Home > BLOG 2, Crisis Communication > Blog 2 Communicating with the ICS

Blog 2 Communicating with the ICS

The ICS is FEMA’s Incident Command System.  Developed in 1970’s in response to several catastrophic wildfires in California, the ICS is a management tool designed for dealing with incidents, whether emergency or nonemergency.  While it is definitely a hierarchical ladder clearly laying out and defining the command system required during these incidents, I would argue that the “C” in ICS should be changed to Communication rather than Command.

The ICS is all about communicating to the public and sending a message.  However, the communication within the ICS is what makes the system what it is.  The ICS was formed because the response system in place to deal with crises and incidents was broken in the fact that the management was confusing and messages would be lost, or ignored completely.  What the ICS did was come and lay out a strict structure so that the communication flow would be clean and precise, and the things that needed to get done would get done without confusion.  Having just become certified in the ICS, I was able to learn all about this system and how it is played out.

One problem that many systems face when trying to organize a chain of command is letting the top of the chain have real control rather than the message getting jumbled as it passes down the line, all while keeping the top of the chain from being overworked. This often look like this:

However, the ICS is such a refined system that it has accounted for this and developed a system of groups and divisions that easily and effectively allows control without overworking.  The previous image turns from looking like a jumbled mess to looking like this:

As you can see this is much clearer and cleaner than before.  This sort of thing is exactly what the ICS does; it creates a clear line of communication so that any incident can be dealt with effectively and any emergency can become a normal situation as soon as possible.

There is far too much information for me to put in one Blog, but if you want to know more about FEMA’s ICS just visit the ICS Resource Center here.  However, if you want to do more than learn about it, and would like to actually become certified in ICS for free, simply go and take the class, and then pass the exam!  No matter how much grief FEMA takes for its efforts, the ICS is an excellent system and something that everyone should be familiar with.

  1. September 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Good post, though when you say “The ICS is all about communicating to the public and sending a message” this isn’t completely accurate because much of ICS is about managing and navigating the actual response to an event. So, for example, figuring out how to help people who are stranded in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina. Communicating with the public and those affected is a big part of that, but does not necessarily comprise all of it.

    But good post overall. The line between commanding and communicating is often quite thin, as you talk about in your post here.

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