ICS I-Basic Concepts

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What is ICS?

ICS is a process used to manage emergencies and planned events in a swift, efficient manner.

Why do we use it?

  • ICS allows us to designate clear roles and responsibilities
  • ICS allows for a scalable response
  • ICS allows for clear chain of command and communication
  • ICS allows everyone to initiate a response

ICS Concepts

Functional Roles

ICS doesn’t follow the Firefly Core or event structure. It is its own structure using functional roles to designate clear duties and responsibilities.  These functional roles are what is needed to support goals when dealing with an incident.

People to:

    • DO things.
    • GET things.
    • PLAN things.
    • ADMINISTRATIVE things.
    • LEAD and MANAGE things.


Any activity that occurs to help resolve an incident and/or task that is completed to achieve a goal is the primary function of the Do-er’s. This is the Operations Section in FEMA ICS.

Rangers, Fire, First Aid, Sanctuary, DPW, Radio Cores or any volunteer may DO things.

*Most volunteers that respond to an incident fall in the do function.


Supporting the Do-ers by securing and obtaining needed items to complete tasks is the primary function of the Get-ers. This is the Logistics Section in FEMA ICS.

Support includes water, food, radios, communications, volunteers, specialized equipment or people, tools, medical supplies.

Khaki, (First Aid, Fire or Sanctuary) Supervisors, DPW may GET things.


Collecting information, resource allocation and action plan maintenance are primary functions of the Collect and Plan-ers. This is the Planning Section in FEMA ICS.

Khaki, Safety Cores Leads may COLLECT and PLAN things.


Documenting incident information is the primary function of the Admins. This is the Administration & Finance Section in FEMA ICS.

Ranger OOD & Khaki may do ADMINISTRATIVE things.


Initial scene stabilization, establishing goals, setting priorities and organization structure are the primary functions of the Lead and Manage-ers. This is Incident Command in FEMA ICS.

Ranger OOD, Event Lead, Board, Khaki, Safety Cores Leads may LEAD and MANAGE things.

We will talk more about each of the functional roles in the next sessions.

Scaleable Responses

In ICS you only use what you need.

  • An escalating incident may need more volunteers to get it under control and expanding the structure helps to keep things organized.
  • A de escalating incident may need fewer volunteers and contracting the structure helps to keep things organized.


ICS uses a hierarchy to maintain order, safety and lines of clear communication.

  • You receive instructions from one person-Chain of Command in FEMA ICS
  • You report to one person- Unity of Command in FEMA ICS
  • No one should have more than 3-7 people reporting to them- Span of Control in FEMA ICS

ICS Flow (Initiating ICS)

Initiating ICS happens organically as resources are needed to respond to an incident. As first person on the scene you can declare ICS.

  • Incident occurs
  • First volunteer arrives
  • Scene is assessed.
    • Is the scene safe?
    • What’s going on?
    • What do I have?
    • What do I need?
    • Who do I tell?
  • First volunteer Leads and Manages
  • They request help if needed
  • Help arrives
    • Help is assigned a task or
    • Lead and Manage duties are transferred
  • Control the scene until we don’t
  • ICS terminates

Further Resources

See other sections in this wiki:

  • ICS in Brief
  • ICS II-For Safety Core Volunteers
  • ICS III-Managing Developing Incidents
  • ICS IV-Organizational Structure