Incident Command System (ICS) / Standardized Emergency Management Systems (SEMS)
The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the field operations of the UC Merced Department
of Public Safety comport with the philosophy and standards of the Standardized Emergency
Management System (SEMS) and the use of the Incident Command System (ICS).
The Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) was established by the
California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) in coordination with other
state agencies. The basic framework of SEMS incorporates the use of ICS, inter-agency
coordination and the State's Master Mutual Aid Agreement and mutual aid program.
The SEMS regulation states that emergency response agencies operating at the field
response level of an incident shall utilize ICS incorporating the functions, principles and
components of ICS. ICS can be applied to the following kinds of incidents:
(a) Single jurisdictional responsibility with single agency involvement.
(b) Single jurisdictional responsibility with multiple agency involvement.
(c) Multiple jurisdictional responsibility with multiple agency involvement.
(d) ICS can also be used for managing planned events.
(a) Flexibility - Flexibility includes the concepts that form follows function and that the
most qualified person for the job (ICS position) should be selected for the position
without regard to rank.
(b) Chain-of-Command - The chain-of-command is an organized hierarchy of authority.
(c) Unity of Command - Unity of command means that everyone reports to one person
and one person is in charge of each function.
(d) Span of Control - The optimum span of control ratio is 1:5, which is one supervisor
to five subordinates. The span of control can range from a ratio of 1:3 to 1:7 while
maintaining effective control.
(e) Assumption of Command - Assumption of command denotes three options for a
senior or ranking officer arriving at a scene. The senior or ranking officer can do one
of the following:
1. Assume command because the incident commander (IC) is not accomplishing
the stated missions
2. Maintain command because the situation is under control
3. Transfer command because there is somebody more qualified for the position,
there is a change of watch or a resolution of jurisdiction
As a matter of practice and training it is of great benefit for the Department to utilize ICS
for managing routinely occurring incidents. This practice provides a seamless integration
of ICS into larger emergency operations as they evolve.
Typically, incidents begin with a single response discipline but may rapidly expand to
multi-discipline incidents requiring additional resources. The Department has adopted ICS
as the Department's emergency management organization. ICS is a management system,
which can be used in virtually any emergency or incident.
A basic premise of ICS use is that in each emergency or incident, regardless of its
size, the principles of ICS apply. The first on-scene emergency responder has single
discipline management responsibility. If the responder is aware of and follows the primary
ICS functions, then that person and that department is actually using ICS in day-to-day
Every incident, no matter how small can be managed according to the principles of ICS. If
the first officer on the scene who has single discipline management responsibility will always
follow the principles which include:
(a) Awareness of his/her responsibility for the five primary functions (see below)
(b) Establishing objectives for the incident
(c) Having an incident action plan (written or verbal)
(d) Ensuring effective span of control (ratio between 1:3 to 1:7)
(e) Using common terminology as appropriate to the situation
(f) Delegating authority and activating organizational elements within the ICS structure
only as necessary
(g) Providing for personnel accountability and a safe environment
(h) Ensuring effective communications
This ensures that the officer and the Department are using ICS in a day-to-day operating
mode for every incident.
Initial response to an emerging situation may consist of one or two officers in a patrol vehicle.
Generally, the most qualified officer assumes the role of the Incident Commander (IC). As
IC, this officer is responsible for the accomplishment of all the applicable functions under
the ICS organization.
In a small incident the IC may gather information (Intelligence) formulate a plan
(Planning), request one or two units (Logistics), deploy the officers and resolve
the problem (Operations), release the requested units (demobilize), complete
required reports (Finance/Administration) and possibly submit a request for overtime
In a rapidly expanding emergency the need may increase to dozens of officers. In such a
scenario the IC is still responsible for the accomplishment of all applicable ICS functions.
Clearly, the IC cannot do all the functions alone as in a small incident. So, to spread the
workload into manageable components the IC appoints individual Officers-in-Charge (OICs)
to oversee specific areas of ICS to ensure effective task completion.
ICS provides numerous functional elements to assist operational and organizational needs.
The organizational levels and ICS elements activated for any particular incident should be
limited to those necessary to mitigate the emergency. The theory is that form (ICS structure)
follows function (getting the job done). A basic ICS concept is any unstaffed ICS element
is the functional responsibility of the next higher supervising OIC or ultimately rests with the
The concept of using this structure within the ICS organization is based on the following:
(a) Develop the form of the organization to match the function(s) to be performed
(b) Fill only those organizational elements that are required
(c) Stay within recommended span-of-control guidelines
(d) Perform the function of any non-activated organizational element at the next highest
(e) Deactivate elements no longer required by the incident
(a) The designated organizational elements established for use in the ICS are listed
below. How these are applied in ICS will vary slightly from section to section within
the ICS organization.
4. Divisions or Groups
6. Teams, Task Forces, single resources or other elements as defined by
(b) Several primary facilities have been designated and described for widespread use in
the ICS. The facilities that are in the Field Response are:
1. Incident Command Post (ICP) - Location where the primary command activities
2. Staging Area - Location attached to the incident where resources may be
temporarily located while awaiting assignments.
3. Base - The location where primary logistics functions for an incident are
coordinated and administered.
4. Camp - A location within the general incident area, which is equipped and staffed
to provide sleeping, food, water and sanitary services to incident personnel.
The Incident Command System is easily applicable to the following small and large incidents
(a) Incidents (unplanned occurrences):
• Major Traffic Collision
• Hostage Situation
• Bomb Incident
• Air Crash
• Hazardous Materials Spill
• Officer Involved Shooting
• Civil Disorder / Riot
• Fires and Explosions
• Disasters (major emergencies generating several incidents:
(b) Events (planned occurrences):
• Dignitary Visit
• Large Sporting / Concert Event
• Parades or Marches
• Regents' Meetings
(a) Containment - Containment of the incident to prevent escalation of the event.
(b) Traffic Control - Traffic Control includes controlling vehicular traffic to provide ingress
and egress for emergency vehicles including ambulances, fire apparatus and police
(c) Crowd Control - Crowd control is divided into two separate functions. Crowd
management is intended for large planned events such as marches or demonstrations
where the crowds are cooperative with law enforcement and the leaders are willing
to coordinate their activities with the police. Crowd control is for dynamic situations
where order must be maintained to prevent the situation from escalating.
1. Crowd Control
• Rapid deployment of police
• Contain and isolate
• Secure critical locations
• Disperse disorderly groups
• Protect infrastructure
• Return to normal
2. Crowd Management
• Contact with crowd
• Control personnel
• Separate factions
• Gather intelligence
• Knowledge of past events
• Alternate location
(d) Evacuation - Evacuation consists of moving potential victims to an area away from
(e) Criminal Investigation - Criminal investigation involves the traditional function of law
enforcement such as identifying victims and suspects for crimes committed that are
related to the event.
Some of the more important transitional steps that are necessary in applying ICS in a field
incident environment include:
(a) Recognize and anticipate the requirement that organizational elements will be
activated and take the necessary steps to delegate the authority to others.
(b) Establish incident facilities as needed, strategically located, to support operations.
(c) Establish the use of common terminology for organizational functional elements,
position titles, facilities and resources.
(d) Rapidly evolve from providing oral orders and instructions to the development of a
written Incident Action Plan.
There are five primary functions within the ICS management structure. Each of these is
important and will have a role in any incident.
Command is the action taken to direct, order or control resources by virtue of some explicit
legal, agency or delegated authority. The Incident Commander (IC) carries out the on-scene
command of an incident or an event.
The authority and rank of the IC will vary depending upon the size and/or nature of the
emergency. For example, in small incidents the IC may be an officer. If the situation
requires, the initial IC will transfer command to a higher ranking or more qualified person as
he/she arrives at the incident scene. Similarly, as incidents transition into a reduced level
of activity, transfer of command may be made to lower ranking or less expert personnel.
The IC has the overall responsibility for the effective management of the incident and must
ensure that an adequate organization is in place to effectively moderate the situation. The
IC may have a deputy IC, who should have the same qualifications as the IC. Optional
deputy positions for Command, Section and Branch levels provide backup support and are
also extensively used on an inter-agency basis to improve coordination between multiple
agencies or disciplines.
The IC may assign the authority to conduct the primary functions of Operations, Planning,
Logistics and Finance/Administration to others. When these functions are ½lled, the
individuals become members of the incident General Staff. Any of these primary functions
not assigned to others remain the responsibility of the IC.
In addition to the primary functions, the IC also has responsibility for staff level activities
of Liaison, Information and Safety. The authority for managing and/or conducting these
activities may also be delegated to others.
ICS allows for a wide range of functions to be performed and provides an organizational
structure to accommodate those functions. A basic premise of ICS is that all lower level
functions, which have not been specially assigned to an individual, will be performed by the
next higher level in the organization.
Operations is responsible for the coordinated tactical response directly applicable to or in
support of the mission(s) in accordance with the Incident Action Plan. In ICS, Operations
is a Section level function within the organization. On smaller incidents, the IC usually
performs the functions of Operations.
The Operations Section can develop from either the top down or from the bottom up. In
either case, the Operations Section can contain a hierarchy of:
(a) Branches (functional or geographical).
(b) Divisions (geographical) or Groups (functional).
(c) Resources organized as single resources or resource combinations e.g., task forces,
teams, squads, platoons, etc.
Planning/Intelligence is responsible for the collection, evaluation and documentation of
information about the development of the incident and the status of resources. When
activated for an incident or event, Planning/Intelligence is always found at the Section level.
If the Planning function is not activated, all planning functions will be the responsibility of
(a) At the field level, the planning units described in ICS are:
5. Other special purpose units
(b) Other special purpose units could also be assigned to the Planning/Intelligence
Section depending upon the need. For example, on some large and/or long-term
incidents, an Advance Planning Unit may be desired. The primary criteria for adding
Planning Section Units to an incident are:
1. They are essential to the needs of the incident.
2. The function cannot be accommodated elsewhere.
3. Effective span-of-control must be maintained.
(c) Technical Specialists may also be assigned to the Planning/Intelligence Section on
an incident. Technical Specialists can represent just about any specialized service
or function, which is not normally within the expertise of the assigned incident
staff. Technical Specialists may be reassigned as necessary to other parts of the
Logistics is responsible to provide facilities, services, personnel, equipment and materials
in support of the incident. The requirement to provide on-site logistical support will vary
based on the size and scope of the incident, the functions involved and the discipline that
has incident jurisdiction.
ICS describes six commonly used logistics units, which may be activated as needed:
(f) Ground Support
Discipline specific applications of ICS may modify the unit structure of the Logistics Section
to meet functional needs. For example, large-scale law enforcement ICS applications may
require a Personnel Unit. A natural disaster related incident might require a Volunteer
Processing or Coordination Unit.
Some jurisdictions may, in the interests of economy and coordination, elect to support one
or more incidents through a centralized control of certain logistical functions, such as, food
services. The concept to keep in mind is that the form or structure of the Logistics Section
should meet the functional needs of the incident.
Logistics provides services and support to the incident organization and also to meet the
immediate on-scene needs of persons, which may be directly affected by the incident. A
primary purpose of Logistics is to provide service and support to incident responders. For
example, the Medical Unit in the Logistics Section provides medical services to personnel
assigned to the incident organization and not to victims of the emergency or disaster.
Meeting the direct medical needs of those victims within the jurisdiction of the incident
would be a responsibility of the Operations Section through a Medical Branch or a Medical
Group. Logistical support needs of the Medical element in Operations would be provided
by ordering needed support through the Logistics Section.
The Logistics Chief has the responsibility for processing all of the resource orders used in
support of the incident. This can also include resources needed to provide victim relief,
e.g., food, water, shelters and medical aid for victims. On larger incidents these functions
are provided through the Supply Unit in Logistics
When span-of-control on very large incidents becomes difficult due to the duties and
interactions involved, the Logistics Section can be divided into a Service Branch and a
Support Branch. This is normally only done to ease span-of-control considerations. If the
Logistics Section is not activated, all logistics functions are the responsibility of the IC.
Finance/Administration is responsible for all financial and cost analysis aspects of the
incident and for any administrative aspects not handled by the other functions. There are
four commonly used units within the Finance/Administration Section:
(a) Time Unit
(b) Procurement Unit
(c) Compensation/Claims Unit
(d) Cost Unit
The activation and use of the Finance/Administration function will depend on type and size
of incident. On small incidents, the functions may be handled by the IC. In some cases,
where it is important to have a closely monitored assessment of costs, the IC may only
activate the Cost Unit. In general, when there is a need it is best to activate an appropriate
unit within the Department.
Unified Command is a procedure used at incidents, which allows all agencies with
geographical, legal or functional responsibility to establish a common set of incident
objectives and strategies, and a single Incident Action Plan.
A single Operations Section Chief will have the responsibility for implementing and
managing the operations portion of the Incident Action Plan under Unified Command.
The use of Unified Command is a valuable tool to help ensure a coordinated multi-agency
response. Unified Command procedures assure agencies that they do not lose their
individual responsibility, authority or accountability.
Unified Command is highly flexible. As the incident changes over time with different
disciplines moving into primary roles, the Unified Command structure and personnel
assignments can change to meet the need.
(a) Single integrated incident organization.
(b) Collocated (shared) facilities.
(c) Single planning process and Incident Action Plan.
(d) Shared planning, logistical and finance/administration operations.
(e) Coordinated process for resource ordering.
207.7.2 ADVANTAGES OF USING UNIFIED COMMAND
(a) One set of objectives is developed for the entire incident.
(b) A collective approach is made to developing strategies to achieve incident goals. '
(c) Information flow and coordination is improved between all jurisdictions and agencies
involved in the incident.
(d) All agencies with responsibility for the incident have an understanding of one another's
priorities and restrictions.
(e) No agency's authority or legal requirements will be compromised or neglected.
(f) Each agency is fully aware of the plans, actions and constraints of all others.
Incident Command System (ICS) / Standardized Emergency
Management Systems (SEMS) - 32
Adopted: 2013/01/11 © 1995-2013 Lexipol, LLC
UC Merced Department of Public Safety
Incident Command System (ICS) / Standardized Emergency Management Systems
(g) The combined efforts of all agencies are optimized as they perform their respective
assignments under a single Incident Action Plan.
(h) Duplicative efforts are reduced or eliminated, thus reducing cost and chances for
frustration and conflict.
The California Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Guide for Emergency
Operations (Red Book) was developed in recognition of a need for standardization
and uniformity of organization and response on the part of law enforcement agencies
involved in major multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency incidents such as a civil disorder,
technological disaster or natural disaster. The manual incorporates the concept and
statutory requirement of the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS).
The Law Enforcement Guide for Emergency Operations is designed to be a practical
field guide in assisting law enforcement personnel throughout the State of California with
implementation of the Field Level Incident Command System. The intended primary users
of this guide are Watch Commanders and patrol supervisors. However, the guide can also
be an excellent emergency response tool for law enforcement managers, as well as patrol
The Law Enforcement Guide for Emergency Operations is organized in a user-friendly
format consisting of overview text, diagrams, organization charts, checklists, forms and a
glossary. Several sections are suitable for photocopying and distribution to field personnel.
A copy of the Red Book is in the Lieutenant's Office.