Blog 2: The Role of Communication in ICS
The Incident Command System works well and is able to maintain tight command and control for one main reason; effective management. This effective management is a result of several factors but communication is the most important factor. In order for effective management and positive results to occur there must be successful communication at all times (before, during, and after incidents).
The ICS accomplishes this successful communication through the top-down management structure, in correlation with the Systems Theory approach, abides by a hierarchical structure. In the ICS there are 9 leves: first is the incident command, then public information and liaison, then safety and support, next are operations, logistics, finance & administration, and planning. This top-down structure implements unity of command, so it requires integrated communication between units, which is when incident commands are created and executed through common, shared plan structures and processes.
The ICS, though based on a hierarchy, does allow for permeability in order to ensure that each unit involved can talk and be linked communicatively; however it is important to always follow the chain of command in order to avoid confusing communication that results in [possibly fatal] errors. Another important factor of the communication of the ICS is the standardization of language. In order to promote a common understanding among all parties involved the ICS does not rely on technical jargon and unclear, unfamiliar language.
On the web site Voices of September 11: 9/11 A Living Memorial( http://www.voicesofseptember11.org/dev/content.php?idtocitems=2,45,49,64) there is section concerning ICS, specifically the preparedness and chain of command factors of ICS. The author points out that the 9/11 Commissioners recommended proper funding based on realistic training that coincides with the ICS unified command procedures. If followed, this recommendation would result in effective plans and groups that are comfortable with their roles within the ICS framework. In reaction to the disaster of 9/11 the United States increased security significantly and with that influx of security came more levels to the hierarchy, leaving room for errors in communication. The flawed communication is demonstrated again with hurricane Katrina when costs sky-rocketed due to an absence of cooperation during a disaster of multi-jurisdictional and statewide proportions. Since successful communication is crucial to effective management it is absolutely vital to maintain a hierarchical system based on the chain of command and permeable communication. The chart below shows proper hierarchy.