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Incident Command System/Incident Management System Part II
By Fred Lovell
Published: 06/17/2013

Officer incident In part I we discussed the five technical priorities of ICS/IMS and the benefits of utilizing the systems over not having designated response assets. In this article we're going to discuss the three command modes of ICS/IMS and how each can benefit our facilities.

IMS/ICS is usually activated for any incident that is out of the ordinary and where additional resources may or may not be needed. It is also important understand that those actively involved in the ICS itself cannot assume roles inside the command structure. When ICS is activated by an officer or staff member who is being assaulted or is otherwise actively engaged the first person on scene will assume command. For example if I’m involved with the fight with an inmate, I would activate the ICS/IMS and then give a brief initial report that will include; who I am, where I’m located, what’s going on, and what I need. This can sound is simple as “this is Lieut. Lovell I’m activating ICS, I’m fighting with an inmate in seven building H pod 3 section I need help.” As you can see this activation is short gets required information out and because I’m involved actively in the ICS the first person on scene will assume command and designate other resources that may or may not be needed. Now let’s look at an ICS activation where there are a group of inmates fighting and I’m not engaged, “this is Lieut. Lovell I’m activating ICS I have six inmates fighting with weapons in 7 building H pod 3 section I needed an A-team response video camera medical on standby I’m in command.” Each organization has their own way of activating ICS/IMS so ensure that you follow your own agencies protocol. But make sure you get all the information that’s required so there is no delay in response.

Now that we’ve discussed what ICS/IMS is and how to activate it, let’s talk about the three command modes of the systems.
  • The first is the assessment mode. In the assessment mode the incident commander establishes and maintains operating position, will help gather and evaluate intelligence and information in the most effective manner possible. Under this operational mode activities such as evaluation of incident indicators, observing inmates, interviewing inmates, development of action plans, as well as notification activation and staging of assets and resources. The assessment mode can last for any period of time but will end with one of the following criteria. The situation stabilized, the situation is not stabilized in which case an initial response mode is initiated or the incident commander withdraws to a secure location and establishes the command post, or command is transferred.
  • The second is the initial response mode. The incident commander will maintain a position where he/she is fully aware of what is occurring and provide supervision at a suitable distance providing command security. Critical life and safety situations must be achieved in a compressed time frame, occur in the initial response mode, the initial response mode should not last more than a few minutes and will end with one of the following:
    • the situation is stabilized
    • the situation is not stabilized and the command must withdraw to secure location and establish the command post or command is transferred
  • The third is command post mode. Certain incidents based on their size, complexity or potential for expansion require the incident commander to assume a secure safe and effective command post and maintain that position until relieved. The incident commander may or may not assign crew-members to perform staff functions or may assign an employee to serve as the operation section leader. The command post will stay active until the incident is resolved.

Transferring command is something that occurs on a routine basis, however there are some guidelines that need to be a tiered to when transferring command of an incident. There are two different types of transfer of command, one is vertical and the other is horizontal. Transfer of command may occur as a supervisor, senior to the current incident commander arrives on the scene and the determination for the need of higher-level authority to be the incident commander. Command may also be transferred in a horizontal fashion when the personal knowledge skills and abilities of incident commander are required elsewhere and an another supervisor of at least equal rank is present, more relief may be required during extended operations. Command shall not be passed any person who is not on site, however this does not include off-site chain of command employees from providing direction and advice to the incident commander to assist in managing the incident.

Finally if at all possible when transferring command the leaving commander should have a face-to-face conversation with the oncoming commander, this will help ensure that all information is accurate and there is no miscommunications. In the next article we will discuss escalating levels of response as well as responsibilities of each member of the incident management system/incident command system team.

Corrections.com author, Lieutenant Fred Lovell, is currently a shift Lieutenant for The Texas Department of Criminal Justice at the John B Connally Jr Unit in Kennedy Texas and has almost 10 years in corrections. Prior to working for the Great State of Texas he worked as a Correctional Officer and Sergeant in Arizona where he also taught at the ASPC Kingman Correctional Officer Training Academy.

Other articles by Lovell:



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