Type: Management
Pages: 4 | Words: 1064
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Command and control are very important aspects in organizational management and leadership in general. The United State Federal Highway Administration defines Incident Command System (ICS) as a tool for controlling, commanding and coordinating emergency responses. The tool sets out procedures, equipment, personnel, policies and processes. ICS seeks to bring order and uniformity in which different professions, people and perspectives are able to effectively work together. Although ICS is a part of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) which heavily borrowed from security apparatus, different organizations or programs that makes use of ICS differently. This essay is an evaluation of the different ways and approaches to ICS. It scrutinizes different sources, topics and explanations regarding ICS and offers relevant analyses. All analyses will be based on a hypothetical disaster of a terrorist attack.

A Critical Evaluation of the Incident Command System and NIMS

This journal article was co-authored by Dick A. Buck, Joseph E. Trainor and Benigno E. Aguirre. It simply seeks to draw general truths about ICS as a tool of disaster management. Although, ICS is not the only way to deal with disaster, it offers a unified approach to disaster. The article gives the main elements of ICS and how it can be applied. By closely scrutinizing the findings of the three authors, it becomes apparent that ICS’s are applied in tandem with the nature of the disaster being handled. Moreover, for ICS to work well, the responders should be part of the community being affected by the disaster.

A major truth about ICS is that it does not seek to create bureaucracy, but to coordinate how a disaster can be effectively tackled by different players without creating confusion. Buck, Trainor and Aguirre (2006) contend that NIM’s use of ICS may not always work well. The main reason appears to be the fact that the implementers of the ICS use a top-down approach instead of using a bottom-up approach. For ICS to work best, responders must understand and be part of the local mechanisms of disaster handling. In the context of a terrorist attack, ICS would play an important role in coordinating the efforts of doctors, social workers, humanitarian agencies among other players.

The Incident Command System: A 25-Year Evaluation by California Practitioners

Having been established as a world leading disaster management tool, California professionals evaluated its effectiveness. Their evaluation took into consideration the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). By conducting a 21-item survey instrument, the author recommended the following three points. The first one is that although ICS is localized, still there is a need for national management approaches that are effective. In other words, in line with Coomb’s (2008) view, ICS is not a perfect tool. Having found that ICS is differently implemented, he also recommended that there should be standardized models of implementation. Finally, there should be a national evaluation process for all ICS efforts across the country; this deals with the threat of confusion. One of the opportunities is that the tool views disaster in a systems approach. However, since this has not been effectively taken up, there is a need to incorporate the systems approach in handling disasters emanating from terrorist attacks.

Organizing Response to Disasters with the Incident Command System/Incident Management System (ICS/IMS)

This investigation was based on the previous problems experienced in the coordination of disasters. In the wake of emerging and perennial disasters across the country, ICS, IMS and NIMS offer a standardized approach in dealing with disasters and catastrophes. The tools provide for the training of emergency response personnel and organizational designs that would see an effective management of the effects brought about by disasters. Moreover, though ICS offers a framework for dealing with emergencies, it has its shortcomings. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (2004) identifies lack of adequate resources as a major setback to the implementation of ICS ideals. In addition, there are also challenges in terms of how to coordinate professionals from different backgrounds. Further, in an ICS setting, failure of one department to respond timely may lead to non-achievement of the intended goals. For instance, a terrorist attack requires rapid response of all parties including the security officers, healthcare community, and humanitarian groups among others. However, contrary evaluation may posit that failure of some parties to respond is not failure of the system itself.

Evaluating the Role of ICS in Situations of Terrorist Attacks

With the emerging trends of global terrorism, ICS continues to hold a central role in dealing with the aftermath. In this case, the role of ICS is to coordinate response activities towards saving lives of the victims, apprehending the perpetrators and establishing mechanisms to prevent future terror attacks. Due to the nature of the activity, strong elements of command, control and regulation are well applied through ICS. Meanwhile terrorism is a security issue, security apparatus across the country occupy a central locus in responding to disasters of this nature. According to Prasad (2009), one of the advantages of ICS after a terrorist attack is that it leads to minimal duplication of efforts. In such situation, the incident commander exercise control over the entire system of response. Since ICS is an internationally accepted tool of management and disaster response, it can be applied in instances of both domestic and international terrorism.


There is no doubt that ICS plays a central role in response to disasters worldwide. It was established out of the need to coordinate different players to achieve a common purpose. Years after its inceptions, ICS has been reviewed in a bid to establish its gains and failures. To effectively evaluate ICS, the paper explored different themes under four subtopics. Evaluation of several themes in the first article led to the view by Buck, Trainor and Aguirre (2006) that ICS should be placed in the contexts of the area of the disaster. Secondly, even though ICS led to major strides in California, there should be ramifications in terms of standardization. The third article addressed, among other issues, aspects of resource limitations to the achievement of ICS goals. Lastly, all articles and topics were related to the context of a terrorist attack as an incident. In the final analysis, it could be said that ICS has not managed to solve problems of management, command, control and regulation across the country. Moreover, its role cannot be downplayed. It continues to be a leading global tool for disaster response, command and control. Moreover, implementation must be well structured.

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