Home > BLOG 2, Crisis Communication > Blog 2: Communication’s Role in ICS

Blog 2: Communication’s Role in ICS

The Incident Command System (ICS), is a comprehensive program that allows agencies to have a unifed approach towards any crises large or small. What allows this system to function smoothly are the rules, which promote a simple flow of communication from group to group, person to person, and to the community at large. The most fundamental part of communication in ICS is establishing  an efficient chain of command with the Incident Commander being the head. There is only one Incident Commander and that person is in charge of the large scheme of the potential problem. The commander also has to direct the rest of the team on their specific actions. The ICS training website states that it is important to note that the chain of command does not limit  members from communicating with one another, nor does it effect the permeability between groups.  This system makes sure that confusion is avoided in an already chaotic situation. It is imperative that a chain of command is established because without it failed missions can occur due to lack of accountability, flexibility, and poor planning.

Org chart showing an appropriate span of control, which is achieved by dividing resources into two groups – a Public Works Group and a Traffic Control Group – each with four resources reporting to a Group Supervisor, who then reports to the Incident Commander.

When confronted with multiple Incident Commanders from different jurisdictions, it is important to set up a unified command system so that they can meet together, and create one shared plan to communicate to the rest of the response team. This eliminates the confusion that could occur if every jurisdiction were acting on their conflicting individual plans. Another important thing to remember when discussing communication with the Incident Commander is the proper way to transfer authority of the job when needed.  If the crisis has become more complex it may be necessary to transfer the Incident Command post over to a new person. When this is done it is extremely important to brief  the oncoming Commander on the situation, this can be done either through written documentation or orally.

Here is an example of the role communication plays in transferring command:

Other aspects of the ICS that require efficient modes of communication is knowing  how to communicate to other members on the response team. It is important to use common, clear language when communicating with one another so that everyone no matter what their background is can understand the task at hand. It is also fundamental to create and implement an Incident Action Plan. This plan should be a clear and concise plan that outlines the duties and objectives of the misson so that it runs smoothly. ICS states that and Incident Action Plan must :

  • Specifies the incident objectives.
  • States the activities to be completed.
  • Covers a specified timeframe, called an operational period.
  • May be oral or written—except for hazardous materials incidents, which require a written IAP.
Without an Incident Action Plan a crisis mission is likely to fail from the beginning due to confusion and mismanagement.


Also, according to ICS ,  it is important to have integrated communication. This means that even before an incident were to occur people on the response team should already have communicative lanes open so that members on the team during a crisis can reach each other with ease.  This can range from issuing out phones or walkie-talkies, having a list of phone numbers of all the members on the team, or to have video chats set up if the disaster covers a large territory. This job is usually in the hands of the logistics section. On top of them planning effective communication strategies they also are in charge of acquiring, and setting up, the communication equipment.

All-in-all communication is one of, if not, the most important aspect of the Incident Command System. Without it, the mission would have no coordination especially in large situations. With these key communication strategies in place it is simple to see who is accountable, and how to make a chaotic situation like a disaster seem more organized. If all agencies follow this plan it will allow for crisis response fumbles like Katrina to be issues of the past.
  1. September 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Nice post. It’s a little long, but nothing crazy. Good writing and description of ICS. Good formatting and use of images and videos. Nice job overall.

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