (UN) uses the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) Model to provide flexible incident management through effective collaboration during a sudden, chaotic or highly complex disaster response. It may be useful during a mass humanitarian disaster.

The UN Model is more decentralized and clusters operations based on recognized sectors of humanitarian activity. Cluster partners may include provincial and national organizations from all levels including international organizations and NGOs.

5 Response Escalation Guidelines

IMS is scalable. This section explains how response organizations can shift from responding to small scale incidents to larger, more complex incidents and vice-versa.

The size of the response may be limited by the resources available to responders. Pre-existing agreements with partner organizations and jurisdictions can help expand response capacity when the needs of an incident go beyond the ability of an organization to respond alone.

The following factors can help incident responders make a decision to adjust the scale of the incident response structure:

  • Increased or increasing safety risk to incident responders, members of the public, critical infrastructure, property and/or the environment
  • The size and complexity of the incident
  • Concerns surrounding span of control.

Incidents can be classified as a:

  • Small incident (single organization): Site response only
  • Large incident (multiple organizations): Site with optional EOC support
  • Major incident: Site(s) and EOC(s) support and with optional Multi-Organization Coordination
  • Local, provincial and national emergencies: Site(s) or non-site specific with multiple EOCs and Multi-Organization Coordination, spanning across a large region or provincially declared emergencies or federally declared national emergencies.

(See Table 1: Response Level Criteria)

When does an incident become a complex incident?

Response escalation guidelines can help communities and organizations gather the amount of support and resources necessary to meet the needs of an incident. As an incident begins to include any of the factors described in Section 4.10 – Complex Incidents, it becomes a complex incident. These factors can include multiple sites, multiple jurisdictions, mass casualties and/or a high demand for crisis communications.

A small incident requiring a single organization to respond is not a complex incident. The same applies in a large incident requiring multiple response organizations that would be considered as routine and easily managed by the response organizations. For example, firefighters would respond to a large house fire while paramedics would treat any injuries and police officers control the scene. In this example, the incident could easily be within the scope of ordinary operations for the response organizations involved and therefore, it is not a complex incident.

However, a large apartment fire resulting in mass casualties, impacting the daily life of the community and requiring the evacuation of residents is both a major and complex incident. All major incidents are complex incidents. All local, provincial and national level emergencies are also complex incidents.

Table 1: Response Level Criteria

Cells containing x's indicate criteria.
Response Level Site Multiple Organizations EOC Multi-organization Coordination Multiple EOCs Multiple Sites / Non-site Specific Complex Incident Affecting whole regional area or provincial or federally declared emergency

1. Small Incident (single organization)

x

             

2. Large Incident

x

x

x

(optional)

x

(optional)

x (optional)

     

3. Major Incident

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

4. Local, Provincial and National Emergencies

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Various factors can cause an incident to escalate or de-escalate. Some incidents may occur as a Local, Provincial or National Emergency and scale down where possible.

5.1 Small Incident (single organization): Site only

In a single organization response, there is a single line of command. Resources (personnel and equipment) come from one organization.

In this type of incident response, the first arriving responder becomes the Incident Commander. They are responsible for all of the IMS functions required for an incident response and should be prepared to activate additional functions as required. In a motor vehicle collision, there may be victims requiring medical attention, media agencies inquiring about the collision and other hazards that may be present. The Incident Commander is likely to assume some functions such as Public Information Management and field inquiries from the media.

For the purposes of this document, the site may also be virtual and contained within one organization. For example, a local health clinic may detect a computer virus attempting to breach the patient record database however, the data is not compromised and patients are not affected.

If additional response organizations are required to manage an incident, the incident will escalate to a large incident (see Section 5.2 – Large Incident (Multiple Organizations): Site with Optional EOC Support).

5.2 Large Incident (multiple organizations): Site with optional EOC support

If multiple organizations are required to respond to an incident, the incident will escalate from a single organization incident to a multi-organization incident. When this occurs, the incident management structure will need to expand to help the additional response organizations work together towards common incident objectives.

The Incident Commander must coordinate response activities across all incident response organizations. The Incident Commander should be a representative from the lead response organization and have the authority to make command-level decisions. For example, in a large explosion with multiple casualties, the Incident Commander (or Unified Command if necessary) coordinates multiple response organization activities such as search and rescue and site stabilization while protecting the safety of responders and the public.

The Incident Commander (or Unified Command if necessary) may appoint IMS Section Chiefs to help coordinate different functions effectively and efficiently. For instance, in the large explosion example above, the Planning Section will help plan for potential risks and suggest strategies on how to mitigate them. If the Incident Commander or Section Chief(s) change, a detailed hand-over briefing is required (See 4.8 – Transfer of Command).

An EOC may also be opened. There are various reasons to open an EOC. The Incident Commander may decide that the incident requires additional support. In this case, a community or organization may decide to open an EOC to provide support to resources at the site.

Multi-Organization Coordination

In some incidents, there may be more than one EOC involved. It is important for the EOCs involved to maintain regular communication and coordinate their actions. In some incidents, one EOC may act as the lead EOC. In other incidents such as widespread health incidents, Unified Coordination or a more collaborative network incident response structure may be more effective.

It is important to note that there may be multiple incident management teams operating beyond the site of an incident. For example, in the case of a shortage of a critical care drug, Multi-Organization Coordination would be required to coordinate activities between hospitals, clinical care experts, ethicists, Health Canada and the Ministry of Health.

Communication

Communication with and between EOCs and response organizations is an important part of incident management. In a large incident involving multiple EOCs, a decision may be made to assign public information to one EOC. In this case, the assigned EOC may coordinate overall public information.

Incident responders and the organizations they represent need to be included in planning cycle meetings and at the Incident Command Post. Where applicable, incident response organizations also need to maintain contact with the EOC either by phone, email or in-person. This helps all organizations involved in an incident to share information, support incident objectives and provide resources needed in the response.

If an incident no longer requires multiple organizations to support an incident response, it may be de-escalated to a small incident (see Section 5.1 – Small Incident (single organization): Site only). However, if an incident becomes complex or prolonged, the response may escalate to a major incident (see Section 5.3 – Major incident: Complex incident with site(s) and EOCs with Optional Multi-Organization Coordination (may be non-site specific)).

5.3 Major Incident: Complex incident with site(s) and EOC(s) with optional Multi-Organization Coordination (may be non-site specific)

A major incident can either be a large-scale or long-term incident. It will be a complex incident as described in Section 4.10 – Complex Incidents. In a major incident, all IMS functions will likely need to be activated.

A complex incident with a large site may have to be divided into geographic sectors with a leader assigned to each sector. All leaders for the geographic sectors would then report to the Incident Commander at an Incident Command Post. For incidents that may have multiple sites such as wildland fires, the incident response effort may need to be coordinated from Area Command.

In a large incident, IMS functional sections may be expanded to ensure an appropriate response. In a high-rise fire requiring an evacuation, the Operations Section would oversee fire suppression efforts and the evacuation of residents.

In a major incident, one or more EOCs will be necessary to provide incident support to the site(s).

In all incidents, an EOC should be opened when:

  • Coordination, command and support to the site is required
  • Multi-organization or multi-incident responses need additional coordination.

It is important that the planning cycle includes regular communication between EOCs and the incident response organizations. The Liaison Officer plays an important role in communicating with outside communities, organizations and stakeholders (for more information about the Liaison Officer, see Section 6.2 – Coordination and Command Staff (also known as Command Staff)). Coordination between organizations may also take place through Multi-Organization Coordination.

Part of the planning cycle may include a formal reporting schedule. It is important for all communities and organizations involved in an incident response to collectively develop a plan to ensure that the incident response has the necessary resources (personnel and equipment). This should be part of building a written IAP.

As an incident is brought under control, the incident response may scale down. A long-term response may scale up and down several times depending on the nature of the incident and the response that is required. During a flooding event, the response may be scaled down as water levels return to normal but scaled up again if water levels start to increase. Scaling an incident up and down can also occur for technology-related incidents. For example, if an organization is scaling down as it recovers from a cyber-attack, the incident response may need to be scaled up if another cyber-attack occurs.

5.4 Local, Provincial and National Level Emergency: Complex incident affecting site(s) over a large geographic area or non-site specific with multiple EOCs and Multi-Organization Coordination

A local, provincial and national level emergency is a complex incident with very serious or potentially catastrophic consequences to life safety, critical infrastructure, property and/or the environment. The duration of the incident response and/or recovery period in these large-scale incidents may last for an extended period of time. For example, a nuclear incident would fall into this response level.

A local, provincial and national level emergency is different from a major incident. For example, a high-rise fire may require local, provincial and/or federal support but is not an emergency affecting an entire local, provincial and/or federal jurisdiction. Local, provincial and national level emergencies may involve a large geographic area or may be non-site specific and have consequences which may affect a large geographic area. Local emergencies involve whole communities (towns, cities, municipalities or regions). A provincial emergency can affect a part of or the entire province and a national emergency can affect a part of or the entire country.

In a local, provincial and national level emergency, one or more EOCs are opened to coordinate multi-organization or multi-incident response between the respective sites. Incidents often begin as a locally managed response and a request for assistance from provincial ministries, federal departments and other organizations may be made. Scaling up an incident response level from local to provincial may be due to a request for assistance. On rare occasions, the incident response level may already be scaled up as a result of a provincial or a national declaration of an emergency.

In an incident where there are multiple sites:

  • Each site has an Incident Commander with assigned response tasks
  • Coordination and command is required between sites to avoid duplication of effort
  • Area Command may be established unless the site is so broad that an EOC is more appropriate to act as Area Command
  • The EOC should be informed of resource availability and requirements
  • Area Command or the EOC should ensure communications and support arrangements are in place and communicated across the various sites and incident response organizations.

Non-Site-Specific Incidents

In some cases, an incident may not have a defined site. Examples include system-wide incidents such as a pandemic or a cyber-attack. Responses to system-wide incidents:

  • Are often collaborative, with coordination between partners rather than top-down decisions
  • Are often coordinated through EOCs and by Multi-Organization Coordination
  • May have international factors and be guided by international regulations.

It should be noted that certain rare incidents require either provincial or federal management from the beginning of an incident. In Ontario, the provincial government has primary responsibility for coordinating the off-site effects and off-site response in a nuclear incident. At the national level, Transport Canada would respond to an incident involving Canadian airspace, as it is the statutory responsibility of the federal government.

6 Site Coordination: Sections and Roles

Incident Commander

In an incident with clear physical boundaries such as a house fire, the site is referred to as being “inside the yellow tape.” Coordination and Command of an incident at the site is led by an Incident Commander. The Incident Commander title is commonly used and it reflects the coordination and command structure of many response organizations and agencies.

However, if several response organizations use the Incident Commander title internally, having multiple Incident Commanders at the site may lead to confusion. In this case, IMS supports the use of the title Incident Manager as an alternative to Incident Commander.

The optional alternative: Incident Manager

The Incident Manager title may be useful for coordination of complex incidents such as a health emergency which may have multiple sites or no defined site. In these incidents, there will be multiple response organizations involved and the coordination and command function may or may not involve setting objectives, strategies and tactics for the incident response.

In complex incidents, the coordination and command function may take place through a network approach. This is a more decentralized and collaborative approach where response organizations set their own objectives, strategies and tactics.

The Incident Manager will set high-level objectives, but their primary role may be to manage the communication, coordination and collaboration between multiple incident response organizations through a regular planning cycle consisting of phone calls, in-person meetings and other forms of scheduled contact. Below are some questions to consider when choosing the Incident Manager title:

  • Is there a clearly defined site?
  • What is the organizational structure of the incident response organization?
  • Does the organization have legislative authority that requires them to assume a Command role?
  • Is the incident highly complex and decentralized, with no single site?
  • Does one or more incident response organizations use the Incident Commander title which could cause confusion?

6.1 Site Coordination and Command

The Incident Commander is responsible for the overall management of an incident response effort at the site. A single Incident Commander (or in rare cases Unified Command) is responsible for the coordination and command function.

The Coordination and Command staff (also known as the Command Staff) work directly with the Incident Commander to carry out the coordination and command function. The General Staff then lead functional sections (see Chart 1: Incident Management Organizational Chart) and report directly to the Incident Commander. Together, the Coordination and Command staff and General Staff support incident coordination and command and may provide specialized knowledge, skills and advice to respond to an incident.

IMS is Scalable

An incident may only require one or a few incident responders. The Incident Commander may respond on their own or with only one or two functional sections stood up. In this case, all other functions still need to be performed. This means that if the Operations Section is the only section that has been stood up, the Incident Commander is responsible for ensuring that the functions under the Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration (and when required, Public Information Management) sections are carried out.

Chart 1: Incident Management Organizational Chart
An organizational chart to describe the incident response structure. It consists of Incident Command and is divided into functional sections including: an Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section and Finance and Administration Section.

The incident response structure is divided into functional sections. Each section is responsible for carrying out specific activities that support the incident response.

Every incident will have unique needs. Some incidents will need all sections to be stood up while others may not need every section. In smaller communities and organizations, there may not be enough personnel to fill every section. When an incident requires fewer personnel or if the organization does not have enough personnel for an incident response, existing personnel can perform multiple functions. In some responses, the Incident Commander may perform all of the functions. In other responses, an EOC may have an EOC Director, a combined Operations and Planning Section Chief and a combined Logistics and Finance and Administration Section Chief.

6.2 Coordination and Command Staff (also known as Command Staff)

Chart 2: Site Coordination and Command Staff
An organizational chart that describes the Site Coordination and Command Staff structure. It consists of an Incident Commander, Liaison Officer, Safety Officer, Emergency Information Officer and a Scribe.

The Site Coordination and Command Staff structure may include a Liaison Officer, a Safety Officer and an Emergency Information Officer (EIO). A Scribe is also recommended to take notes and document key activities. Note: Positions are only filled as required.

This incident response structure may also apply to an EOC if the EOC is responsible for Coordination and Command of the site. For example, there is usually no defined site in an infectious disease outbreak that becomes a pandemic. In this case, Coordination and Command of the pandemic response may take place at an EOC.

Coordination and Command Staff Roles

Liaison Officer
  • The primary contact for incident response organizations; reporting directly to the Incident Commander
  • Incident response organizations may include all levels of government, first responder services, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector organizations
  • Incident response organizations may provide knowledge, skills and/or other supports arranged through the Liaison Officer.
Safety Officer
  • Monitors safety conditions and develops safety measures for an incident
  • Assesses and communicates information on hazards that are present within an incident
  • Advises the Incident Commander (or Unified Command) on matters relating to the health and safety of incident responders
  • Ensures that the required personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn
  • Contributes to the safety portion of the IAP and/or Incident Medical Plan as needed
  • Coordinates safety efforts if more than one response organization is involved in the incident
  • Has the authority to change, suspend or stop any activities that are deemed hazardous in order to protect the health and safety of incident responders.

It is important to note that final responsibility for health and safety matters in an incident rests with the Incident Commander.

Emergency Information Officer (EIO)

The Emergency Information Officer (EIO) communicates with the public and liaises with the media to provide information relating to an incident. In a large incident, the EIO may lead a team of communications personnel. In this case, the EIO would be responsible for the Public Information Management Section. Some communities and organizations may prefer to establish the public information management function into a distinct section with the EIO leading the function as the Section Chief (see Section 7.10 – EOC Public Information Management Section (led by the EIO)).

Scribe

Scribes take notes during meetings and teleconferences as well as documenting key activities, events, agreements and any matters of potential legal significance throughout an incident. In many police services, the scribe is responsible for accompanying the Incident Commander at all times, taking notes at all Command meetings and documenting decisions made. Although a Scribe may be assigned to take notes, documentation is the responsibility of all incident responders.

Additional Roles

Scientists and Technical Specialists: In some incidents, a Scientist or Technical Specialist may be needed to provide technical expertise and recommendations. Scientists and Technical Specialists may:

  • Have specific responsibilities and authorities for incidents such as chemical spills or nuclear incidents
  • Be included in the Operations Section or Planning Section as required
  • Have a dedicated Scientific/Technical section stood up in an incident, but this is rare and usually only happens in an EOC (see Section 7.13 – Scientific/Technical Section).

Deputy Incident Commander: In a large or complex incident, an Incident Commander may appoint a Deputy Incident Commander to assist with incident coordination and command. The Deputy Incident Commander may also take site command while the Incident Commander handles other duties such as acting as a public spokesperson or briefing senior and elected officials.

Additional IMS Functions at the Site: In some incidents, additional functions may be required. At the site, additional IMS functions may include Intelligence, Investigations, Scientific/Technical, Continuity of Operations and Emergency Social Services (ESS).

6.3 Planning Section

The Planning Section is responsible for maintaining situational awareness, developing the IAP and long-term planning. The Planning Section function can be performed by the Incident Commander, by a Planning Section Chief or an entire Planning Section may be stood up depending on the capacity of the incident response organization.

Making Plans

The Planning Section has three main planning functions: Incident Action Planning, Long-Term Planning and Contingency Planning.

Incident Action Planning is the first priority for the Planning Section. Incident Action Planning activities include:

  • Working with the Incident Commander and the other functional sections to prepare the IAP that captures incident objectives, strategies and tactics for the next operational period
  • Producing and sharing a written version of the IAP.

The Planning Section should develop long-term plans that consider all possible situations and resource needs beyond the current operational period as well as contingency plans that incorporate possible risks and outcomes based on the best and worst-case scenarios. The Planning Section should also develop demobilization plans.

Information Management

The Planning Section at the site is responsible for the information management function by maintaining situational awareness and record keeping.

The Planning Section:

  • Collects, confirms, analyzes and shares information about an incident
  • Develops situation reports and ensures that up-to-date situation information is available to incident responders
  • Manages documentation and records relating to an incident.

6.4 Operations Section

The Operations Section carries out the tactical activities necessary to implement the IAP. This includes managing the day-to-day response and establishing short-term planning.

The Operations Section Chief should organize the Operations Section to meet the needs of an incident and make efficient use of resources assigned to an incident. Like all IMS Sections, the Operations Section is scalable and the function can be performed by the Incident Commander, an Operations Section Chief or an Operations Section stood up and staffed by incident responders.

The Operations Section coordinates all incident response actions. The Operations Section may include personnel from incident response organizations that have a major role in the response.

The primary responsibilities of the Operations Section include:

  • Coordinating incident response activities
  • Communicating with the Incident Commander and other functional sections to keep incident responders informed of the current situation
  • Supporting the development of the IAP, including the development of strategies and tactics to achieve incident objectives
  • Implementing the IAP and making adjustments if necessary as the situation changes
    • The Operations Section Chief is responsible for assessing whether any changes require the Incident Commander's approval
  • Managing the operation of all resources assigned to an incident
  • Planning immediate response tasks in detail
  • Coordinating volunteer activities.

It is important to note that in a complex incident, the Operations Section may need to be expanded to include multiple branches such as volunteer management, victim services or emergency social services.

6.5 Logistics Section

The Logistics Section performs several important functions at the site such as providing and tracking resources to support an incident response. The resources arranged support both the incident and the incident responders. For example, the Logistics Section may need to arrange the delivery of heavy equipment to the site and order food for the incident responders.

The Logistics Section works closely with the Operations Section to meet current resource requirements and also works with the Planning Section to anticipate future resource needs. The Logistics Section also works closely with the Finance and Administration Section to coordinate the procurement, tracking and payment for resources as well as keeping records.

Resources may include:

  • Personnel
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Services
  • Facilities
  • Telecommunications and IT support
  • Transportation
  • Medical services for incident response personnel.

The primary responsibilities of the Logistics Section include:

  • Ordering, receiving, storing and housing resources
  • Setting up, maintaining and demobilizing facilities such as the Incident Command Post
  • Arranging transportation
  • Setting up, maintaining and tracking telecommunications and IT equipment
  • Providing medical services for incident responders
  • Arranging food services.

The Logistics Section has an important role to play at the site where a large amount of resources are higher in demand. During an evacuation coordinated by a municipality, the Logistics Section at the site may arrange food, shelter and other personal items for evacuees.

6.6 Finance and Administration Section

The Finance and Administration Section is responsible for the financial and administrative aspects of an incident including tracking personnel time sheets. Typically, the majority of work under the Finance and Administration Section is not carried out at the site.

Some complex incidents may require financial and administrative expertise at the site. This may be in the form of a single resource or multiple personnel to track costs, resources and other financial and administrative matters as required.

6.7 Bringing the Sections Together

All functional incident responders and functional sections must work towards common objectives and a common operating picture. It is important to avoid having incident responders and functional sections work independently of one another.

In order to work together effectively and efficiently, it is important to:

  • Establish a planning cycle that includes regular communication (formal and informal) through situation reports, meetings and briefings
  • Clearly define responsibilities, including the need to communicate effectively with all incident responders
  • Encourage teamwork and team problem-solving
  • Communicate situational awareness updates to the Situation Unit so they can be shared with incident responders
  • Participate in training and exercises together to build relationships, trust and networks to become better prepared in an incident response.

7 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and Additional Incident Management Locations

7.1 What is an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC)?

An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a place where incident response personnel and the communities and organizations they represent come together to:

  • Support incident response activities and responders at the site as well as other EOCs (when applicable)
  • Coordinate incident resources as well as inter-organizational activities and internal operations relating to an incident
  • Coordinate plans and planning for short and long-term needs
  • Coordinate and command incident response directly from an EOC (usually in non-site-based incidents)
  • Coordinate collaboration between incident response organizations and additional EOCs.
  • Share the responsibility with incident responders at the site and manage certain operations such as emergency shelters or points of distribution.

An EOC may also be the site of Area Command.

An EOC is a place where a set of functions are carried out.

Incident responders may request resources or guidance from an EOC. The functions of an EOC can also be performed virtually, either by choice or due to circumstances such as poor weather conditions where travelling is not safe.

Staffing an EOC will depend on the size and nature of the community and/or organization. Where possible, it is encouraged that all EOC personnel take emergency management training and education in order to perform their assigned duties in an EOC effectively and efficiently.

It is also important that EOC personnel participate in training and exercises so that they are prepared to quickly set up an EOC and work together effectively and efficiently in an incident.

7.2 When to open an EOC

A municipality, government ministry or an organization such as a police service may decide to open their EOC for various reasons.

They may require additional resources to support an incident response or use the facility where an EOC is located to prepare for an emerging threat such as an infectious disease outbreak. An EOC may also be opened to manage a planned event.[5]

Below are some instances where opening an EOC may be needed:

  • A complex incident outside of normal operations occurs which requires the involvement of many incident responders representing various communities and/or organizations or crosses boundaries into neighbouring jurisdictions
  • A potentially high-risk incident is about to occur such as a flood or a winter storm[6]
  • The Incident Commander believes an incident could grow rapidly with the potential to cause a chain of effects and/or require additional resources
  • The EOC Director and/or a senior or elected official requests the opening of an EOC
  • An incident that is non-site-specific, such as a health emergency
  • A planned event.

Just as IMS is scalable at the site, it is also scalable in an EOC. However, an EOC may only consist of an EOC Director providing support to the site or have some or all functional sections stood up.

7.3 EOC Options

The role of an EOC may vary due to the nature of the response and the incident response organization. EOCs often provide support to the site(s). However, in some responses, they may play a coordination or, more rarely, a command role.

EOCs vary in size and staffing. Some EOCs are smaller and are staffed by personnel that are called upon. Others are larger and have permanently staffed positions. It is important that all EOC personnel have taken necessary training and participate in regular testing and exercises to ensure that the EOC option used by the community and/or organization works effectively during an incident.

This section outlines three EOC options. All EOC options are interoperable with the site and with one another. The EOC option chosen should be based on what works best for the community and/or organization.

In some communities and organizations, the layout of an EOC is similar to the site. The EOC option that best matches this layout is Option 1 – Site-Based EOC. In this option, the functional sections are site-based and have the same names (see Section 7.9 – Option 1 – Site-Based EOC).

In other communities and organizations, there is greater emphasis for an EOC to gather situational awareness and provide support to the site. The EOC option that best matches this layout is Option 2 – Incident Support EOC (see Section 7.11 – Option 2 – Incident Support EOC). Option 2 may be highly useful in EOCs that mostly focus on gathering information. When obtaining and sharing information is the primary role of an EOC, the Liaison Officer and incident response personnel may take on a central role within an EOC.

The third EOC option, Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC, places greater emphasis on providing support to the site and has functional section names similar to those used at the site (see Section 7.12 – Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC).

Using IMS is also recommended at additional incident management locations. Additional incident management locations are places that coordinate and support incident response activities such as Family and Friends Assistance Centres or general reception centres. Using IMS at all locations involved in an incident response promotes interoperability and allows all incident responders and the communities and organizations they represent to work together effectively and efficiently.

7.4 Standard EOC Roles and Responsibilities

EOCs have standard roles and responsibilities. The EOC Director decides which roles must be staffed and which sections are required to manage the incident effectively and efficiently.

EOC Roles

EOC Director: In most incidents, the main responsibility of an EOC Director is to coordinate support (resources and information) for an incident response. EOC Directors may also coordinate other aspects of an incident response such as traffic control operations or flood mitigation efforts. In rare circumstances, the EOC Director may be in command of an incident response and take on the title of EOC Commander.

Health and Safety Officer: This is the EOC equivalent of the Safety Officer. The Health and Safety Officer is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of the incident response personnel within an EOC.[7]

Liaison Officer: The primary contact for outside communities and organizations involved in supporting an incident response. Communities and organizations may include all levels of government, NGOs and private sector organizations. The Liaison Officer advises the EOC Director on any matters relating to outside support for an incident response, including any requests for assistance.

Emergency Information Officer (EIO): The Emergency Information Officer acts as the public information lead. The EIO (or a designate) may be deployed to the site or sit within Coordination and Command at an EOC. The EIO should brief the EOC Director and other incident responders on matters relating to public information. It is important to note that all internal information management is the responsibility of all incident responders but in particular, the Planning Section in a site-based EOC option. In a large incident response with a greater need for communications, a Public Information Management Section may be stood up with the EIO acting as the Section Chief (see Section 7.10 – EOC Public Information Management Section (led by the EIO)).

Scribe: The primary responsibility of Scribes is incident record-keeping. Scribes take and collect notes throughout the duration of an incident. They should also take notes during meetings and teleconference calls as well as record key activities, events, agreements and any matters of potential legal significance. In many organizations such as police services, the Scribe is responsible for following the Incident Commander at all times, taking notes at all Command meetings and documenting decisions made. Incident record keeping is everyone's responsibility and all incident responders should take notes.

Additional Roles

Scientific/Technical: The Scientist or Technical Specialist provides expertise, monitors various activities and may recommend mitigation or protective actions if needed. The Scientist or Technical Specialist may sit within Coordination and Command. If needed, a dedicated Scientific/Technical Section can be stood up.

Deputy EOC Director: In the absence of an EOC Director, the Deputy EOC Director may be given the authority to manage a function or coordinate tasks. In some cases, the Deputy EOC Director may step in when an EOC Director is handling other duties such as briefing senior and elected officials.

Executive Assistant to EOC Director: The primary responsibility of the Executive Assistant role is to support the work of an EOC Director. The Executive Assistant often coordinates the “briefing up” of incident information to senior and elected officials, which includes managing correspondence, preparing briefing decks and other documents as needed.

Legal Advisor: The Legal Advisor may be needed to provide advice and to identify and manage legal matters relating to an incident.

Other roles within an EOC are usually carried out within specific sections. The roles and responsibilities of each section are described in Sections 7.5 – 7.9 and in Sections 7.10 – 7.13.

7.5 EOC Operations Section and Variations

Unless an EOC has a command responsibility, an EOC Operations Section does not carry out tactical activities needed to directly respond to an incident. This is the responsibility of the site operations team.

The EOC Operations Section may focus on supporting the response or directly coordinating aspects of an incident. If the Operations Section is staffed by more than one person, the Operations Section Chief should organize the section to meet the incident's needs and make efficient use of resources. The EOC Operations Section should include incident response personnel from other communities and organizations that have a role in the incident response.

IMS offers three EOC options to reflect the different communities and organizations as well as the roles of EOCs in various incidents (see Sections 7.9 – 7.12 for information on the EOC options):

  • EOC Option 1 uses a site-based EOC Operations Section that helps support site operations. The EOC Operations Section is responsible for communication and coordination with the site.
  • EOC Option 2 combines the responsibilities of the Operations Section with the Situation Unit and is referred to as the Situational Awareness Section.
  • EOC Option 3 refers the Operations Section as the Operational Awareness Section and includes both the responsibilities of the Operations Section and those carried out by the Situation Unit.

Regardless of the EOC options, an EOC Operations Section should coordinate with other EOCs and incident response organizations throughout the planning cycle. This may include meetings, teleconference calls and other regularly scheduled check-ins. This section may work with the Logistics Section to gather resources for the site or with the Planning Section to develop short-term plans.

The primary responsibilities of the EOC Operations Section include:

  • Coordinating day-to-day support and EOC coordination activities on behalf of the EOC Director
  • Communicating with the EOC Director and other functional sections to keep them informed of the current situation
  • Supporting the development of the Incident Action Plan, including the development of objectives, strategies and tactics
  • Implementing the IAP and making adjustments if necessary as the incident develops
    • The Operations Section Chief is responsible for determining whether any changes require the EOC Director's approval)
  • Managing the operation of all resources assigned to an incident.

If an incident involves a large number of casualties, a victim services or emergency social services branch may also be required within an EOC Operations Section.

7.6 EOC Planning Section

The EOC Planning Section is responsible for managing the Incident Action Plan process, long-term planning and contingency planning. Depending on the EOC option, they may also be responsible for situational awareness. The Planning Section function can be performed by an EOC Director, a single Planning Section Chief or an entire Planning Section may be stood up and staffed depending on the size of the incident response organization and the nature of the incident.

It is important to note that unlike the site, the Situation Unit may or may not sit within the EOC Planning Section. In EOC Option 2, the Situational Awareness Section takes on the role of the Situation Unit and is responsible for gathering, sharing and maintaining situational awareness. In EOC Option 3, the Operational Awareness Section takes on the role of the Situation Unit. Regardless of the EOC option, situational awareness must be clearly assigned and is key to effective and efficient incident management.

Developing Plans

The EOC Planning Section has three main planning functions: Incident Action Planning, Long-term Planning and Contingency Planning.

Incident Action Planning is the first priority for an EOC Planning Section. The Incident Action Planning process includes:

  • Working with other functional sections and the EOC Director to prepare the IAP that captures incident objectives, strategies and tactics for the next operational period
  • Producing and sharing a written version of the Incident Action Plan.

Long-Term Planning is an ongoing task. The Long-Term Planning process includes:

  • Consulting with the other functional sections and the EOC Director as well as making use of existing plans such as an emergency response plan
  • Considering scenarios for possible situations and resource needs beyond the current operational period based on current situational awareness and risk assessments
  • Developing plans for incident response activities beyond the current IAP
  • When needed, beginning to plan for the shift from response to recovery, including demobilization (see Section 8 – Demobilization).

Contingency Planning is an important aspect of preparedness both before and during an incident. The Contingency Planning process includes:

  • Creating plans that incorporate possible risks and outcomes based on the best and worst-case scenarios for possible events that may happen in the future in order to be better prepared.

The Situation Unit and Information Management

The EOC Planning Section may have an information management function if the Situation Unit is within an EOC Planning Section. The Situation Unit is responsible for maintaining situational awareness and record keeping as well as:

  • Collecting, confirming, analyzing and sharing information about an incident
  • Sharing situation reports and ensuring that current situation information is available to incident response personnel
  • Managing incident documentation and records.

7.7 EOC Logistics Section

The EOC Logistics Section locates, provides and tracks resources to support an incident response. These resources support both the incident and the responders. In EOC Option 2, the responsibilities outlined in this section are performed by the Resource and Operational Support Section.

The EOC Logistics Section is responsible for meeting the needs of an EOC and/or additional incident management locations as well as its personnel. This includes ensuring that there is equipment, supplies and food as needed for an EOC and/or additional incident management locations.

Resources at the site or in an EOC may include:

  • Personnel
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Services
  • Facilities
  • Telecommunications and IT support
  • Transportation
  • Medical services for incident response personnel.

The primary responsibilities of the EOC Logistics Section include:

  • Ordering, receiving, storing and housing resources such as supplies and personnel.
  • Setting up, maintaining and demobilizing facilities such as the EOC and/or additional incident management locations
  • Arranging transportation
  • Setting up, maintaining and tracking telecommunications and IT equipment
  • Providing medical services for incident response personnel
  • Arranging food services.

The EOC Logistics Section often works closely with the EOC Finance and Administration Section to coordinate efforts around procurement, tracking and paying for resources and keeping records.

7.8 EOC Finance and Administration Section

In EOC Option 2, the responsibilities outlined in this section are divided between the Resource and Operational Support Section and the EOC Support Section as described in Section 7.11 – Option 2 – Incident Support EOC. In EOC Option 3, the responsibilities outlined in this section are carried out by the EOC Support and Finance and Administration Section.

The primary responsibilities of the EOC Finance and Administration Section include:

  • Managing financial matters, including leases and vendor contracts
  • Tracking and reporting on costs incurred
  • Recommending cost-saving measures
  • Managing administrative databases
  • Tracking timesheets for incident response personnel and other resources
  • Tracking, analyzing and reporting on compensation resulting from property damage or injuries
  • Tracking mutual assistance arrangements and monitoring their costs
  • Tracking disaster recovery assistance arrangements and monitoring their costs
  • Tracking fundraising when needed.

It is recommended that vendor contracts and mutual assistance/mutual aid arrangements are negotiated in advance to avoid resource shortages and unexpected higher costs during incidents.

7.9 Option 1 – Site-Based EOC

For incident response organizations already familiar with IMS at the site, a site-based structure may be the most preferred option. The Site-Based EOC option matches the incident response structure at the site. Some communities and organizations may modify titles and sections to meet their specific needs. It is important to train incident response personnel to recognize the standard titles so they can work effectively and efficiently with response organizations.

When an EOC is commanding an incident response, the EOC Director title may be changed to EOC Commander.

Chart 3: Option 1 – Site-Based EOC
An organizational chart to describe Option 1: Site-Based EOC structure. It consists of an EOC Director/Commander, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer, Emergency Information Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: an Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section and Finance and Administration Section.

The roles and responsibilities of the various sections are the same as the site. This may be useful when an EOC is coordinating and/or commanding incident response activities. It may be also useful for EOCs acting in support of incident response activities at the site.

7.10 EOC Public Information Management Section (led by the EIO)

Depending on what is required, an incident may operate with a single EIO or a section may be stood up and staffed with a team. Some communities and organizations may prefer to keep the EIO as part of the Coordination and Command Staff regardless of whether the EIO has a team reporting to them. Others may have a Public Information Management Section stood up with the EIO acting as the Section Chief.

The primary responsibilities of the Public Information Management Section include:

  • Preparing and sharing information with the public through public information releases, warnings and alerts
  • Monitoring the media and public reaction
  • Acting as the media liaison for all media related activities such as press briefings
  • Developing media messages for the IAP and all public facing messages
  • Advising the EOC Director/EOC Commander and Public Information Management Section personnel on communications issues.
Chart 4: Option 1 – Site-based EOC with a Public Information Management Section
An organizational chart to describe Option 1: Site-Based EOC structure with a Public Information Management Section. It consists of an EOC Director/Commander, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: an Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section, Finance and Administration Section and a Public Information Management Section.

It is important to have the resources necessary to communicate effectively and efficiently with the media about an incident and the incident response. Public Information Management is a key function in any incident.

Communicating During Complex Incidents

During a complex incident, communicating with the public plays an important role in the response effort. As the number of incident response organizations increases and the incident becomes more complex, so does the need for coordination and collaboration.

Coordinated messaging is very important. In complex incidents, a Joint-Emergency Information Centre (Joint-EIC) may be established to coordinate communication efforts.

At the same time, it is important to note that the approval process in a complex incident may also be subject to change, which can interfere with timely communication. Therefore, pre-approved messaging and pre-planning collaborative communication strategies are important tools to help communicate effectively and efficiently in complex incidents.

When to consider a Public Information Management Section

In chaotic circumstances and complex incidents, it is likely that there will be a strong demand for timely information about many topics which must be shared on all platforms ranging from social media to news broadcasts. Under these circumstances, an Emergency Information Officer (EIO) may decide to stand up a Public Information Management Section to address the strong demand for information relating to an incident.

7.11 Option 2 – Incident Support EOC

EOC Option 2 can be useful when an EOC does not have any tactical operational responsibilities. Some EOCs focus exclusively on providing incident support through information, planning and resource support. These EOCs may find that Option 2 works best for them.

The Incident Support EOC also highlights an important function in many EOCs; providing senior and elected officials with situational awareness about an incident. Effective and efficient communication between senior and elected officials as well as the incident responders is important to successful incident management.

In some instances, these options can be combined. For example, an EOC may choose to use a Logistics Section from EOC Option 1 instead of the Resource and Operational Support Section in EOC Option 2. It is important to ensure that the role of each functional section is fully understood by all personnel in an EOC and that the responsibility for maintaining situational awareness is clearly assigned.

The choice of Coordination and Command Staff (also known as Command Staff) roles and responsibilities are the same across all three EOC options.

Chart 5: Option 2 – Incident Support EOC
An organizational chart to describe Option 2: Incident Support EOC structure. It consists of an EOC Director, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer, Emergency Information Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: a Situational Awareness Section, Planning Support Section, Resource and Operational Support Section and an EOC Support Section.

Option 2 makes it clear that maintaining situational awareness is an important function of any EOC, whether as a branch within the Planning Section (in EOC Option 1) or as a dedicated section within an EOC.

Incident Support EOC Sections

  • Situational Awareness Section: Maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the Operations Section at the site and other means. It contains the Situation Unit, which can be found within the Planning Section in EOC Option 1. The Situation Unit shares situation information with the Planning Section and incident responders through situation reports.
  • Resource and Operational Support Section: Combines the resource support functions of both the Operations and Logistics Sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources including the financial and administrative functions related to those resources.
  • Planning Support Section: Tasked with long-term, contingency and demobilization planning but without responsibility for situational awareness and information management.
  • EOC Support Section: Provides resources and support to the EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the EOC.
  • Emergency Information Officer (EIO): A Public Information Management Section (see Chart 6 below) can be added if there is a strong demand for information relating to an incident. In this case, the EIO becomes the Public Information Management Section Chief. The Public Information Management Section is responsible for communicating with the public about an incident and the incident response effort.
Chart 6: Option 2 – Incident Support EOC with an optional Public Information Management Section
An organizational chart to describe Option 2: Incident Support EOC structure with an optional Public Information Management Section. It consists of an EOC Director, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: a Situational Awareness Section, Planning Support Section, Resource and Operational Support Section, EOC Support Section and a horizontal dotted line across to an optional Public Information Management Section.

A Public Information Management Section can be stood up if there is a strong demand for information relating to an incident.

7.12 Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC

The Incident Support Hybrid EOC option combines features of the Site-Based option and the Incident Support EOC option. It uses standard terminology but is slightly modified to better reflect the support and situational awareness roles and responsibilities that are the focus of activities conducted in many EOCs.

Chart 7: Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC
An organizational chart to describe Option 3: Incident Support Hybrid EOC structure. It consists of an EOC Director, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer, Emergency Information Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: an Operational Awareness Section, Planning Support Section, Logistics Support Section and an EOC Support and Finance and Administration Section.

The Incident Support Hybrid EOC further supports situational awareness roles and responsibilities.

Incident Support Hybrid EOC Sections

  • Operational Awareness Section: Contains the Situation Unit. It maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the Operations Section at the site and other means. This section is responsible for issuing situation reports and shares all relevant situation information with the Planning Support Section. The Operational Awareness Section may also offer information, support and guidance to the Operations Section at the site.
  • Logistics Support Section: Combines the resource support functions of both the Operations and Logistics Sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources.
  • Planning Support Section: Tasked with long-term, contingency and demobilization planning.
  • EOC Support and Finance and Administration Section: Provides resources and support to an EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the site and the EOC.
  • Emergency Information Officer (EIO): A Public Information Management Section can be added if there is a strong demand for information relating to an incident. In this case, the EIO becomes the Public Information Management Section Chief. A Public Information Management Section is responsible for communicating with the public about an incident and the incident response effort.
Chart 8: Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC with an optional Public Information Management Section
An organizational chart to describe Option 3: Incident Support Hybrid EOC structure with an optional Public Information Management Section. It consists of an EOC Director, Liaison Officer, Health and Safety Officer and a Scribe. It is divided into functional sections including: a Situational Awareness Section, Planning Support Section, Resource and Operational Support Section, an EOC Support and Finance and Administration Section and a horizontal dotted line across to an optional Public Information Management Section.

A Public Information Management Section can be stood up if there is a strong demand for information relating to an incident.

7.13 Scientific/Technical Section

In an incident such as a nuclear incident, there may be a need to create a Scientific/Technical Section that reports directly to the Incident Commander or an EOC Director. This section should work closely with the Operations and Planning Sections to ensure important information is shared as needed.

Chart 9: EOC Option 1 with an optional Scientific/Technical Section
An organizational chart to describe Option 1: Site-based EOC with an optional Scientific/Technical section. It consists of an EOC Director and is divided into functional sections including: an Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section, Finance and Administration Section and a horizontal dotted line across to an optional Scientific/Technical Section.

A Scientific/Technical Section can be stood up in an incident to perform ongoing monitoring and surveillance of scientific or technical issues including field-based monitoring, sampling and surveillance.

The primary responsibilities of the Scientific/Technical Section include:

  • Performing ongoing monitoring and surveillance of scientific and technical issues
  • Performing field-based monitoring and surveillance
  • Undertaking field-based sampling when needed
  • Analyzing and evaluating scientific and technical data
  • Tracking and sharing meteorological data and forecasts
  • Making recommendations for mitigation, protective actions and remediation
  • Other responsibilities as required.

7.14 Other Additional IMS Functions in an EOC

Other additional IMS functions in an EOC may need to be activated. This may include:

  • Intelligence
  • Investigations
  • Emergency Social Services
  • Continuity of Operations.

Descriptions of these functions can be found in Section 3.3 – Additional IMS Functions. The functions may need to be carried out within existing functional sections or may require dedicated sections for operational reasons.

8 Demobilization

As soon as an incident requires fewer resources, the Incident Commander or an EOC Director may begin to return or demobilize some resources. Once the incident response objectives have been met, the Incident Commander or an EOC Director may release all incident responders and resources. This process is called demobilization.

The demobilization process should include:

  • Releasing incident response personnel and resources as soon as they are no longer needed
  • A formal check-out procedure
  • Awareness of any mental and physical health and safety concerns with special emphasis on:
    • Incident response personnel who have worked the longest or performed exhausting tasks who may need to be released first
    • Formal or informal support that may be needed for incident response personnel who have been exposed to extreme stress or trauma
  • The return of all equipment to the organization(s) who provided them
  • Storing all records, data and final reports for future reference
  • A plan for the transfer of ongoing recovery activities (if possible).

It is important to note that demobilizing personnel and other resources is not the end of demobilization. An after-action review process (often called lessons learned) offers important lessons for improvement.

Demobilization should also include:

  1. Hot wash/debrief activity
    • A hot wash:
      • Is an informal debrief with involved personnel
      • Should take place immediately after the incident response ends
    • A debrief:
      • Is usually an in-person session to capture feedback from the incident response personnel
      • Is often more structured and may take more time than a hot wash
      • Should involve both an in-person and a written commentary component to allow for feedback from those involved
      • Should occur while the incident is still fresh in the minds of those involved but may occur a short while after the incident.
  2. After-action review process
    • Reviewing and documenting the performance of tasks during an incident
    • Making tangible recommendations in a report for improvement.
  3. Improvement planning for future incidents
    • Taking recommendations from the after-action review process and best practices to improve the management of future incidents.

Deactivation

Once the Incident Commander or an EOC Director has demobilized all resources, the process of deactivation has begun. Deactivation is the end of incident activities and the return to normal operations.

Appendix A – IMS Glossary and Definitions

  • After-Action Report (AAR): The purpose of an After-Action Report is to evaluate the actions of the incident responders and make recommendations for improvement. The After-Action Report is completed as a part of demobilization.
  • Area Command: Set up to oversee the management of multiple sites or large or escalating incidents which involve severalincident management teams. Area Command has the responsibility to develop broad objectives for their assigned area and set priorities for the sharing of critical resources across incident sites.
  • Area Command Post (ACP): The location from which Area Command manages multiple incident management teams and is similar to an Incident Command Post (ICP).
  • Assisting Organization: An organization providing personnel, services or other resources to the organization with direct responsibility for incident management. May also be referred to as a Supporting Organization.
  • Available Resources: Resources (personnel or equipment) assigned to an incident, checked-in and available for use in an incident.
  • Base: The location where personnel coordinate logistics resources and administrative functions for an incident. There is only one base in an incident. The equipment and resources staged at the base are not in use; they may be waiting to be assigned or out-of-service. The base can be in the same location as the Incident Command Post.
  • Branch: A level of functional or geographical responsibility for major elements of incident operations. A branch is situated under a section.
  • Camp: A temporary, separate facility from the Base. It is an option if an incident needs to provide support functions such as food, sleeping areas and sanitation. Multiple camps may be used and they may be relocated to meet the needs of the incident.
  • Check-in: The process through which resources first report to an incident.
  • Chief (also known as Section Chief): The personnel who manage the IMS sections: Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and when required, Public Information Management.
  • Command: To direct or lead as a result of legislation, regulation or delegated authority.
  • Common Operating Picture: An understanding of a situation based on the most up-to-date information and is shared among all responders and incident response organizations.
  • Complex Incident: This type of incident involves many factors which cannot be easily analyzed and understood. They may be prolonged, large-scale and/or involve multiple jurisdictions.
  • Coordination: The process of organizing communities, organizations and resources to ensure an effective and efficient response.
  • Coordination and Command Staff: The personnel who report directly to either the Incident Commander or the EOC Director. They can include the Emergency Information Officer, Safety Officer, Liaison Officer and other positions as needed.
  • Continuity of Operations: Ensures that the day-to-day operations of the organization are maintained. In certain incidents, there may be a need to closely coordinate these efforts with the overall response.
  • Debriefing: A formal opportunity to evaluate efficiency, learn from the experience gained and determine how well the incident management process went. Leadership should facilitate the debriefing and the results should be included in the After-Action Report (AAR).
  • Deputy: A fully qualified individual who, in the absence of a superior, can be delegated the authority to manage a function or coordinate tasks. In some cases, a deputy can act as relief for a superior, and therefore must be fully qualified in the position. Deputies can be assigned to the Incident Commander, General Staff and others as needed.
  • Deputy Incident Commander: An individual appointed by the Incident Commander to assist with incident coordination and command. The Deputy Incident Commander may also take site command while the Incident Commander handles other duties such as acting as a public spokesperson or briefing senior and elected officials.
  • Division: The organization of an incident into defined geographical areas of operation. Divisions are established when the number of resources exceeds the manageable span of control of the Operations Section Chief. A division is located within the IMS structure between the Branch and resources under the Operations Section.
  • Emergency Control Group (ECG): A group composed of senior staff and personnel of an organization and others that may be involved in directing that organization's response to an emergency, including the implementation of its emergency response plans and procedures. Unless needed, this group may not be directly involved in an EOC and may participate in Multi-Organization Coordination to advise and provide strategic direction at a senior-level. Regulatory information on the Emergency Control Group (ECG) can be found within Ontario Regulation 380/04: Standards, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9.
  • Emergency Information Centre (EIC) and Joint-Emergency Information Centre (Joint-EIC): A designated location that is properly equipped to coordinate public information management activities including the sharing of information with the public and the media, receiving public inquiries and monitoring. A Joint-EIC includes representatives from multiple communities and organizations to allow information and key messaging to be coordinated more easily.
  • Emergency Information Officer (EIO): A designated individual responsible for public communications and coordinating the communications team in an incident. In large or more complex incidents, the public information management function may be organized into the Public Information Management Section with the EIO as the Section Chief. Regulatory information on the Emergency Information Officer can be found within Ontario Regulation 380/04: Standards, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9.
  • Emergency: An event or situation that poses a serious danger to people, property and/or the environment. The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9provides the statutory definition.
  • Emergency Operations Centre (EOC): A designated location where personnel representing communities and organizations come together to support site response efforts and on-site response personnel in an incident. In some non-site-based incidents, an EOC may coordinate and command direct response efforts.
  • EOC Director/EOC Commander: Coordinates support (resources and information) for an incident response. In rare circumstances, the EOC Director may be in command of the incident response and take on the title of EOC Commander.
  • EOC Support Section (only in Option 2 – Incident Support EOC): Provides resources and support to the EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the EOC.
  • EOC Support and Finance and Administration Section (only in Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC): Provides resources and support to an EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the site and the EOC.
  • Emergency Social Services (ESS): An additional function responsible for providing various services to individuals and families affected by emergencies or disasters to preserve their well-being. The ESS function intends to help affected individuals meet their basic human needs and may provide food, clothing, shelter, personal services, registration and inquiry services. These services are provided on a short-term, temporary basis so that people affected by an incident can receive physical, mental, social and economic support.
  • Finance and Administration Section: The Finance and Administration Section is responsible for the financial and administrative aspects of the incident including payroll, vendor contracts and tracks incident costs. The section is led by the Finance and Administration Section Chief (FSC).
  • Function: A set of tasks and responsibilities which must be carried out. IMS functions common to all incidents include: Coordination and Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and Public Information Management. In some incidents, additional functions need to be carried out. These may include Intelligence, Investigations, Scientific/Technical, Emergency Social Services, and Continuity of Operations. Other functions may need to be considered depending on the nature of the incident.
  • General Staff: A group of incident management personnel organized according to function who report directly to either the Incident Commander (at the site) or the EOC Director (in an EOC). The General Staff typically consists of an Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief, and Finance and Administration Section Chief. It may include the Emergency Information Officer if they are acting as the Section Chief of the Public Information Management Section.
  • Health and Safety Officer: The EOC equivalent of the Safety Officer. The Health and Safety Officer is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of the incident response personnel within the EOC.
  • Hot-Wash: A hot-wash occurs immediately following an incident and allows responders the opportunity to provide immediate feedback. It enables personnel running a hot-wash to capture events while they remain fresh in the minds of the responders to determine any issues or concerns and proposed improvements. Each functional section should conduct a hot-wash facilitated by their Section Chief.
  • Incident: An occurrence or event that requires an emergency response to protect people, property, the environment and/or services.
  • Incident Action Plan (IAP): A verbal or written plan which describes how an incident will be managed. It includes incident objectives, strategies and tactics. In a simple incident, objectives, strategies and tactics may be determined by the Incident Commander or EOC Director. The written IAP is coordinated by the Planning Section and explains how incident response personnel will work together and utilize resources to achieve the response objectives.
  • Incident Commander (also referred to as the Incident Manager): The individual responsible for site coordination and command of the incident response and the Incident Management Team. The Incident Commander should be a representative from the lead response organization and have the authority to make command-level decisions.
  • Incident Command Post (ICP): The Incident Command Post (ICP) is the location from which Incident Command oversees incident management. An ICP is only established when an incident occurs or is planned. There is only one ICP for each incident or planned event. However, the ICP may change locations during an incident. The ICP should be set up outside of the present and potential hazard zone but close enough to the incident to maintain effective coordination and command. It typically consists of those carrying out the coordination and command function (Single or Unified) and may include other incident responders including the General Staff. The ICP may be located in a vehicle, trailer, tent or within a building.
  • Incident Management Team (IMT): The Incident Management Team includes the incident leadership and those who work with them to manage the incident. They provide specialized knowledge, skills and advice as needed. The roles and responsibilities of the IMT may be different from an organizations' regular organizational structure.
  • Incident Objectives: Statements that guide and direct the selection of appropriate strategies for managing an incident and the tactical direction of resources. Incident objectives should be based on realistic expectations of what can be accomplished when all allocated resources have been effectively deployed. Incident objectives must be achievable and measurable yet flexible enough to allow for strategic and tactical alternatives if necessary.
  • Incident Telecommunications Centre (ITC): Coordination and Command manages telecommunications at an incident, using a common telecommunications plan, (IMS form: IMS 205, Incident Telecommunications Plan, which is part of the IAP) and an Incident-based Telecommunications Centre (ITC). The ITC is established for use by the command, tactical and support resources assigned to an incident. All entities involved in managing the incident should utilize common terminologyfor telecommunications.
  • Intelligence: Is responsible for: (1) gathering and assessing incident-related information; (2) operations security and information security; and (3) information management. This includes preventing or deterring unlawful incidents or attacks. Since the Intelligence function involves deterring and preventing attacks, personnel performing this function may only share sensitive information with the Incident Commander or EOC Director.
  • Investigations: An additional function responsible for identifying, collecting, processing, creating a chain of custody for, protecting, analyzing and storing supportive evidence. This function also determines the source or cause of an incident to control its impact and/or help prevent the occurrence of similar incidents. When required, it may involve the identification, apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators of regulatory breaches or criminal activity related to an incident.
  • Jurisdiction: A range or sphere of authority. Jurisdictional authority at an incident can be political, legislative or geographical (e.g., municipal, provincial or federal).
  • Large Incident: An incident that escalates from a single organization incident response to a multi-organizational incident response, resulting in an expansion of the incident management structure to help the additional response organizations work together towards common incident objectives.
  • Liaison Officer: The primary contact for outside communities and organizations involved in supporting the incident response; reporting directly to the Incident Commander or an EOC Director. The Liaison Officer advises the Incident Commander or EOC Director on any matters relating to outside support for an incident response, including any requests for assistance.
  • Local, Provincial and National Level Emergency: A complex incident with very serious or potentially catastrophic consequences to life safety, critical infrastructure, property and/or the environment. The duration of the incident response and/or recovery period in these large-scale incidents may last for an extended amount of time. Local, provincial and national level emergencies may involve a large geographic area or are non-site specific and have consequences which may affect a large geographic area. Local emergencies involve whole communities whether they are towns, cities, municipalities or regions. A provincial emergency can affect a part of or the entire province and a national emergency can affect a part of or the entire country.
  • Logistics Section: Provides services and supports including personnel, supplies, facilities and other resources to an incident. The Logistics Section is led by the Logistics Section Chief (LSC).
  • Logistics Support Section (only in Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC): Combines the resource support functions of both the Operations and Logistics Sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources.
  • Mobilization: The process and procedures used by all communities and organizations for activating, assembling and transporting all resources that have been requested to respond or support an incident.
  • Multi-Jurisdictional Incident: An incident requiring action from multiple response organizations that each have the accountability and responsibility to manage certain aspects of an incident. In rare instances, these incidents may be managed under Unified Command.
  • Mutual Aid/Mutual Assistance Agreement: A written agreement between parties that they will assist one another on request, by furnishing personnel, equipment and/or expertise in a specified manner. An agreement between emergency services (including private sector emergency services where applicable) is known as a 'Mutual Aid' agreement. When it is between jurisdictions, it is known as a 'Mutual Assistance' agreement.
  • Nongovernmental Organization (NGO): An entity with a common interest or focus that is not created by a government but may work cooperatively with governments. NGOs include, but are not limited to, the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and faith-based charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Samaritan's Purse.
  • Operational Awareness Section (only in Option 3 – Incident Support Hybrid EOC): Contains the Situation Unit. It maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the Operations Section at the site and other means. This section is responsible for issuing situation reports and shares all relevant situation information with the Planning Support Section. The Operational Awareness Section may also offer information, support and guidance to the Operations Section at the site.
  • Operational Period: The time scheduled for executing a given set of operation actions, as specified in the IAP. Operational periods can be of various lengths, although usually not over 24-hours.
  • Operations Section: The role of the Operations Section is to meet current incident objectives and priorities stated in the IAP on behalf of Coordination and Command. The Operations Section is led by the Operations Section Chief (OSC).
  • Planned Event: A pre-planned, non-emergency activity. IMS can be used as the management system for a wide range of planned events (e.g., parades, concerts or sporting events).
  • Planning Meeting: A meeting held as needed prior to and throughout the duration of an incident to select specific strategies and tactics for incident control operations and for service and support planning. For large incidents, the planning meeting is a major element in the development of the IAP.
  • Planning Section: Collects, confirms, analyzes and shares incident situation information based on information gathered from incident responders. The Planning Section also prepares the IAP and develops contingency and long-term plans. The Planning Section is led by the Planning Section Chief (PSC).
  • Planning Support Section(only in EOC Option 2 and Option 3): Tasked with long-term, contingency and demobilization planning but without the responsibility for situational awareness and information management.
  • Private Sector: Organizations and entities that are not part of any governmental structure. It includes for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, formal and informal structures, commerce and industry, and private voluntary organizations.
  • Public Information Management Section: Develops and shares messages with the public directly and through the media. Tracks media reports including social media feeds and shares information with Coordination and Command. Incident responders under this section should connect directly with the community if required. The Public Information Management Section is led by the Emergency Information Officer (EIO).
  • Resource and Operational Support Section (only in Option 2 – Incident Support EOC): Combines the resource support functions of both the Operations and Logistics Sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources, including the financial and administrative functions related to those resources.
  • Resource Management: Efficient incident management requires a system for identifying available resources at all levels to enable timely and unobstructed access to resources needed to prepare for, respond to, or recover from an incident. Resource management includes mutual aid and mutual assistance agreements.
  • Resources: Personnel, equipment, supplies, services, facilities, telecommunications and IT support, transportation and medical services for incident responders available or potentially available for assignment to the incident response. Resources are described by kind or type and may be used in operational or support capacities.
  • Resources Unit: A functional unit responsible for recording the status of resources committed to an incident. This unit also evaluates resources currently committed to an incident, the effects additional responding resources will have to an incident and anticipated resource needs.
  • Responder: Any person who is involved in responding to an incident. Responders range from first responders from paramedics, police and fire services to personnel from public works, regional conservation authorities and those in an EOC. Personnel from nongovernmental organizations and the private sector may also be involved in an incident response.
  • Response: Activities that address the short-term, direct effects of an incident. Response includes immediate actions to save lives, protect property and meet basic human needs. Response also includes the execution of emergency response plans and mitigation activities designed to limit the loss of life, personal injury, property damage and other unfavourable outcomes.
  • Safety Officer: The Safety Officer monitors safety conditions and develops safety measures for an incident. They assess and communicate information on hazards that are present within an incident and contribute to the safety portion of the IAP and/or Incident Medical Plan as needed. The Safety Officer advises the Incident Commander (or Unified Command) on matters relating to the health and safety of incident responders. They have the authority to change, suspend or stop any activities that are deemed hazardous in order to protect the health and safety of incident responders.
  • Scientific/Technical Section: A dedicated section that is stood up in an incident to perform ongoing monitoring and surveillance of scientific or technical issues including field-based monitoring, sampling and surveillance. This section reports directly to the Incident Commander or EOC Director and analyzes and evaluates scientific data to provide expert technical advice to leadership and makes recommendations for protective action, mitigation and remediation.
  • Scientists and Technical Specialists: In some incidents, a Scientist or Technical Specialist may be needed to provide technical expertise and recommendations. Scientists and Technical Specialists may have specific responsibilities and authorities and may be included in the Operations Section or Planning Section. A dedicated Scientific/Technical Section may be stood up if needed.
  • Scribe: Scribes take notes during meetings and teleconference calls as well as documenting key activities, events, agreements and any matters of potential legal significance throughout an incident.
  • Section: The organizational level having responsibility for a major functional area of incident management (e.g., Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration and Public Information Management). The section is situated between the Branch and Incident Command.
  • Single Command: SingleCommandexistswhen coordination and command of an incident response istheresponsibilityof asingle organization or jurisdiction. This may be by default if only one organization is involved, by design if multiple response organizations agree on which organization will be the lead organization and confirm Single Command or by legislation if a response organization or jurisdiction has a legislative responsibility to become the lead organization in the incident response.
  • Site: Refers to the place where an incident is or has happened (e.g., the scene of a fire or a transportation accident involving hazardous materials). Some incidents such as ice storms and health emergencies do not have one single, defined site.
  • Situation Unit: The Situation Unit is responsible for maintaining situational awareness and managing situation information.
  • Situational Awareness: Maintaining and sharing situational awareness is often the responsibility of the Situation Unit within the Planning Section. In some EOCs, situational awareness can be a section of its own or under the Operations Section.
  • Situational Awareness Section (only in Option 2 – Incident Support EOC): The Situational Awareness Section maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the Operations Section at the site and other means. It contains the Situation Unit, which can be found in the Planning Section in the site-based EOC option. The Situation Unit shares situation information with the Planning Section and incident response personnel through situation reports.
  • Small Incident (single organization): In a single organization response, there is a single line of command and resources (personnel and equipment) come from one organization. There is a single, straightforward line of command. Minimal resources are needed.
  • Span of Control: The number of individuals or teams that one person can manage. The best ratio for span of control at the site is anywhere between three to seven resources reporting to one lead. In an EOC or additional incident management location(s), this ratio may be increased to have more resources reporting to one lead as long as it does not compromise effective management.
  • Staging Area: Location(s) established where resources can be placed while awaiting a tactical assignment. The Operations Section manages the Staging Area(s).
  • Supporting Organization: An organization providing support services to the organization with direct responsibility for incident management, but not providing any direct support or input to an incident. It may also be referred to as an Assisting Organization.
  • Task Force: Any combination of resources assembled to support a specific mission or operational need. All resource elements within a Task Force must have common communications and a designated leader.
  • Telecommunications Unit: An organizational unit within the Logistics Section responsible for providing communication services at the site or in an EOC. It is responsible for developing plans for the use of incident telecommunications equipment and facilities; installing and testing telecommunications equipment; supervision of the Incident Telecommunications Centre; and the distribution and maintenance of telecommunications equipment.
  • Unified Area Command: Established in rare instances when the decision-making process under Area Command may require the involvement of multiple incident response organizations, making it difficult to establish Single Command. Management of an incident under Area Command is shared between two or more lead organizations or jurisdictions through a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics.
  • Unified Command: Established in rare instances when the decision-making process may require the involvement of multiple incident response organizations, making it difficult to establish Single Command. Management of an incident is shared between two or more lead organizations or jurisdictions through a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics.
  • Unity of Command: The concept that each person within an organization reports to one and only one designated person. The purpose of unity of command is to ensure unity of effort under one responsible lead for every objective.

Appendix B – IMS Facilities

IMS uses standardized terms to describe the facilities from which IMS functions are carried out. IMS functions may be carried out in pre-designated, permanent structures, or in temporary structures set up only for managing an incident. Incident facilities are established by the Incident Commander only when they are needed (depending on the requirements and complexity of the incident). In IMS, it is important to be able to identify the basic incident facilities on the ground as well as on a map. A standard set of map symbols is used in IMS and included in Chart 10: IMS Facilities.

Chart 10: IMS Facilities

Facility

Symbol

Symbol Description

Facility Description

Who

Location

Number per Incident

Incident Command Post (ICP)

The symbol used for an Incident Command Post. A black lined square divided into two triangles by a diagonal line running from lower left to upper right with the lower triangle being black and the upper being white.

A black lined square divided into two triangles by a diagonal line running from lower left to upper right with the lower triangle being black and the upper being white.

The physical location where the primary command functions take place.

Incident Commander, Unified Command, Command and General Staff and may include other personnel.

Outside of the present and potential hazard zone but close enough to the incident to maintain command.

Only 1

Incident Tele-communications Centre (ITC)

The symbol used for an Incident Telecommunications Centre. A black lined white square with the letters ITC in it.

A black lined white square with the letters ITC in it.

Telecommunications for an incident set up and managed at the ITC.

ITC Manager and Telecommunications Unit.

Close enough to the incident for a timely response but far enough to be out of harm's way.

Only 1

Area Command Post

The symbol used for an Area Command Post. A black lined square divided into two white triangles by a black diagonal line running from lower left to upper right; with black lettered 'Area' inside the upper triangle.

A black lined square divided into two white triangles by a black diagonal line running from lower left to upper right; with black lettered 'Area' inside the upper triangle.

The location from which Area Command manages multiple incident management teams and has similar characteristics as an ICP.

Area Incident Command, Area Command and General Staff.

Outside of the present and potential hazard zone for the assigned incident but close enough to maintain command.

Multiple

Staging Area

The symbol used for a Staging Area. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'S' in it.

Or

The symbol used for more than one Staging Area. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'S' in it. More than one staging area may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'S1').

Or

The symbol used for more than one Staging Area. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'S' in it. More than one staging area may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'S2').

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'S' in it. More than one staging area may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'S1').

A temporary location where resources are checked-in as available to be assigned for response and/or wait for tactical assignments.

Available resources

Close enough to the incident for a timely response (normally within five minutes travel time to the incident), but far enough to be out of harm's way.

Multiple

Base

The symbol used for a Base. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'B' in it

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'B' in it.

The location where logistics and administrative functions are coordinated and where out-of-service resources are located.

Logistics and Finance and Administration Sections, Base Manager and Out-of-service resources.

Close enough to the incident for a timely response but far enough to be out of harm's way.

Only 1

Camp

The symbol used for a Camp. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'C' in it.

OrThe symbol used for more than one Camp. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'C' in it. More than one
mp may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'C1').

Or

The symbol used for more than one Camp. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'C' in it. More than one
mp may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'C2').

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'C' in it. More than one camp may be designated by the addition of a number beside the letter (e.g., 'C1').

Provides support services such as food, water, sleeping areas and sanitation facilities.

Camp Manager and out-of-service resources.

Within the general incident area at strategically planned sites.

Multiple

Air Base

The symbol used for an Air Base. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'A' in it.

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'A' in it.

The location from which both airplanes and helicopters can operate.

Personnel related to aircraft operations.

Pre-existing locations.

Multiple

Helibase

The symbol used for a Helibase. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'H' in it.

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'H' in it.

A designated location where helicopters may be parked, maintained, fueled and equipped.

Helibase Manager and personnel related to aircraft operations.

Within the general incident area at strategically planned sites.

Multiple

Helispot

The symbol used for a Helispot. A solid black circle numbered in association with a capital H, as in H-1 and H-2.

A solid black circle numbered in association with a capital H, as in H-1 and H-2.

Temporary locations where helicopters can land, take off, load and offload resources.

Helibase Manager and personnel related to aircraft operations.

Within the general incident area at strategically planned sites.

Multiple

Marine Base

The symbol used for a Marine Base. A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'M' in it.

A black circle on white background with a black lettered 'M' in it.

The location where marine related operations are coordinated.

Marine Base Manager and personnel related to marine operations.

A marine base may be a permanent, pre-existing facility or a temporary facility within the general incident area.

Multiple

Emergency Operation Centre

(EOC)

The symbol used for an Emergency Operations Centre. A black lined square on white background with black lettered 'EOC' in it.

A black lined square on white background with black lettered 'EOC' in it.

A facility where resources and information are coordinated to support the incident site.

EOC Director

Typically in a pre-determined location outside of the incident area.

Only 1

Emergency Information Centre (EIC) or Joint-EIC

The symbol used for an Emergency Information Centre. A black lined square on white background with a question mark.

OrThey symbol used for a Joint-Emergency Information Centre. A black lined square on white background with a question mark. The letter 'J' may be added to signify a Joint-EIC which contains representatives from multiple organizations.

A black lined square on white background with a question mark. The letter 'J' may be added to

signify a Joint-EIC which contains representatives from multiple organizations.

A facility to coordinate emergency information activities such as: press releases, receiving public inquires, media briefings and monitoring.

Communications personnel and other personnel.

Typically in a location outside of the incident area that the public has access to.

Only 1

Family and Friends Assistance Centre (FFAC)

FFAC - Description: The symbol for a Family and Friends Assistance Centre. A black lined square on white background with black lettered 'FFAC' in it.

A black lined square on white background with black lettered 'FFAC' in it.

A secure and centrally located facility for family members and friends of potential victims to obtain information and a range of support services.

Support service personnel.

Relatively close in proximity to the incident but far enough that families and friends will not be required to pass by the incident site.

Only 1

Common Considerations for IMS Facilities

When setting up IMS facilities, the following items should be considered:

  • Mobility: The facility should be either mobile or be able to be evacuated if necessary. Alternatively, having facilities that are transportable may be beneficial.
  • Accessibility: The facility must be accessible by one or more means. This will be necessary for activation, deactivation, re-supply, reinforcement, mobilization, demobilization, deployment, evacuation or other purposes.
  • Safety and security: The facility must be free from the impacts and dangers of the incident. The safety and security of incident responders must be assured at all times.
  • Adequate space: Facilities should have adequate space for the purposes they are to serve, whether they are work areas, shelters, rest areas, feeding facilities or sanitation conveniences.
  • Support: The facility must have adequate resources (personnel and equipment) to make it functional.
  • Technological requirements: Some facilities may require certain technologies to operate such as electrical power and telecommunication and computing systems.
  • Co-location: Many IMS facilities may be co-located; meaning the sharing of the same land space, structure, floor within a building or office. The following items should be considered in regards to co-locations:
    • Determining whether co-location is appropriate should be based on each unique incident
    • Co-location can maximize resources such as transportation, accommodations and telecommunication systems
    • Co-location can reduce travel times for resources and make liaising easier
    • It is recommended that large indoor spaces such as warehouses or arenas be used to accommodate multiple functions by creating and organizing appropriate working spaces for each function
    • Avoid co-locating incompatible activities that may interfere with each other.
    • Avoid adding unnecessary distance and travel times. For example, co-locating the Staging Area in a Camp may result in the available resources being too far from the incident.

IMS Facilities Details

Incident Command Post

The Incident Command Post (ICP) is the physical location where the primary command functions take place. There can be only one ICP for each incident (including incidents that involve multiple jurisdictions and/or organizations). The ICP typically houses the Incident Commander (or Unified Command) and the Command and General Staff. It may also include other designated incident response personnel.

The location of the ICP may change during an incident. Initially, an ICP may be established in a fire truck, police car or tent. Once the incident escalates in size, risk and/or complexity, the Incident Commander will designate a more appropriate or permanent ICP location such as a trailer or building. Typically, the ICP will be positioned outside of the present and potential hazard zone but close enough to the incident to maintain command.

Incident Telecommunications Centre

Incident Command manages telecommunications in an incident using an Incident Telecommunications Centre (ITC). The ITC is established for use by the command, tactical and support resources assigned to the incident. A manager runs the ITC and reports to the Telecommunications Unit Leader within the Logistics Service Branch.

Area Command Post

An Area Command Post is the location from which Area Command manages multiple incident management teams. It has similar characteristics to an ICP.

Staging Area

A staging area is a temporary location where resources are checked-in and await tactical assignment. As an incident expands, additional resources may be required. In order to manage and track the additional resources effectively and avoid too many resources being deployed at the same time, one or more staging areas will be established. Only resources having a status of 'available' are held in a staging area. Staging areas can be set up to meet specific functional needs (e.g., paramedic, fire, police, public works equipment, etc.). Therefore, there may be more than one staging area in an incident. Each staging area should have a Staging Area Manager who reports to the Operations Section Chief or the Incident Commander if an Operations Section has not been established.

Staging areas should be located close enough to the incident for a timely response (normally within five minutes travel time to the incident) but far enough away to be out of harm's way. Staging areas should have reliable access routes and must be large enough to accommodate available resources.

Base

A Base is the location from which primary logistics and administrative functions are coordinated and administered and where out-of-service resources are located. When an incident is expected to continue for an extended amount of time, resources may be required to rotate in and out of operation. The out-of-service resources will be located at the Base. A Base Manager will operate within the Facilities Unit of the Logistics Section if activated.

There should only be one base per incident, but the base should be able to support operations at multiple sites if the incident is complex. The base should be located close enough to the incident for a timely response but out of the immediate impact zone.

Camp

Camps are equipped and staffed to provide support services such as food, water, sleeping areas and sanitation facilities. A camp may also provide space for minor maintenance and servicing of equipment. Not all incidents will necessarily need to have camps. Each camp will have an assigned Camp Manager who will operate within the Facilities Unit of the Logistics Section if activated.

A camp should be geographically separate from the base and located within the general incident area at strategically planned sites. Multiple camps may be used and they may be relocated to meet changing operational needs.

Air Base

An air base is the location from which both airplanes and helicopters can operate. Airbases are usually permanent facilities such as airports that already exist. An air base may be used to provide operations support to an incident such as fuelling and maintenance services.

Helibase

A helibase is a designated location in and around an incident area where helicopters may be parked, maintained, fueled and equipped for incident operations. A helibase is supervised by a Helibase Manager who reports to the Operations Section Chief.

Helispot

A helispot is a temporary location where helicopters can land, take off, load and offload personnel, equipment and supplies. Large incidents may require several helispots. A helispot is supervised by the Helispot Manager who reports to the Helibase Manager.

Marine Base

A marine base is the location where marine related operations are coordinated. A marine base may be a permanent, pre-existing facility or a temporary facility set up during an incident. A marine base is supervised by a Marine Base Manager who reports to the Operations Section Chief.

Emergency Operations Centre (EOC)

An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a facility where resources and information are coordinated to support the incident site. In some cases such as a nuclear incident response or health incident, a response may be directed out of an EOC. An EOC must have appropriate technological and telecommunications systems to ensure effective communication in an incident. EOCs may be established at a variety of levels including a Municipal Emergency Control Group (MECG) or First Nations community Emergency Control Group (ECG), a Ministry Action Group (MAG) or for overall provincial coordination such as the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC).

Emergency Information Centre (EIC) or Joint-EIC

A facility specifically designated and sufficiently equipped for emergency information. Typically, a community will establish an Emergency Information Centre (EIC) to coordinate emergency information activities such as: press releases, receiving public inquiries, media briefings and monitoring. A Joint-Emergency Information Centre (Joint-EIC) may be set up so that multiple organizations can share resources and operate out of one common emergency information facility.

Family and Friends Assistance Centre (FFAC)

A Family and Friends Assistance Centre is a secure and centrally located facility for family members and friends of potential victims to obtain information and a range of support services. It is often a multi-agency operation, staffed by personnel from social services, volunteer organizations and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

The location of the FFAC should be relatively close in proximity to the incident but far enough away that families and friends will not be required to pass by the incident site. It should be easily accessible; if the location is not easily accessible to the public, preparations should be made to provide transportation for the victims' families and friends to and from the FFAC.

Other Required Facilities

Other required facilities not listed above may be established to meet the needs of an incident. Each of the major functions may require separate facilities for their incident-specific activities. These unique facilities may include mass casualty triage facilities, facilities for those grieving or a volunteer coordination centre.

Appendix C – References

Belanger, Paul R. (2014). Report of the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry. Queen's Printer for Ontario. Toronto, Ontario.

British Columbia Emergency Management System. (2016). Province of British Columbia. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/embc/bcems/bcems_guide_2016_final_fillable.pdf (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Bhandari, R. B., Owen, C., & Trist, C. (2015). Incident management approaches above the incident management team level in Australia. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 12(1), 101-119. 10.1515/jhsem-2013-0054

Boersma, K., Comfort, L., Groenendaal, J., & Wolbers, J. (2014). Editorial: Incident command systems: A dynamic tension among goals, rules and practice. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 1-4. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12042

Buck, D. A., Trainor, J. E., & Aguirre, B. E. (2006). A critical evaluation of the incident command system and NIMS. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 3(3), 1252-1252. Retrieved from http://resolver.scholarsportal.info/resolve/21946361/v03i0003/1252_aceoticsan

Comfort, L. K. (2007). Crisis management in hindsight: Cognition, communication, coordination, and control. Public Administration Review, 67, 189-197. doi:10.2307/4624696

Conway, G. (2006) “Monitoring the Performance of Wildfire Incident Management Teams in Real Time,” The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 21(2):40–44.

Drabek, T. & McEntire, D.A. (2002). Emergent Phenomena and Multiorganizational Coordination in Disasters. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. 20(2), 197-224.

FALCK. (2017). AIIMS (Australia Inter-Service Incident Management System) 2017: A Management System for Any Emergency. Sydney, Australia.

FEMA. (2017). National Incident Management System, 3rd Edition. Department of Homeland Security.

Granillo, B., Renger, R., Wakelee, J., & Burgess, J. (2010). Utilization of the native american talking circle to teach incident command system to tribal community health representatives. Journal of Community Health, 35(6), 625-634. doi:10.1007/s10900-010-9252-7

HM Government (UK) (2013). Emergency Response and Recovery Non statutory guidance accompanying the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/­file/253488/Emergency_Response_and_Recovery_5th_edition_October_2013.pdf (PDF, 1.7MB)

Hunt, S., Smith, K., Hamerton, H., & Sargisson, R. J. (2014). An incident control centre in action: Response to the Rena oil spill in New Zealand. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 63-66. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12036

Jensen, Jessica. (2011). The Current NIMS Implementation Behavior of United States Counties. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 8(1).

Jensen, J., & Waugh, W. L. (2014). The United States' experience with the Incident Command System: What we think we know and what we need to know more about. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 5-17. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12034

Kim, H. (2013). Improving simulation exercises in Korea for disaster preparedness. Disaster Prevention and Management, 22(1), 38-47. doi:10.1108/09653561311301961

Kim, H. (2014). Learning from UK disaster exercises: Policy implications for effective emergency preparedness. Disasters, 38(4), 846-857. doi:10.1111/disa.12084

McLean, I., Oughton, D., Ellis, S., Wakelin, B. and Rubin, C. (2012). Review of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Response to the 22 February Christchurch Earthquake. [online] Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

McLennan, J., Holgate, A. M., Omodei, M. M., & Wearing, A. J. (2006). Decision making effectiveness in wildfire incident management teams. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 14(1), 27-37. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5973.2006.00478.x

New Zealand Government. (2014). The New Zealand Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS), 2nd edition. Retrieved from https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE21739881.

Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. (2017) Annual Report 2017. Queen's Printer for Ontario. Toronto, Ontario.

Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management. (2014). 2013 Southern Ontario Ice Storm

Ontario After Action Report. MCSCS. Toronto, Ontario.

O'Neill, B., ICMA-CM. (2008). ACTING TO COORDINATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT. PM.Public Management, 90(6), 33-35.

Okada, A., & Ogura, K. (2014). Japanese disaster management system: Recent developments in information flow and chains of command. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 58-62. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12041

Owen, C. and I. Dwyer (2009) Review of Incident Management Teamwork and Multi-agency Collaboration. Research report submitted to the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Australia, 2009.

Perry, R. W. (2004). Disaster exercise outcomes for professional emergency personnel and citizen volunteers. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 12(2), 64-75. doi:10.1111/j.0966-0879.2004.00436.x

Province of Ontario (2009). The Incident Management System (IMS) for Ontario.

Rimstad, R., Njå, O., Rake, E. L., & Braut, G. S. (2014). Incident command and information flows in a Large‐Scale emergency operation. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 29-38. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12033

Roshan, B. B., Owen, C., & Brooks, B. (2014). Organisational features and their effect on the perceived performance of emergency management organisations. Disaster Prevention and Management, 23(3), 222-242. doi:10.1108/DPM-06-2013-0101

Scholtens, A., Jorritsma, J., & Helsloot, I. (2014). On the need for a paradigm shift the Dutch command and information system for the acute phase of disasters. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 39-51. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12035

Subramaniam, C., Hassan, A., & Faridahwati, M. S. (2010). Understanding the antecedents of emergency response: A proposed framework. Disaster Prevention and Management, 19(5), 571-581. 

Transport Canada. (2018). Transport Canada Incident Management System. Draft.

Vidal, R., & Roberts, K. H. (2014). Observing elite firefighting teams: The triad effect. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 18-28. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12040

Waugh,W. (2009a),'Mechanisms for Collaboration in Emergency Management:ICS, NIMS, and the Problem with Command and Control', in O'Leary, R. and Bingham, L. (eds), The Collaborative Public Manager: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century, Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, pp. 157–175.

Zhang, M., & She, L. (2014). Incident command system in china: Development and dilemmas evidence from comparison of two cases. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 22(1), 52-57. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12038

End Notes

  • [1] Report of the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry, released on October 15, 2014.
  • [2] Report of the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry, released on October 15, 2014.
  • [3] For example, the 2003 SARS health emergency is an example of a complex long-term health emergency.
  • [4] During the 2015 Pan Am Games, nine participating police services coordinated security over a large geographic area. Unified Command was established to allow for the sharing of information and coordination of resources across multiple jurisdictions.
  • [5] For example, the Toronto Raptors championship parade in 2019.
  • [6] For example, the 1998 and 2013 ice storms have led municipalities in Ontario to open their EOCs in anticipation of an ice storm.
  • [7] In the 2003 SARS response, this included a medical screening for incoming incident response personnel to prevent the spread of infection.