2.1 The Incident Command System Copy

Jeff Co

The Incident Command System


The Incident Command System, (ICS), is a template for organizing of people and resources responding to an “incident”. The ICS standardizes organizational structure, functional responsibilities, communications, documentation and training.

It was developed in the United States after several disastrous Wildland Urban Interface fires in California caused large property losses and indicated a need for improvements in the system when multiple agencies respond to a large incident.

There are three main concepts that guide the ICS organization:

1) Chain of Command

  • Ensures everyone in the organization knows who they report to.
  • Direction/ Instructions and Communications follow the Chain of Command.
  • All personnel must respect and follow the chain of command, (up and down).
  • A Crew Member must only take directions from his/ her Crew Leader.
  • Improves communications and safety.

2) Unity of Command

  • Everyone in the ICS organization has “one boss and one boss only”.
  • Prevents conflicting directions
  • Improves safety.

3) Span of Control

  • Sets limits on the number of people one person can effectively supervise.
  • In wildland fire suppression the span of control is optimally 1-5.
  • When the number of resources grows on an incident and the span of control is exceeded, more supervision must be added.
  • When the span of control is exceeded, safety can be compromised.


  • Every incident has an Incident Commander, (IC).
  • On a small incident the Crew Leader will also be the IC.
  • Large incidents can have hundreds of Firefighters, the IC will have a large support staff.


  • Operations Section are all personnel and equipment who deal directly with putting the fire out.
  • Fire crews, bulldozers, helicopters, air tankers, water trucks all come under the Operations Section
  • The leader of the Operations Section is called the Operations Section Chief, (OSC).


  • Logistics Section are all personnel and equipment who support the entire suppression operations by providing food, accommodations, incident facilities, transportation, equipment, and supplies.
  • The leader of the Logistics Section is called the Logistics Section Chief, (LSC).


  • The Planning Section are all personnel who support the entire suppression operations by mapping the fire, tracking resources, analyzing fire behaviour and making predictions, tracking weather, issuing fire behaviour warnings/ advisories, documenting all fire operations, calculating timber damages, making the IAP (incident action plan).
  • The leader of the Planning Section is called the Planning Section Chief, (PSC).

Finance and Administration (F&A)

  • F&A Section are all personnel who support the entire suppression operations by tracking hours, timesheets, costs, paying invoices, managing supplier contracts.
  • The leader of the F&A Section is called the F&A Section Chief, (FASC).