I just recently finished the FEMA training for NIMS and was surprised by the way that it related to what our Crisis Communication class.
NIMS, or the National Incident Management System is the system used for bringing multiple parties together in order to solve a crisis or emergency. It is what is used when the local group by itself will not work. I was surprised by how it related to our class for a number of reasons.
I was always curious as to how an issue like the terrorist attack of 9/11 was handled in the aftermath. We are learning how to deal with crises in class, but so far our dealing have either been with a small incident, or a large incident attributed to one company or organization. I was always confused as to what happened when there would be a large scale crisis with multiple organizations involved.
NIMS showed exactly what was to happen. Much like the ICS, NIMS lays out a very specific plan of action and hierarchy that allows communication through the system to be very easy and effective. NIMS takes everything that we have learned thus far, and blows it up to a larger scale.
This FEMA training for NIMS applies directly to what we have been learning because it is just the next step. Once someone has learned about the Incident Command System, the next progression is to think bigger and move to a larger scale through NIMS. I took the training and became certified, and so should everybody else.
The entire purpose of the Incident Command System (ICS) is to operate as a framework that gives those responding to different types of crises a definite course of action. There are typically many different groups and organizations that respond in times of crisis and when everyone is on the same page the necessary work can be completed more safely and effectively.
Established in the 1970’s, the ICS works to reduce miscommunication by using a hierarchical system o f management to delegate power. This specific arrangement of power is established prior to the time of the crisis and must be adhered to from the moment the crisis occurs until the workers are no longer needed on the scene. This layout of this system can be illustrated with the following chart:
Communication is highly important to the success of the ICS, because without the proper communication, workers could easily misunderstand the specific job they are to do, or how to go about doing said job. Even by simply reporting to the wrong supervisor, one worker could jeopardize the entire structure and put themselves or others in unnecessary danger. Miscommunication is not only dangerous, but also makes the recovery process of the crisis taking longer than necessary, which means it would cost more money. This is why it is extremely important to communicate clearly and effectively when working under ICS conditions. Communication doesn’t simply play a role in the ICS, good communication is what makes the ICS work!
After 9/11 FEMA was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security so that the federal government would have an easier job coordinating all of the different levels of local, state and federal resources and agencies in case an emergency ever struck. As one can see, communication is key if FEMA wishes to coordinate all of the different agencies involved in any sort of emergency. FEMA has to be able to communicate all of their plans efficiently and smoothly from the upper levels of the hierarchy all the way down to the public and vice versa. The role of communication in ICS (Incident Command System) is crucial for keeping an emergency contained and under control.
Simply put ICS is set up in a hierarchical pyramid with the head of the operation being at the top and gradually descending to the bottom. This system allows for messages and status updates to be relayed quickly from the command headquarters out into the field where the emergency is taking place. Everyone in ICS knows their job in their particular field and who their commanding officer is. If they feel a message needs to be relayed to the top all they have to do is speak to their boss who will then work his way quickly up the chain of command with the message. ICS is also set up so that messages can move laterally within the pyramid as well. For instance if someone in logistics needed to speak to someone in planning there is no barrier preventing them from doing it. Below is an example of what an ICS pyramid may look like on any given emergency.
Communication is the key to any successful emergency management. It can mean the difference between a minor incident and major catastrophe. ICS is set up so that messages can be relayed throughout the organization quickly and efficiently in order to deal with any change in any situation. ICS is also set up to have specialists who can deal with the media and public at large in order to give them news of the situation and hear their concerns as well. More information on ICS can be found at fema’s website.
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.
Crisis’ can happen at any time and for that reason FEMA has created the ICS (Incident Command System) for emergency protection. There are many roles of communication in the ICS it’s a information tool of whats going on, who’s in charge, how to communicate with the people, and the proper protocol for new people coming onto the scene as added help. I think without this system there would be more chaos and confusion added on to an already hectic crisis. For the people who are apart of the ICS team the most important role of communication is the one that they have within their system, and because their system is so organized it is easy to identify the person in charge, to the person who helps with financial arrangements, to the person who speaks to the citizens about a disaster.With this system it is easier to keep people notified and updated about the disaster or crisis at hand. For example at The Reserves where I live whenever they need to notify people about a late bill, or rent, people doing maintenance work, etc, we would get a txt and and email. They are very clever when it comes to computers because we cannot get on the internet sometimes until we’ve checked that we have read and understand the message that was sent by them.
The above chart shows the system of command with in a unified command team. With this chart above you can easily tell what each person on this command team job is and the role they play for helping solve the crisis. Logistics, operations, planning, and finance are just some of the jobs but from readings we know there are many more divisions, groups, and branches within an incident command system. The ICS talks about having integrated communication as well so that before a crisis were even to happen that they would already be able to communicate with one another. I think communication is very important to the system because you can have so many people who want to help and so many people apart of what’s going on they all need to know who to report to and their roles, because confusion of what to do will delay process of the real matter at hand and really put people’s lives at danger. I think the ICS is somewhat of a customer service thing because your really trying to help the people that have been affected and try to help the people who could potentially be affected prepare.
The Incident Command System used in emergency responses as a systematic tool. This system includes personnel, procedures, policies and much more to improve how emergency responses are operated. The whole point of the system is for people to work together effectively, regardless of what agencies they may be from. The ICS reduces the potential for any miscommunication in situations that can’t afford it.
The ICS is made up of a Command which then oversees teams of Operations, Logistics, Planning and Finance/Administration.
Commonly, ICS is used in disaster type cases, however it can also be used to prevent disasters. For example, large sporting events such as the Super Bowl utilize this system as well. The video below shows up the Jacksonville Superbowl used this system to help them prepare for the event and communicate with other teams using ICS.
Emergencies happen fast and when they do, it’s important to know what to do. Organizations like FEMA create systems such as the Incident Command System (ICS) to do just that. People who specify in this area of work are highly trained in notifying citizens of the crisis at hand. We all use communication on various levels even when an emergency isn’t occurring. It’s when an emergency is actually happening that strong and effective communication skills are key.
The ICS is made up of numerous teams of people to help ensure citizens are safe during a crisis. There are many branches within the ICS such as the incident commander, public information officer, safety officer, etc. The list of branches is almost endless. Before and/or while is crisis occurs, it’s up to the employees of the ICS to work together to create a strategy to keep as many people, both within and outside the team, as safe as possible. Within the team, a strategy to communicate with the public needs to be thought out and then acted upon.
Questions like “what is the fastest way to warn them about the crisis” and “how can we get this information to as many people as possible? How severe is the crisis at hand?” the public will want answers to. Such answers may include contacting the local television network to interrupt the set programming in order to send out a severe weather warning or watch. Another may be to send out mass text messages to the people who have signed up to receive emergency texts.
It’s systems like ICS that help to keep everyone safe during crises. Without people who are trained to communicate through crises, the world would be more chaotic than it already is. People need someone to guide them, especially during a scary crisis like a hurricane or tornado. People don’t think straight when they are on high alert and it takes a team of trained people to help guide everyone through it. ICS does what they can to ensure the safety of the public and they do this through communicating within the team and the public as well.