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September 12, 2023

Benefits of Unified Command

A central benefit of unified command is that multiple organizations can share leadership responsibilities, a key feature of ICS. UC allows public health and medical stakeholders to participate in incident management at the decision-making level, without having to assume command duties themselves. UC also promotes coordination between disciplines, ensuring that each responder has a single supervisor to whom they report at the scene of an incident.

The types of incidents that prompt the establishment of unified command vary by jurisdiction and function, but they typically include at least two or more responding agencies. For example, small traffic incidents generally occur within the confines of one jurisdiction, but the effects of major highway incidents often affect more than one jurisdiction and require participation from multiple functional authorities (e.g., law enforcement and fire).

During the unified planning process, UC participants determine common incident objectives and strategies and create a single incident action plan. The IAP identifies operational goals for the first operational period and includes the details of tactical operations for accomplishing those objectives. An oral IAP is sufficient for most incidents, but a written IAP may be required for larger or more complex highway incidents.

A transportation agency might represent the assisting authority in a unified command for a highway incident, while private towing companies might provide assistance with restoring roadway system operations after the disruption. As such, these transportation stakeholders are being increasingly integrated into ICS as a part of unified commands.