As an individual preparing to take the NIMS Final Exam, you should be familiar with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). One of the core principles of NIMS is the establishment and transfer of command.
Effective incident management requires clear lines of authority and a well-defined process for transferring command. The process includes essential briefings that capture all relevant information.
The incident commander is the keystone of the Incident Command System (ICS). They set the overall direction, establish objectives and determine priorities for managing an emergency. The incident commander oversees all aspects of the response, from managing resources and coordinating efforts to maintaining the safety of response personnel.
They’re also responsible for assessing the situation to identify any impending challenges or risks. They’ll create and manage an incident action plan, and they may appoint a liaison officer to interface with the media or public.
If the incident evolves, or if a pre-determined operational period ends, the initial incident commander may decide to transfer command. This is a crucial decision that requires proper preparation, and it should include a thorough briefing capturing essential information. The IC process establishes a logical chain of command and stresses unity of command, eliminating confusion that can arise from conflicting directives. This is particularly important when responding agencies are involved in multi-jurisdictional incidents.
Unified Command (UC)
A unified command (UC) is an organizational framework that allows different jurisdictions and agencies at various levels of government to jointly manage a highway incident. It eliminates inefficiencies that occur when individual agencies manage incidents without a common system of management and communication.
The UC structure varies based on the location and type of incident. The initial Command Meeting determines the involved jurisdiction(s) and their representative agency(ies). UC representatives then work together in a coordinated and organized manner to determine incident objectives, strategies, and an incident action plan.
A UC also provides the incoming IC with an essential briefing. This ensures that the incoming commander is prepared to assume command and understands the current situation, objectives, and resources.
The role of the liaison officer is a key one in ensuring effective communication between stakeholders and the public. Typically, this means that the liaison officer will be the person responsible for interfacing with the representatives of the cooperating and assisting agencies at an incident site.
Liaison officers are also responsible for interacting with members of Congress and Congressional staffers when their agencies need to brief them. This requires them to build large networks within their own agencies and on Capitol Hill. They must be proficient with PowerPoint and logistical support, as well as possess soft skills such as compassion and problem-solving.
Although it is not necessary to go to university to become a liaison officer, many employers will expect at least a bachelor’s degree. A degree in public relations or communications would be beneficial for those looking to pursue a career in this field. They are also usually required to be self-motivated as they may not have a team or boss that they report to.
During the course of an incident, it may be necessary to transfer command between agencies. This can happen when an incident evolves, as objectives change, or when a pre-determined operational period ends. The process for transferring command is designed by the jurisdiction or organization with primary responsibility for the incident. It should include a thorough briefing between the initial IC and the incoming commander that captures all essential information for continuing management of the incident. This process may also be implemented as part of a Unified Command (UC) structure when managing multi-agency incidents.
The establishment and transfer of command is a critical component of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and supports effective coordination and decision-making. It provides for consistent leadership and enables organizations to adapt to changing incident conditions. The process also allows for higher-ranking officers to assume command once the transfer is complete. This ensures proper communication and minimizes confusion on the scene.