Unified command (UC) applies to incidents that cross political jurisdictions. In a multi-jurisdiction incident, all agencies with statutory authority are represented in a single Incident Command structure. What is the Benefit of Unified Command?
This allows participants to work together effectively without losing individual agency autonomy, responsibility, or accountability. The UC structure is based on the NIMS model of ICS.
For multiagency and/or multijurisdictional incidents, unified command promotes coordination. UC allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional responsibilities to work together through a common set of incident objectives and strategies that are incorporated into a single Incident Action Plan.
The IC or UC is responsible for overall scene management and commands all activities. This can be challenging during complex highway incidents when responsibilities drain the IC’s or UC’s time. UC allows the IC or UC to establish branches to manage operations activities if needed to maintain a manageable span of control.
Branches can also help ensure that appropriate military personnel from the three Services are available to support the response. This helps to enhance the Joint nature, functioning, and culture of the unified combatant commands.
Using the unified command method is more efficient than using the single command method, especially when incident response activities require coordination among different agencies or jurisdictions.
Under unified command, the IC or UC and the leaders of individual functional areas (known as Sections) work together to manage incident responses and establish common incident objectives.
In unified command, the IC or IC can delegate management tasks involving information dissemination, safety monitoring, and agency coordination to a Section Chief designated by the IC or UC.
The unified command also helps to improve resource management, as the IC or UC and the Section Chiefs can all meet in one location at the incident site to coordinate logistic support and other incident-related functions.
This can promote more effective use of limited resources, such as highway patrol and emergency response vehicles.
3. Shared Resources
Achieving a common operating picture requires coordinating multiple agency resources. Management of single resource elements such as personnel crews and individual pieces of equipment are managed within a team structure called Task Forces or Strike Teams.
which are ranked lower than divisions/groups but above branches in the full Operations Section organizational chain of command.
UC participants recognize one participating agency as lead with the priority mission at hand and the UC leadership committee identifies an Operations Section Chief to supervise tactical operations within the IAP.
When functional responsibilities change during incident progression, a new Operations Section Chief is recognized by the UC Leadership Committee and a detailed transition plan is executed. This structure supports collaboration among agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional responsibilities. This enables the ICS response to become more flexible and effective in managing complex incidents.
The unified command enables agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional responsibilities to coordinate, plan, and interact effectively.
It provides a set of guidelines that enable them to overcome inefficiency and duplication of effort that occur when these agencies operate without an agreed-upon system or organizational framework.
UC participants recognize one of their participating agencies as the lead agency with priority mission authority. Agencies may also designate a Deputy Operations Section Chief representing an assisting agency that has functional responsibility for a future mission.
They use a single planning process and produce a single Incident Action Plan, with tactics specified in prioritized order.
The unified command method also uses comprehensive resource management systems to maintain an accurate picture of the availability of personnel, teams, and equipment available for assignment.
NIMS encourages the use of Unified Command (UC) when incidents impact multiple political jurisdictions or involve functional agencies (e.g., law enforcement and fire services). UC structure varies by incident location and type.
During the initial Command Meeting, UC members determine the appropriate representatives for their respective agencies. As the IAP progresses, lead agency recognition may change from fire to law enforcement to transportation. This change requires the UC to designate a new Operations Section Chief.
Using unified command, multiple ranking responders collectively perform the Command function to set incident objectives and develop strategies to accomplish those objectives.
They do this in a single Incident Command Post, sharing facilities to promote coordination and a single planning process. They also produce one Incident Action Plan.