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Incident Management

When an emergency occurs or there is a disruption to the business, organized teams will respond in accordance with established plans. Public emergency services may be called to assist. Contractors may be engaged and other resources may be needed. Inquiries from the news media, the community, employees and their families and local officials may overwhelm telephone lines. How should a business manage all of these activities and resources? Businesses should have an incident management system (IMS). An IMS is “the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents” [NFPA 1600].

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was established by FEMA and includes the Incident Command System (ICS). NIMS is used as the standard for emergency management by all public agencies in the United States for both planned and emergency events. Businesses with organized emergency response teams that interface with public emergency services can benefit from using the ICS. ICS is also well suited for managing disruptions of business operations. Public information and crisis communications are an integral part of the ICS structure.

When an incident occurs, incident stabilization activities (e.g. firefighting, damage assessment, property conservation) may be underway at the scene of the incident. Others assigned to support incident stabilization, business continuity or crisis communications activities will report to an emergency operations center (EOC). The emergency operations center is a physical or virtual location from which coordination and support of incident management activities is directed.

The Incident Command System and the use of an Emergency Operations Center supports incident management.

Resources for Emergency Operations Centers

Incident Command System

Incident Command System Chart Diagram

Incident Command System Diagram - Text Version

The Incident Command System (ICS) is used by public agencies to manage emergencies. ICS can be used by businesses to work together with public agencies during emergencies. Private sector businesses should be familiar with the fundamental concepts of incident command and should coordinate planning with local public emergencies services. The use of ICS within a business depends upon the size and complexity of the business. Functions and roles may be assigned to multiple individuals or a few persons may be assigned multiple responsibilities.

Not all of the ICS positions need to be active in each incident. The ICS structure is meant to expand and contract as the scope of the incident requires. For small-scale incidents, only the incident commander may be assigned. Command of an incident would likely transfer to the senior on-scene officer of the responding public agency when emergency services arrive on the scene. Command transfers back to the business when the public agency departs.

An abbreviated summary of the roles and responsibilities of each ICS position are presented below.

Incident Commander

  • In charge of the organization’s on-scene response
  • Maintain command until public agencies arrive and assume command or when relieved at start of next operational period
  • Assess the situation
  • Order warning of persons at risk or potentially at risk to take appropriate protective actions
  • Notify or verify internal teams, departments, public agencies, regulators, contractors and suppliers have been notified
  • Appoint others to incident command positions as needed
  • Brief staff on current organization and activities; assign tasks; schedule planning meeting
  • Determine the incident objectives and strategy; identify information needed or required by others; ensure planning/strategy meetings are held and attend as needed
  • Coordinate activities with the EOC; identify priorities and activities; provide impact assessment for business continuity, crisis communications and management
  • Review requests for resources; confirm who has authority to approve procurement; approve all requests for resources as required
  • Provide information to and coordinate with crisis communications or media relations team
  • Terminate the response and demobilize resources when the situation has been stabilized


  • Identify and assess hazardous situations; prevent accidents
  • Prepare safety plan; ensure messages are communicated
  • Stop unsafe acts; correct unsafe conditions


  • Point of contact with outside agencies and companies
  • Monitors operations to identify inter-organizational problems

Public Information

  • Notify spokespersons and Crisis Communications Team
  • Develop information for use in media briefings
  • Obtain IC’s and management approval for all news releases
  • Conduct periodic media briefings
  • Arrange for tours, interviews and or briefings
  • Monitor and forward useful information to the media


  • Manage all tactical operations during the incident
  • Assist in the development of the operations portion of the Incident Action Plan
  • Ensure safe tactical operations for all responders (in conjunction with any assigned Safety Officer)
  • Request additional resources to support tactical operations
  • Expedite appropriate changes in the operations portion of the Incident Action Plan
  • Maintain close communication with the Incident Commander


  • Conduct and facilitate planning meetings
  • Supervise preparation of the Incident Action Plan
  • Determine need for technical experts from within the company or outside as well as specialized resources to support the incident
  • Coordinate with business continuity and senior management teams
  • Assemble information on alternative strategies and plans
  • Assess current and potential impacts on people, property, environment
  • Compile and display incident status information


  • Provides resources to stabilize the incident and support personnel, systems and equipment:
    • Workspace or facilities for incident management staff
    • Media briefing center
    • Transportation
    • Communications equipment
    • Food, water, shelter and medical care
  • Ensures Incident Command Post and other facilities have been established as needed
  • Assesses communications needs and facilitates communications between teams/personnel/agencies
  • Attends planning meetings; provides input to Incident Action Plan
  • Provides updates on resources (availability, response time, deployment)
  • Estimates and procures resources for the next operational period


  • Manages all financial aspects of the incident
  • Provides financial and cost analysis information as requested
  • Create accounts for claims and costs; coordinates with Logistics
  • Tracks worker time and costs for materials and supplies
  • Documents claims for damage, liability and injuries
  • Notifies risk management/insurance to initiate claims reporting
  • Provides incurred and forecasted costs at planning meetings
  • Provides oversight of financial expenditures, new leases, contracts and assistance agreements to comply with corporate governance

Emergency Operations Center

An emergency operations center (EOC) is a physical (e.g., a conference room) or virtual (e.g., telephone conference call) location designed to support emergency response, business continuity and crisis communications activities. Staff meets at the EOC to manage preparations for an impending event or manage the response to an ongoing incident. By gathering the decision makers together and supplying them with the most current information, better decisions can be made. A primary EOC should be established at the main business facility and a secondary EOC should be available at another company facility, a temporary facility (such as a hotel) or through a teleconference bridge established to bring staff together virtually. The EOC supports the following incident management functions.

Activation -Bring knowledge and expertise together to deal with events that threaten the business

Situation Analysis -Gather information to determine what is happening and to identify potential impacts

Incident Briefing - Efficiently share information among team members

Incident Action Plan - Provide a single point for decision-making and decide on a course of action for the current situation

Resource Management - Provide a single point of contact to identify, procure and allocate resources

Incident Management -Monitor actions, capture event data and adjust strategies as needed

An EOC is not an on-scene incident command post (ICP) - where the focus is on tactics to deal with the immediate situation. An EOC is used to support on-scene activities through the prioritization of activities and the allocation of available resources. A major function within the EOC is communications between the emergency response team, business continuity teamcrisis communications team and company management.

Emergency Operations Center

A large conference room can be used as an emergency operations center and primary team meeting location. It must be outfitted with furniture, telephone and internet access and be in close proximity to photocopiers, network printers, fax machines and other office equipment. The conference room or other space to be used as the EOC should be equipped with the following equipment and supplies:

  • Communications equipment including sufficient telephones (cell and landline with at least one speakerphone) to handle incoming and outgoing calls; incoming and outgoing fax machines; and access to any radio systems used by the business
  • Computers and printers with access to network resources (including electronic copies of emergency response, business continuity and crisis communications plans that can be printed on demand), electronic mail and the internet
  • Information gathering and display tools including access to broadcast radio and television (preferably with recording capability) or internet news sources; white boards, TV monitors, projection units or flipcharts with easel and markers to compile and display information
  • Hard copies of emergency response, business continuity and crisis communications plans, contact/telephone lists, resource inventory and diagrams of facilities and systems
  • Stationery, business and incident management forms, pens, pencils, markers and supplies
  • Food, water and dining supplies for EOC staff

The emergency operations center should be activated whenever there is a major incident that causes significant property damage, potential or actual business disruption or has the potential to cause a significant impact on the business.

Last Updated: 05/26/2021

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