Lesson Summary
FEMA Emergency Management Institute

Course: IS-100 - Incident Command System (ICS) 100 Training
Lesson 3: ICS Organization: Part I

Lesson Overview

The ICS Organization: Part I lesson introduces you to the:

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:


ICS Organization

The ICS organization is unique but easy to understand. There is no correlation between the ICS organization and the administrative structure of any single agency or jurisdiction. This is deliberate, because confusion over different position titles and organizational structures has been a significant stumbling block to effective incident management in the past.

For example, someone who serves as a Chief every day may not hold that title when deployed under an ICS structure.


Performance of Management Functions

Every incident or event requires that certain management functions be performed. The problem must be identified and assessed, a plan to deal with it developed and implemented, and the necessary resources procured and paid for.

Regardless of the size of the incident, these management functions still will apply.


Five Major Management Functions

There are five major management functions that are the foundation upon which the ICS organization develops. These functions apply whether you are handling a routine emergency, organizing for a major non-emergency event, or managing a response to a major disaster. The five major management functions are:

Organization chart showing the Incident Command function and four subordinate functions:  Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section, and Finance/Administration Section.


Organizational Structure—Incident Commander

On small incidents and events, one person, the Incident Commander, may accomplish all five management functions. In fact, the Incident Commander is the only position that is always staffed in ICS applications. However, large incidents or events may require that these functions be set up as separate Sections within the organization.


Organizational Structure—ICS Sections

Each of the primary ICS Sections may be subdivided as needed. The ICS organization has the capability to expand or contract to meet the needs of the incident.

A basic ICS operating guideline is that the person at the top of the organization is responsible until the authority is delegated to another person. Thus, on smaller incidents when these additional persons are not required, the Incident Commander will personally accomplish or manage all aspects of the incident organization.


ICS Position Titles

To maintain span of control, the ICS organization can be divided into many levels of supervision. At each level, individuals with primary responsibility positions have distinct titles. Using specific ICS position titles serves three important purposes:


Supervisory Position Titles

Organizational Level Title Support Position
Incident Command Incident Commander Deputy
Command Staff Officer Assistant
General Staff (Section) Chief Deputy
Branch Director Deputy
Division/Group Supervisor N/A
Unit Leader Manager
Strike Team/Task Force Leader Single Resource Boss


Incident Commander's Overall Role

The Incident Commander has overall responsibility for managing the incident by objectives, planning strategies, and implementing tactics. The Incident Commander must be fully briefed and should have a written delegation of authority. Initially, assigning tactical resources and overseeing operations will be under the direct supervision of the Incident Commander.

Personnel assigned by the Incident Commander have the authority of their assigned positions, regardless of the rank they hold within their respective agencies.


Incident Commander Responsibilities

In addition to having overall responsibility for managing the entire incident, the Incident Commander is specifically responsible for:

The Incident Commander may appoint one or more Deputies, if applicable, from the same agency or from other agencies or jurisdictions. Deputy Incident Commanders must be as qualified as the Incident Commander.


Selecting and Changing Incident Commanders

As incidents expand or contract, change in jurisdiction or discipline, or become more or less complex, command may change to meet the needs of the incident.

Rank, grade, and seniority are not the factors used to select the Incident Commander. The Incident Commander is always a highly qualified individual trained to lead the incident response.

As you learned in Lesson 2, formal transfer of command at an incident always requires a transfer of command briefing for the incoming Incident Commander and notification to all personnel that a change in command is taking place.


Expanding the Organization

As incidents grow, the Incident Commander may delegate authority for performance of certain activities to the Command Staff and the General Staff. The Incident Commander will add positions only as needed.

Organization chart, see long description


Command Staff

Depending upon the size and type of incident or event, it may be necessary for the Incident Commander to designate personnel to provide information, safety, and liaison services for the entire organization. In ICS, these personnel make up the Command Staff and consist of the:

The Command Staff reports directly to the Incident Commander.