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The National Incident Management System – A Workbook for State Department of Transportation Frontline Workers

September 2009

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration


The Transportation Pooled Fund Program

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Table of Contents

Welcome and Introduction

Module 1: The National Response Framework

Module 2: The National Incident Management System

Module 3: Introduction to ICS

Module 4: ICS Organization

Comprehensive Final Review

Addendum: Checklist for ICS Participants

This workbook was researched and produced as a project by Excalibur Associates, Inc. in support of SAIC under Federal Highway Administration Transportation Pooled Fund Study 5(161), Transportation Security and Emergency Preparedness Professional Capacity Building (PCB) Pooled Fund Study. State Departments of Transportation and other agencies contributing to the pooled fund were California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Texas, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration.

Workbook contents have been coordinated with FEMA. The contents are adequate for use in replacing the requirement for frontline transportation workers to take IS 100.a. Only the State Administrative Agency can make the determination as to whether this workbook can be substituted for those courses in order to meet State training requirements.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 5 requires all Federal departments and agencies to adopt the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and to use it in their individual incident management programs and activities, as well as in support of all actions taken to assist State, tribal, and local governments. The directive requires Federal departments and agencies to make adoption of NIMS by State, tribal, and local organizations a condition for Federal preparedness assistance (through grants, contracts, and other activities). The NIMS recognizes the role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector have in preparedness and activities to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents.


Photo of workers surrounding a backhoe that is removing debris from storm damage on a residential street.As a frontline transportation worker you may have had one or more opportunities to be part of an emergency response to small incidents, such as traffic accidents, or local floods or a tornado; or large scale incidents, such as a major hurricane that may have included support from the Federal government.

Did you know that there are two Federal documents that provide the framework for emergency response activities and describe how Federal, State, tribal and local governments will work together when responding to large and small incidents? Because Federal, State, tribal, and local government agencies are adopting the principles and concepts of incident management contained in the National Response Framework (NRF) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), it is important for you to understand how you fit into an incident response.

There are many ways for you to receive that training, such as online courses, traditional classroom instruction, distance learning, or a combination of one or more of these. Each of these methods is time consuming and costly to you and your organization. This Workbook is designed to allow you to meet the training and education requirements in a self-paced manner as agreed to by you and your supervisor.

After you have completed this Workbook, you will have met the national objectives and training requirements and will have a basic understanding of the NRF and NIMS, including the part about the Incident Command System (ICS). You will learn:

This Workbook consists of four modules:

  1. The National Response Framework
  2. The National Incident Management System
  3. Introductions to the Incident Command System
  4. Incident Command System Organization

Throughout the Workbook, you will learn how the information contained in the four modules relates to you as a frontline State Department of Transportation (DOT) worker. At the end of each module, there are a few review questions related to a scenario for you to answer.

At the end of the Workbook is a 10-question review quiz. You are to answer the 10 questions and return the Workbook to your supervisor. There is also an Addendum with a planning checklist for you to use if you are deployed to an incident scene. Keep this Addendum for future use.

Module 1: The National Response Framework

The National Response Framework (NRF)

Screen shot of the cover of the National Response Framework document. You may have heard the term National Response Framework. This document was published by the Federal government, but it was developed with input from partner stakeholders: Federal agencies, States, local response organizations, and the private-sector. It is a guide to how the Nation: local, tribal, State, and Federal governments, and the private sector, conducts all-hazards response activities. It provides guidance on how roles, including yours, are aligned for efficiency and effectiveness during response operations. It is based on best practices identified following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and describes specific authorities and relationships for managing incidents that range from the serious, but strictly local, to large-scale terrorist attacks or catastrophic natural disasters. It is not a response plan, but provides a basis for developing response plans at all levels of government.

The NRF presents the key response principles, identifies the participants and their roles, and describes structures that guide the Nation's response operations. It provides all response personnel, including you, with guidance and information relating to:

For you, the frontline State DOT worker, many of these activities will not be visible. They will go on behind the scenes of the work that you do at the incident scene. Nonetheless, it is important for you to be aware that they are happening; to know that there are processes and procedures in place to ensure that the response goes smoothly, and most importantly, that life safety is always first and foremost.

The National Response Framework identifies 15 Emergency Support Functions (ESF), that provide the structure for grouping functions most frequently used to provide Federal support to States, for both declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act. It designates a lead Federal agency, and identifies which Federal agencies support each of these ESFs.

The 15 Emergency Support Functions are:

ESF 1 – Transportation
ESF 2 – Communications
ESF 3 – Public Works and Engineering
ESF 4 – Firefighting
ESF 5 – Emergency Management
ESF 6 – Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services
ESF 7 – Logistics Management and Resource Support
ESF 8 – Public Health and Medical Services
ESF 9 – Search and Rescue
ESF 10 – Oil and Hazardous Materials Response
ESF 11 – Agriculture and Natural Resources
ESF 12 – Energy
ESF 13 – Public Safety and Security
ESF 14 – Long-Term Community Recovery
ESF 15 – External Affairs

The same ESFs will also be identified in most State Emergency Operations Plans (EOP). Some states have identified additional ESFs for their EOPs, so you may have heard about ESFs 16, 17 or higher. Some states do not call them by the ESF number; instead, they use the name of the ESF such as Transportation, Communications, or Public Safety. Whichever method your state chooses to use is fine.

Photo of rescue workers examining a series of boards laid across an unpictured surface.The U.S. Department of Transportation is the lead Federal agency for ESF 1, Transportation. In the same manner, the State DOT usually has the leadership role within the state for all matters relating to ESF 1, Transportation: infrastructure, including roads, tunnels and bridges; transit systems; airfields; canals; and railroads; as well as for all preparedness activities, response operations, and recovery and mitigation activities related to transportation resources. The ESF lead agency coordinates planning efforts and the use of resources from other State agencies that may be identified to provide support. So, even though your State Department of Transportation may be the lead agency for ESF 1, Transportation, you are not alone. In the same manner, your State DOT may support some of the other ESF lead agencies.

Emergency Support Function 1, Transportation, is usually NOT the primary responsible agency for the movement of goods, equipment, animals or people. However, you have to keep in mind that each state is organized differently, so in some cases your State DOT may be involved in transportation activities to some degree. You, or your supervisor, can access the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) online at for guidelines specific to traffic control signage and information specific to Departments of Transportation.

ESF 1, Transportation
According to the NRF, the DOT is responsible for: You might do these types of activities:
Monitoring and reporting the status of, and damage to, the transportation system and infrastructure Inspect or assist in inspecting bridges, roads, rails and/or airfields after a severe flood or earthquake
Identifying temporary alternative solutions that can be implemented to ensure that the movement of people and materials can be continued during the response Establish detours and set up alternate route signs; clear state highways of debris; clear runways for movement of aircraft; and assist with traffic control and flow.
Performing activities conducted under the direct authority of the DOT Close roads, harbors or airfields
Coordinating the restoration and recovery of transportation system and infrastructure Replace bridges and railroad tracks; dredge harbors
Coordinating and supporting preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation activities among transportation stakeholders Participate in training and exercises; work with local governments to rebuild stronger infrastructure

If you want to learn more about the National Response Framework, you can find information at:

Review Activity

Photograph of a tornado moving toward a series of structures and a light pole.Scenario: A real life example is an EF-5 tornado leveled the town of Greensburg, Kansas. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius and President George W. Bush both declared Kiowa County a disaster area. This meant that both State and Federal resources would be coming into Kiowa County to assist the local government officials and responders with response activities.

The Kansas Department of Transportation is deploying you to Kiowa County to support response activities.


Review Questions 1 to 3 are multiple choice. Read the question and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

1. In accordance with the National Response Framework, the jurisdiction that will manage activities for the response to the tornado is the:

a. State of Kansas, through the State Emergency Management Agency.
b. Federal Government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
c. Kiowa County.

2. The Kansas State Department of Transportation will be in charge of coordinating all transportation-related support to Kiowa County. This task falls to the State DOT because it has the leadership role for Emergency Support Function:

a. 1, Transportation
b. 5, Emergency Management
c. 14, Long-Term Recovery

3. The Kansas State Department of Transportation is preparing to deploy a large number of trucks and drivers to assist Kiowa County as it responds to the tornado. A possible job that you may be called on to perform is:

a. Transporting people from staging areas to work sites.
b. Assisting the County Highway Department clearing debris to open roads for access by incoming resources from the State and Federal governments.
c. Arranging for food and beverages for the responders.


1. c. A critical principle of the NRF is all incidents are managed locally. [see page 2]

2. a. Following the NRF and the lead of the US Department of Transportation, the State Department of Transportation has the leadership role for ESF 1, Transportation. [see page 2]

3. b. One of the tasks that the State DOT is responsible for is identifying temporary alternative solutions that can be implemented to ensure that the movement of people and materials can be continued during the response. If there is debris blocking the roads, the solution is to clear it away. [see page 3]

Module 2: The National Incident Management System

The National Incident Management System

Screen shot of the cover of the National Incident Management System document.You may have heard the term National Incident Management System (NIMS). The NIMS is a companion document to the National Response Framework (NRF), and provides a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that is applied and followed at all jurisdictional levels: local, tribal, State, and Federal; and across functional disciplines: fire, health, law enforcement, and transportation. The NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents, while the NRF provides the structure and mechanisms for National-level policy for incident management.

The NIMS is intended to:

In other words, the NIMS is intended make sure you and emergency responders from other organizations are on the same page when responding to all types of emergencies.

Consistent use of NIMS lays the groundwork for response to all emergency situations, from a single agency responding to a fire, to many jurisdictions and organizations responding to a large natural disaster or act of terrorism. An important effect of the NIMS is that it creates a common approach in both pre-event preparedness and post-event response activities that allow responders from many different organizations to effectively and efficiently work together at the scene of an incident. Under the NIMS, you and the other responders know what to expect and what to do when you arrive at an incident scene.

The NRF and NIMS are companion documents that were created to improve the Nation's incident management and response capabilities. Together, the NRF and NIMS provide for the effective integration of the capabilities and resources of various governmental jurisdictions, non-governmental organizations, and the private-sector incident management and emergency response disciplines into a cohesive, coordinated and seamless national framework for incident response.

If you would like to read more about NIMS, you can find it at:

Components of NIMS

The NIMS has five components. Four of these, and what they mean to you as a frontline State DOT worker, are:

The fifth component is Ongoing Management and Maintenance, which is simply the process of ensuring continued coordination and oversight of the program.

Incident Command System

The Incident Command System (ICS) is the NIMS element you should become most familiar with. The ICS provides a standardized, yet flexible, management process to ensure all resources committed to a response, whether the resources are provided from different organizations within or outside a single jurisdiction, or, for complex incidents with national implications are used in the best way possible. When an incident requires response from multiple local response agencies, effective cross-jurisdictional coordination using common processes and systems is critical to an effective response and for the safety of the responders.

The use of the Incident Command System allows for responders from outside a local jurisdiction or state to volunteer or be sent to another incident scene and still understand the terminology and operations being used. You could be sent to an area other than the one you report to on a daily basis, especially during a regional or statewide incident or when those who would normally respond are affected by the situation and external resources need to be brought in to help.

You will learn more about the principles and importance of ICS in the next two modules.

Review Activity

Satellite infrared image of a hurricane located between Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.Scenario: An example is when Hurricane Dean entered the Caribbean Sea, heading for the South Texas Coast. The State of Texas and the Federal Government mobilized personnel and equipment, and started deploying resources in the San Antonio area. The National Ambulance contract was activated, and more than 300 ground ambulances and 25 fixed and rotary wing air ambulance assets were deployed to San Antonio. The State of Texas deployed hundreds of school buses to Southern Texas. The U.S. Department of Transportation arranged for aircraft to be staged out of Brownsville for the air evacuation of the general public from the coastal area.

The Texas State Department of Transportation has deployed you from your normal workplace to Brownsville to support emergency responders preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Dean.


The statements in Review Questions 1 and 2 are either True or False. Read the questions and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

1. Principles and concepts of the National Incident Management System are used only in major incidents, such as Hurricane Dean, which involves the deployment of Federal resources.



2. You find you are being transferred to McAllen 60 miles away. You hear that the response operation at McAllen also follows the principles of ICS. Because of this, and because you understand ICS, you will be able to make the transition without having to learn new terms or methodologies.



Review Question 3 is multiple choice. Read the question and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

3. The Texas DOT has spent a significant amount of time developing plans, training you and your peers, conducting exercises and making corrective actions when required. Which NIMS component addresses these types of activities?

a. Preparedness.
b. Resource Management.
c. Ongoing Management and Maintenance.


1. False. It is intended to be used in all types of incidents, hazards and emergencies regardless of cause, size, location or complexity. [see page 7]

2. True. The use of the Incident Command System allows for responders from outside a local jurisdiction or state to volunteer or be sent to another incident scene and still understand the terminology and operations being used. [see page 9]

3. a. See the discussion of Preparedness at the top of page 8.

Module 3: Introduction to ICS

Photo of a responder with his back to the camera wearing a high-visibility safety vest with a patch that reads 'Incident Commander.'This Module introduces you to:

By the end of this Module, you should be able to:

The Incident Command System (ICS)

An incident is an occurrence, regardless of cause, that requires response actions to prevent or minimize loss of life, or damage to property and/or the environment.

Examples of incidents include:

Photograph of a line of snowplows, each plowing a lane on a multi-lane interstate highway.

Given the size of some of these types of events, it's not always possible for any one agency alone to handle management and resource needs.

The ICS is a standard, on-scene, all-hazard incident management approach. It allows responders to use the same organizational structure for a single or multiple incidents regardless of boundaries.

The ICS has considerable internal flexibility, that is, the management organization can grow or shrink to meet different requirements. This flexibility makes it a very cost effective and efficient management approach for both small and large situations.

Why is there an Incident Command System?

The ICS was developed in the 1970s following a series of catastrophic fires in California's wildlands. What were the lessons learned? Surprisingly, studies found that response problems were far more likely to result from inadequate management than from lack of resources or tactics. Weaknesses were often due to:

What is ICS?

The ICS is:

The ICS is designed to:

Photo of a wildfire with several fire and police responders and water tanker trucks on the scene.The ICS has been tested and proved effective in more than 30 years of emergency and non-emergency applications, by all levels of government and the private sector. NOTE: The NIMS requires the use of ICS during responses to any/all incidents whether or not there is Federal or State involvement!

The ICS consists of procedures for managing personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications resources. It is a system designed to be used from the beginning to the end of an incident.

ICS Features

The ICS principles are implemented through a wide range of management features including the use of common terminology and a modular organizational structure. This means no matter where you might be sent to assist in a response you should meet people who speak the same language and be organized in a similar manner.

The ICS emphasizes effective planning, including management by objectives and reliance on an Incident Action Plan (IAP).

The ICS features related to command structure include chain of command and unity of command, as well as unified command and transfer of command. Most important to you is chain of command – that is how you will receive your instructions and tasks.

Through mobilization and accountability, ICS helps ensure that resources are on hand and ready.

And, finally, ICS supports you and other responders, and decision makers by providing the data needed through effective information management.

Common Terminology and Clear Text

The ability to communicate within the ICS is absolutely critical. That is, everyone uses clear text; they do not use radio codes, agency-specific codes, or jargon.

The ICS establishes common terminology that allows incident management and support groups to work effectively together. Common terminology helps to define:

Modular Organization

Photo of a group of incident responders sitting around an office table spread with papers. One individual is wearing an orange vest that reads 'Operations Section Chief.' As response requirements for an incident become more complex, the ICS organization expands from the top down as responsibilities are delegated. When needed, separate functional elements can be established and subdivided to enhance internal organizational management and external coordination. As the ICS organizational structure expands, the number of management positions also expands to adequately address the requirements of the incident. In ICS, only those functions or positions necessary for that particular incident will be activated. However, there will always be an Incident Commander and he/she will always be in charge. This is true even if the Incident Commander is the ONLY person at the scene.

Management by Objectives

All levels of a growing ICS organization must have a clear understanding of the functional actions required to manage the incident. Management by objectives is an approach used to communicate functional actions throughout the entire ICS organization.

Reliance on an Incident Action Plan

In ICS, a lot of emphasis is placed on developing effective Incident Action Plans (IAP). An IAP is an oral or written plan that identifies general objectives that are part of the overall strategy for managing response activities. Incident Action Plans include the measurable strategic operations to be achieved and are prepared around a timeframe called an Operational Period. The purpose of the IAP is to provide all incident supervisory personnel with direction for actions to be put into action during the operational period identified in the plan. A new IAP is written for each operational period.

At the simplest level, all Incident Action Plans must have four elements:

You will be working on a task or tasks that are included in the IAP. Other information in the IAP will not apply to you but may be important to other responders.

Portions of an example IAP are shown on the next two pages. The first page is a cover sheet showing what forms are included in the IAP. The second page identifies the operational period; clearly states the objectives, which are sometimes called priorities; and provides safety information. Safety during operations is extremely important to an effective and efficient response.

Screen capture of an IAP cover sheet containing information about what is included in the plan. Information includes incident name, period covered, and a checklist of items that are included in the action plan ranging from org charts to assignment plans to medical plans and cultural resource recovery plans.


Example IAP Cover Sheet

Screen capture of an Incident Objectives form, which lists objectives for the incident and a set of safety messages for the operational period as well as a checklist of attachments related to the incident recovery, including organization and assignment lists and medical plans, among others.

Example Incident Objectives, ICS Form 202 (R)

Manageable Span of Control

Another basic ICS feature concerns the supervisory structure of the organization.

Span of control involves the number of individuals or resources that one supervisor can manage effectively during emergency response activities. Maintaining adequate span of control throughout the ICS organization is very important. Effective span of control during an incident may vary from three (3) to seven (7), and a ratio of one (1) supervisor to five (5) reporting elements is recommended. If the number of direct reports is less than three (3) or more than seven (7) expansion or consolidation of the organization may be necessary.

Incident Facilities

The principal facilities with which you should be familiar are: the Incident Command Post (ICP), Staging Areas, and Bases.

Photograph of an RV-type vehicle that is designed to serve as a mobile command post.The ICP is the location from which the Incident Commander oversees all incident operations. There is generally only one ICP for each incident or event, but it may change locations during the event. The ICP may be located in a vehicle, trailer, tent, or within a building. It may even be the hood of a squad car or side of a fire truck. The ICP will be positioned outside of the present and potential hazard zone, but close enough to the incident to maintain command. The ICP will be designated by the name of the incident, e.g., Trail Creek ICP.

Staging Areas are temporary locations personnel and equipment is kept while waiting for assignments. When you first arrive at an incident, you may report to the Staging Area.

A Base is the location that logistics and administrative functions are coordinated and administered. The Base is where you would sleep, eat, shower and refit. There is only one Base per incident, and it is designated by the incident name, for example, Trail Creek Base.

You may also hear the terms camp, helibase and helispot. You may find more information about these three facilities at:

Resource Management

ICS resources can be divided into two categories:

Integrated Communications

Communication equipment, procedures, and systems must be interoperable; that is, they must allow communication between organizations and across jurisdictions. For example, it is important that you are able to communicate with local highway department or airfield personnel as well as your incident supervisor.

Chain of Command and Unity of Command

In the ICS:

Organizational chart illustrating that when one is activated for an emergency response, one no longer works for one's day to day supervisor, but is reassigned to report to the ICS Response Supervisor along with other responders to that incident.

Although orders must flow through the chain of command, members of the organization may directly communicate with each other to ask for or share information.

The command function may be carried out in two ways:

Transfer of Command

The process of moving the responsibility for incident command from one Incident Commander to another is called transfer of command. Transfer of command may take place when:

The transfer of command process always includes a transfer of command briefing, which may be oral, written, or a combination of both. If, during the very early stage of an incident response, you are the first person of authority at the scene, you would be the Incident Commander. When another person of authority arrives and will replace you, some of the things you would need to include in the transfer of command briefing are:


Effective accountability during incident operations is essential at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas. You, as an individual, must abide by your DOT policies and guidelines, and any applicable local, tribal, State, or Federal rules and regulations. Additionally, the following ICS guidelines must be adhered to:

Review Activity

Image of a two-lane steel bridge on a rainy day.Scenario: The past winter was one of the worst in several years. The States of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, which comprise a major regional area that feeds the Mississippi River, received over 48 inches of snow, a large amount of which was still on the ground in late March. The temperature on April 1 was 45 degrees and a severe spring thunderstorm dumped six (6) inches of rain on the same area. All streams in the area quickly went over their banks, with all the water running downstream to the Mississippi. Roads are underwater, bridges have been damaged, and railroad beds have been compromised.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is deploying you from your normal work area near Milwaukee to Dane County to work in the emergency response.


The statements in Review Questions 1 to 5 are either True or False. Read the question and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

1. You are glad to hear that Dane County uses the Incident Command System. The ICS was developed after a study of previous incident responses to California wildland fires found that failures were more likely to result from a lack of resources than from ineffective management.



2. The Incident Action Plan that Dane County develops that identifies the tasks you may be called on to accomplish is based on a defined operational period.



3. While ICS will be used to manage response activities to address problems caused by the flood waters, one of the local fire chiefs could use the same ICS management principles to manage a carnival at his daughter's grade school.



4. As mentioned above, Dane County follows the principles of ICS. Because of this, they do not need an Incident Commander at every incident regardless of its size.



5. While driving to the county Incident Command Post, along a state highway, you come upon a major traffic accident - it appears that several semi-trailers have jack-knifed and hit several cars. You are the first official person at the scene and you assumed the position of Incident Commander. Twenty minutes later, a local fire chief arrives at the scene and assumes command. A transfer of command is required. One of the things you make sure to tell the incoming incident commander (the fire chief) is what actions you have taken to this point.




1. False. The study of previous incidents found that incident response failures were far more likely to result from inadequate management than from any other reason. [see page 13]

2. True. A new IAP is developed and published for each operational period. [see page 15]

3. True. ICS can be used to manage a routine or planned event, as well as a large and complex emergency situation. This management system has been tested in more than 30 years of emergency and non-emergency applications, by all levels of government and the private sector. As an example, ICS was used to manage the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. [see page 12]

4. False. Every incident will have an Incident Commander. [see page 14]

5. True. Some elements of the transfer of command briefing are:

Module 4: ICS Organization

This module introduces you to the:

By the end of this Module, you should be able to:

ICS Organization

The ICS organization is unique but easy to understand. There is no correlation between the ICS organization used for incident response and the day-to-day administrative structure of any single agency or jurisdiction, with the exception of the military. This is deliberate, because confusion over different position titles and organizational structures has been a significant stumbling block to effective incident management in the past.

For example, someone who serves as an Office Director every day may not hold that title when working under the ICS structure.

Major Management Functions

There are major management functions that are the foundation upon which the ICS organization develops. These functions apply whether the incident is a routine emergency, is organizing for a major non-emergency event, or when managing a response to a major disaster. The major management functions are:

You may hear these referred to C-FLOP. This is an easy way to remember the first letter of each of the functions. Command, Finance, Logistics, Operations, and Planning.

Organizational Structure: Incident Commander

On small incidents and events, one person, the Incident Commander, may accomplish all management functions. In fact, the Incident Commander is the only position that is always staffed in ICS applications. However, large incidents or events may require that some of these management functions be set up as separate Sections within the organization.

As a frontline Department of Transportation employee, you may be the first person in any sort of official capacity at the scene of an incident. You automatically become the Incident Commander. You will be directing the early portion of the response, and in most cases that means you and anyone else with you, will do things you are very familiar with: reporting the incident to 911, reporting to your dispatcher or supervisor, directing traffic, providing first aid, gathering information from bystanders, and so on. In almost every case, the person with the appropriate authority will arrive within a short span of time, generally a local or State law enforcement officer or a fire company.

When that person arrives, you will transfer command to him or her. Simply put, the transfer of command means you will brief the incoming Incident Commander on what you have done and an assessment of the situation. That person takes charge and you become support to the Incident Commander. You do not leave until you are instructed to do so.

Organizational Structure: ICS Sections

Each of the primary ICS Sections may be subdivided as needed. The ICS organization has the capability to grow or shrink to meet the needs of the incident.

A basic ICS operating guideline is that the person at the top of the organization is responsible until the authority is delegated to another person. Thus, on smaller incidents when these additional persons are not required, the Incident Commander will personally accomplish or manage all aspects of the incident organization.

ICS Position Titles

To maintain span of control, the ICS organization can be divided into many levels of supervision. At each level, individuals with primary responsibility positions have distinct titles.

Using specific ICS position titles serves three important purposes:

Supervisory Position Titles

Organizational Level Title Support Position
Incident Command Incident Commander Deputy
Command Staff Officer Assistant
General Staff (Section) Chief Deputy
Branch Director Deputy
Division/Group Supervisor N/A
Unit Leader Manager
Strike Team/Task Force Leader Single Resource Boss

Incident Commander's Overall Role

The Incident Commander has overall responsibility for managing the incident by objectives, planning strategies, and implementing tactics. The Incident Commander must be fully briefed and should have a written delegation of authority. Initially, assigning tactical resources and overseeing operations will be under the direct supervision of the Incident Commander.

Personnel assigned by the Incident Commander have the authority of their assigned positions, regardless of the rank they hold within their respective agencies.

Incident Commander Responsibilities

In addition to having overall responsibility for managing the entire incident, the Incident Commander is specifically responsible for:

Photo of a group of responders in an urban area surrounding a table with documents spread out on it. Two responders near another wearing a vest labeled 'Incident Commander' are communicating over walkie talkie.The Incident Commander may appoint people to advise or perform these functions on his/her behalf. When this occurs, these individuals become the Command Staff.

The Incident Commander may appoint one or more Deputies, if applicable, from the same agency or from other agencies or jurisdictions. Deputy Incident Commanders must be as qualified as the Incident Commander because the Deputy has to be able to take the Commander's place if the Commander is unable to continue in the position.

Formal transfer of command at an incident always requires a transfer of command briefing for the incoming Incident Commander and notification to all personnel that a change in command is taking place.

Command Staff

Depending upon the size and type of incident or event, it may be necessary for the Incident Commander to designate personnel to provide information, safety, and liaison services for the entire organization. In ICS, these personnel make up the Command Staff and consist of the:

The Command Staff reports directly to the Incident Commander.

Expanding the Organization

As incidents grow, the Incident Commander may delegate authority for performance of certain activities to the Command Staff and the General Staff. The Incident Commander will add positions only as needed.

General Staff

Expansion of the incident may also require the delegation of authority for other management functions. The people who perform the other four management functions are designated as the General Staff. The General Staff is made up of four Sections, representing the four functional areas mentioned above: Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration. The General Staff reports directly to the Incident Commander.

ICS Section Chiefs and Deputies

As mentioned previously, the person in charge of each Section is designated as a Chief. Section Chiefs have the ability to expand their Section to meet the needs of the situation. Each of the Section Chiefs may have one or more Deputies, if necessary. The Deputy:

In large incidents, especially where multiple disciplines or jurisdictions are involved, the use of Deputies from other organizations can greatly increase interagency coordination.

Operations Section

Until Operations is established as a separate Section, the Incident Commander has direct control of tactical resources. The Incident Commander will determine the need for a separate Operations Section. When the Incident Commander activates an Operations Section, he or she will assign an individual as the Operations Section Chief.

Organizational chart depicting the sections under the command of the Incident Commander. The sections include operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration.

It is very possible that you, as a State DOT worker, will be assigned to an element of the Operations Section and be assigned specific tactical responsibilities.

Operations Section Chief

The Operations Section Chief will develop and manage the Operations Section to accomplish the incident objectives set by the Incident Commander. The Operations Section Chief is normally the person with the greatest technical and tactical expertise in dealing with a specific incident type.

Operations Section: Expanding and Contracting

The Incident Commander or Operations Section Chief at an incident may work initially with only a few single resources or staff members.

Organizational chart depicting three potential elements of the operations section: road crew, utilities crew, and traffic control crew.

The Operations Section usually develops from the bottom up. The organization will expand to include needed levels of supervision as more and more resources are deployed.

Organizational chart depicting five potential elements of the operations section: road crew, utilities crew, traffic control crew, HazMat specialist, and heavy equipment operator.

Tactical Resources

You, as a State DOT worker, are a Single Resource, but may be assigned to a Strike Team or Task Force depending on the tactical needs of the response.

Organizational chart depicting the operations section with three reporting elements: the task force, the strike team, and the single resource, which is highlighted in the image.

Photo of a backhoe clearing rubble.

Planning Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Planning Section and designate a Planning Section Chief. If no Planning Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all planning functions. It is up to the Planning Section Chief to activate any needed additional staffing.

You might be assigned to the Planning Section if you have extensive knowledge and experience of your assigned responsibilities.

Planning Section: Major Activities

The major activities of the Planning Section may include:

Planning Section: Units

The Planning Section can be further staffed with five (5) Units. Technical Specialists such as engineers, surveyors, and encroachment permit coordinators, may be assigned to work in the Planning Section. Depending on the needs, Technical Specialists may also be assigned to other Sections in the organization.

Organizational chart describes the units under the planning section, including the resource, situation, documentation, and demobilization units, and technical specialists.

Logistics Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Logistics Section at the incident, and designate an individual to fill the position of the Logistics Section Chief. If no Logistics Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all logistical functions. The size of the incident, complexity of support needs, and the incident length will determine whether a separate Logistics Section is established. Additional staffing is the responsibility of the Logistics Section Chief.

Logistics Section: Major Activities

The Logistics Section is responsible for all of the services and support needs, including:

Logistics Section: Branches and Units

The Logistics Section can be further staffed by two (2) Branches and six (6) Units. Not all of the Units may be required; they will be established based on need. The titles of the Units are descriptive of their responsibilities.

Organizational chart describes the units under the logistics section, including the service branch and the support branch. Within the service branch are the communications, medical, and food units; within the support branch are the supply, facilities, and ground support units.

Finance/Administration Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Finance/Administration Section at the incident and designate an individual to fill the position of the Finance/Administration Section Chief. If no Finance/Administration Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all finance functions.

Finance/Administration Section: Major Activities

The Finance/Administration Section is set up for any incident that requires incident-specific financial management. The Finance/Administration Section is responsible for:

Increasing Use

More and more, larger incidents are using a Finance/Administration Section to monitor costs, many of which may be reimbursable. Smaller incidents may also require certain Finance/ Administration support. For example, the Incident Commander may establish one or more Units of the Finance/Administration Section for such things as negotiating rights-of-ways, procuring special equipment, contracting with a vendor, or making cost estimates for alternative response strategies.

Finance/Administration Section: Units

The Finance/Administration Section may staff four (4) Units. Not all Units may be required; they will be established based on need.

Organizational chart describes the units under the finance/administration section, including the procurement, time, cost, and compensation/claims unit.

Review Activity

Photo of a group of responders in an urban area surrounding a table with documents spread out on it. Two responders near another wearing a vest labeled 'Incident Commander' are communicating over walkie talkie.Scenario: You have been working in the Operations Section at an Incident Command Post for four (4) weeks. You are assisting one of the Deputy Section Chiefs.


Review Questions 1 and 2 are multiple choice. Read the questions and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

1. Who is responsible for the overall management of an incident?

a. Commander
b. Leader
c. Director
d. Chief
e. Supervisor

2. A group of three road graders and two front-end loaders, with operators and a leader, just reported into the Staging Area and are Available. What is this resource called?

a. Single Resource
b. Strike Team
c. Task Force

The statements in Review Questions 3 and 4 are either True or False. Read the question and circle the response you believe to be most correct.

3. If a Chief has not been named for the Finance/Administration Section, the Incident Commander acts as the Finance/Administration Section Chief.



4. Transportation of resources is the responsibility of the Operations Section Chief.




1. a. A Commander is responsible for overall management of an incident. A Leader is responsible for a Task Force, Strike Team or Functional Unit. A Director supervises a Branch. A Chief is responsible for functional Section. A Supervisor is responsible for a Division or Group. [see page 26]

2. c. Task Force. A Task Force is a group of different resources with common communications assembled for a specific task. A Single Resource is a person or piece of equipment. A Strike Team is a set number of resources of the same type and kind. [see page 29]

3. True. The Incident Commander retains responsibility for all activities until a supervisor is identified. [see page 31]

4. False. The Logistics Section Chief is responsible for coordinating and providing support transportation for the movement of resources. [see page 30]

Comprehensive Final Review

These 10 questions will test your understanding of the material presented in this Workbook. The questions are multiple choice - you are to circle the answer you think represents the best response to the question. When you finish this portion of the Workbook, return it to your supervisor - he/she will review your answers and return the Workbook to you to keep.

1. The ability to communicate within ICS is absolutely critical. In order to ensure efficient, clear communication, ICS requires the use of:

a. Agency-specific codes.
b. Radio codes.
c. Common terminology.
d. Technical language.

2. Which General Staff position prepares and documents the Incident Action Plan, collects and evaluates information, maintains resource status, and maintains documentation for incident records?

a. Operations Section Chief.
b. Planning Section Chief.
c. Finance/Administration Section Chief.
d. Logistics Section Chief.

3. Expansion of incidents may require the delegation of authority for the performance of Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration functions. The people who perform these four management functions are designated as the:

a. Command Staff.
b. Deputy Staff.
c. Chief of Staff.
d. General Staff.

4. Which incident facility is the location where personnel and equipment are kept while waiting for assignments?

a. Staging Area.
b. Base.
c. Camp.
d. Incident Command Post.

5. Which position is the only one that is always staffed in ICS applications?

a. Incident Commander.
b. Planning Section Chief.
c. Safety Officer.
d. Operations Section Chief.

6. ICS has been used to manage incidents such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and acts of terrorism. Which of the following situations represents another viable application for the use of ICS?

a. The oversight of safety issues associated with Mrs. Butler's 10th grade chemistry class throughout the school year.
b. The oversight of the annual fiscal budget for the Brownsville Library, including the procurement of new books.
c. The management of nursing staff at the City General Hospital during weekend shifts.
d. The planning and operation of the Central City Annual Labor Day Celebration, including a parade and fair.

7. One ICS principle relates to the supervisory structure of the organization and pertains to the number of individuals or resources one incident supervisor can manage effectively. This operating guideline is referred to as:

a. Unity of Command.
b. Delegation of Authority.
c. Span of Control.
d. Form Follows Function.

8. A basic ICS principle is that the first Incident Commander is responsible for all actions until:

a. The five management functions are activated.
b. Properly relieved by an incoming Incident Commander.
c. The next operations period has begun.
d. Demobilization occurs at the end of the incident response.

9. At each level of the ICS organization, individuals in positions of primary responsibility have distinct titles. Using specific ICS position titles:

a. Allows ICS positions to be filled with the most qualified individuals rather than being filled just by rank alone.
b. Ensures that responders remain accountable to agency management not present at the incident scene.
c. Improves responder motivation by providing prestige associated with certain titles.
d. Provides personnel with a clear understanding of the pay scale associated with increasing levels of responsibility.

10. Unified Command:

a. Assigns a single Incident Commander to assume unity of command and make decisions for all jurisdictions.
b. Enables all agencies with responsibility to manage an incident together by establishing a common set of incident objectives and strategies.
c. Requires that employees report to several different Incident Commanders, each representing each jurisdiction.
d. Obligates all responsible agencies to pool their resources without consideration to the terms of mutual aid and assistance agreements.


Checklist for ICS Participants

In the event you are assigned to an incident command during an emergency response, use the following as a checklist for preparation and participation.

General Guidelines-Lengthy Assignments

Many incidents last only a short time and may not require travel. Other deployments may require a lengthy assignment away from home. Below are general guidelines for incidents requiring extended stays or travel:

General Guidelines-Roles and Authorities

In addition to preparing for your travel arrangements, it is important to understand your role and authorities.

Actions Prior to Departure

Upon receiving an incident assignment, your deployment briefing should include, but may not be limited to, the following information:

Check-In at the Incident: Activities

Check-in officially logs you in at the incident. The check-in process and information helps to:

Check-In at the Incident: Locations

Check in only once. Check-in locations may be found at several incident facilities, including:

Note that these locations may not all be activated at every incident. Check-in information is usually recorded on ICS Form 211, Check-In List. This form, and any other forms that will be used, will be provided to you.

Initial Incident Briefing

After check-in, locate your incident supervisor and obtain your initial briefing. The briefing information helps you plan your tasks and communicate with others. Briefings received and given should include:

Incident Recordkeeping

All incidents require some form of recordkeeping. Requirements vary depending upon the agencies involved and the nature of the incident. Detailed information on using ICS forms will be covered in other training sessions, or may be found in the Forms Manual.

Below are general guidelines for incident recordkeeping:

If you are expected to be a supervisor:

Communications Discipline

Important considerations related to communications include:

Personal Conduct

Sexual harassment or discrimination of any type and the use of illegal drugs and/or alcohol are prohibited on all incidents. Report all such activities to your supervisor.

Often times, incident response can produce high stress situations. As part of your responsibilities you may be required to interact with people who have been adversely affected by the incident. It is important to be patient and act in a professional manner at all times.

Incident Demobilization

Agency requirements for demobilization may vary considerably. General demobilization guidelines for all personnel are to:

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