Glossary of Terms

Agency: An agency is a division of government with a specific function, or a nongovernmental organization (e.g., private contractor, business, etc.) that offers a particular kind of assistance. In ICS, agencies are defined as jurisdictional (having statutory responsibility for incident mitigation) or assisting and/or cooperating (providing resources and/or assistance).

Agency Executive or Administrator: Chief executive officer (or designee) of the agency or jurisdiction that has responsibility for the incident.

Agency Representative: An individual assigned to an incident from an assisting or cooperating agency who has been delegated authority to make decisions on matters affecting that agency's participation at the incident. Agency Representatives report to the Incident Liaison Officer.

Area Command: An organization established to: 1) oversee the management of multiple incidents that are each being handled by an Incident Command System organization; or 2) to oversee the management of a very large incident that has multiple Incident Management Teams assigned to it. Area Command has the responsibility to set overall strategy and priorities, allocate critical resources based on priorities, ensure that incidents are properly managed, and ensure that objectives are met and strategies followed.

Assignments: Tasks given to resources to perform within a given operational period, based upon tactical objectives in the Incident Action Plan.

Branch: The organizational level having functional or geographic responsibility for major parts of incident operations.

Chain of Command: A series of management positions in order of authority.

Chief: The ICS title for individuals responsible for command of functional sections:Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance.

Command: The act of directing and/or controlling resources by virtue of explicit legal, agency, or delegated authority. May also refer to the Incident Commander.

Command Staff: The Command Staff consists of the Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer. They report directly to the Incident Commander. They may have an assistant or assistants, as needed.

Communications Unit: An organizational unit in the Logistics Section responsible for providing internal communication services at an incident. A Communications Unit may also be a facility (e.g., a trailer or mobile van) used to provide the major part of an incident.

Compensation/Claims Unit: Functional unit within the Finance Section responsible for financial concerns resulting from property damage, injuries, or fatalities at the incident.

Cooperating Agency: An agency supplying assistance other than direct tactical or support functions or resources to the incident control effort (e.g., Red Cross, telephone company, etc.).

Coordination: The process of systematically analyzing a situation, developing relevant information, and informing appropriate command authority of viable alternatives for selection of the most effective combination of available resources to meet specific objectives. The coordination process (which can be either intra- or interagency) does not involve dispatch actions. However, personnel responsible for coordination may perform command or dispatch functions within the limits established by specific agency delegations, procedures, legal authority, etc.

Cost Unit: Functional unit within the Finance Section responsible for tracking costs, analyzing cost data, making cost estimates, and recommending cost-saving measures.

Director: The ICS title for individuals responsible for supervision of a Branch.

Documentation Unit: Functional unit within the Planning Section responsible for collecting, recording, and safeguarding all documents relevant to the incident.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC): A pre-designated facility established by an agency or jurisdiction to coordinate the overall agency or jurisdictional response and support to an emergency. EOCs may be organized by major functional disciplines (e.g., fire, law enforcement, and medical services), by jurisdiction (e.g., Federal, State, regional, county, city, tribal), or some combination thereof.

Emergency Operations Plan: The plan that each jurisdiction has and maintains for responding to appropriate hazards.

Event: A planned, non-emergency activity. ICS can be used as the management system for a wide range of events, e.g., parades, concerts, or sporting events.

Facilities Unit: Functional unit within the Support Branch of the Logistics Section that provides fixed facilities for the incident. These facilities may include the feeding areas, sleeping areas, sanitary facilities, etc.

Finance Section: The Section responsible for all incident costs and financial considerations. Includes the Time Unit, Procurement Unit, Compensation/Claims Unit, and Cost Unit.

Function: In ICS, function refers to the five major activities in the ICS, i.e., Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance. The term function is also used when describing the activity involved, e.g., the planning function.

General Staff: The group of incident management personnel reporting to the Incident Commander. They may each have a deputy, as needed. The General Staff consists of Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief and Finance Section Chief

Incident: An occurrence either human caused or by natural phenomena, that requires action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or natural resources.

Incident Action Plan: Contains objectives reflecting the overall incident strategy and specific tactical actions and supporting information for the next operational period. The Plan may be oral or written. When written, the Plan may have a number of forms as attachments (e.g., traffic plan, safety plan, communications plan, map, etc.).

Incident Commander: The individual responsible for the management of all incident operations at the incident site.

Incident Command: The location at which the primary command functions are executed. The ICP may be collocated with the incident base or other incident facilities.

Incident Command System(ICS): A standardized on-scene emergency management concept specifically designed to allow its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.

Information Center: The Public Information Officer is responsible for establishing the Information Center, through which interfacing occurs with the public, media and other agencies requiring information directly from the incident. The Information Center is usually stationed adjacent to Incident Command.

Leader: The ICS title for an individual responsible for a functional unit.

Liaison Officer: A member of the Command Staff responsible for coordinating with representatives from cooperating and assisting agencies.

Logistics Section: The Section responsible for providing facilities, services, and materials for the incident.
Manager: Individuals within ICS organizational units that are assigned specific managerial responsibilities.

Message Center: The Message Center is the part of the Incident Communication Center that receives, records, and routes information about resources reporting to the incident, resource status, and administrative and tactical traffic.

Mitigation: The activities designed to reduce or eliminate risks to persons or property or to lessen the actual or potential effects or consequences of an incident. Mitigation measures may be implemented prior to, during, or after an incident. Mitigation measures are often informed by lessons learned from prior incidents. Mitigation involves ongoing actions to reduce exposure to, probability of, or potential loss from hazards. Measures may include zoning and building codes, floodplain buyouts, and analysis of hazard- related data to determine where it is safe to build or locate temporary facilities. Mitigation can include efforts to educate governments, businesses, and the public on measures they can take to reduce loss and injury.

Multi-Agency Incident: An incident where one or more agencies assist a jurisdictional agency or agencies. May be a single or unified command.

Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC): A generalized term which describes the functions and activities of representatives of involved agencies and/or jurisdictions who come together to make decisions regarding the prioritizing of incidents, and the sharing and use of critical resources. The MAC organization is not a part of the on-scene ICS and is not involved in developing incident strategy or tactics.

Multi-Agency Coordination System (MACS): The combination of personnel, facilities, equipment, procedures, and communications integrated into a common system. When activated, MACS has the responsibility for coordination of assisting agency resources and support in a multi-agency or multijurisdictional environment. A MAC Group functions within the MACS.

Multi-Jurisdiction Incident: An incident requiring action from multiple agencies that have a statutory responsibility for incident mitigation. In ICS these incidents will be managed under Unified Command.

Mutal Aid Agreement: Written agreement between agencies and/or jurisdictions in which they agree to assist one another upon request, by furnishing personnel and equipment.

National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS): An NWCG-developed program consisting of five major subsystems which collectively provide a total systems approach to all-risk incident management. The subsystems are: The Incident Command System, Training, Qualifications and Certification, Supporting Technologies, and Publications Management.

National Incident Management System (NIMS): A system mandated by HSPD-5 that provides a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, local, and tribal governments; the private-sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity. To provide for interoperability and compatibility among Federal, State, local, and tribal capabilities, the NIMS includes a core set of concepts, principles, and terminology. HSPD-5 identifies these as the ICS; multiagency coordination systems; training; identification and management of resources (including systems for classifying types of resources); qualification and certification; and the collection, tracking, and reporting of incident information and incident resources. National Response Plan: A plan mandated by HSPD-5 that integrates Federal domestic prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery plans into one all-discipline, all-hazards plan.

Nutritional Supply Unit: Functional unit within the Service Branch of the Logistics Section responsible for providing meals for incident personnel, patients and on-site family members.

Officer: The ICS title for the personnel responsible for the Command Staff positions of Safety, Liaison, and Information.

Operations Section: The Section responsible for all tactical operations at the incident.

Personnel Accountability: The ability to account for the location and welfare of incident personnel. It is accomplished when supervisors ensure that ICS principles and processes are functional and that personnel are working within established incident management guidelines.

Planning Section: Responsible for the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of tactical information related to the incident, and for the preparation and documentation of Incident Action Plans. The Section also maintains information on the current and forecasted situation, and on the status of resources assigned to the incident.

Procurement Section: Functional unit within the Finance Section responsible for financial matters involving vendor contracts.

Resources Unit: Functional unit within the Planning Section responsible for recording the status of resources committed to the incident. The Unit also evaluates resources currently committed to the incident, the impact that additional responding resources will have on the incident, and anticipated resource needs.

Safety Officer: A member of the Command Staff responsible for monitoring and assessing safety hazards or unsafe situations, and for developing measures for ensuring personnel safety. The Safety Officer may have assistants.

Section: That organization level with responsibility for a major functional area of the incident, e.g., Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance. 

Situation-Status Unit: Functional unit within the Planning Section responsible for the collection, organization, and analysis of incident status information, and for analysis of the situation as it progresses. Reports to the Planning Section Chief.

Span of Control: The supervisory ratio of from three-to-seven individuals, with five-to-one being established as optimum.

Supervisor: The ICS title for individuals responsible for command of a Division or Group.

Supply Unit: Functional unit within the Support Branch of the Logistics Section responsible for ordering equipment and supplies required for incident operations.

Support Branch: A Branch within the Logistics Section responsible for providing personnel, equipment, and supplies to support incident operations. Includes the Supply, Facilities, and Ground Support Units.

Supporting Materials: Refers to the several attachments that may be included with an Incident Action Plan, e.g., communications plan, map, safety plan, traffic plan, and medical plan.

Time Unit: Functional unit within the Finance Section responsible for recording time for incident personnel and hired equipment.

Unified Area Command: A Unified Area Command is established when incidents under an Area Command are multijurisdictional.

Unified Command: In ICS, Unified Command is a unified team effort which allows all agencies with responsibility for the incident, either geographical or functional, to manage an incident by establishing a common set of incident objectives and strategies. This is accomplished without losing or abdicating agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.

Unit: The organizational element having functional responsibility for a specific incident planning, logistics, or finance activity.

Unity of Command: The concept by which each person within an organization reports to one and only one designated person.

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