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September 12, 2023

Incident Command - Benefits of Unified Command

The ICS organizational structure expands beyond the single rank of an Incident Commander (IC) to a unified command (UC) for complex, high-severity incidents. UC combines the management functions of a single IC and an incident response team into a single command unit with responsibility for an overall response strategy. UC supports the coordination of the most critical business decisions that have a direct impact on operational success. UC allows multiple stakeholders with a variety of expertise to participate in the decision-making process and establishes a common set of objectives and strategies, as well as an incident action plan (IAP) for resolving the incident.

UC participants include the authorized representatives of agencies with jurisdictional authority over the incident and any functional agency responsible for the overall response (e.g., fire services, law enforcement, and transportation agencies). Initially, one UC lead agency assumes the role of IC in accordance with its priority mission at the scene. As the incident progresses and other UC agencies fulfill their responsibilities, the UC leadership role rotates among participating agencies.

UC participants determine and prioritize a common set of incident objectives and strategies, designate an Operations Section Chief to manage tactical operations, fill Command Staff positions as needed (e.g., IC/UC, Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer), and resolve issues affecting the management of unified resources. The UC structure also may branch to accommodate the need for separate management of operational and support activities that require concurrent execution of specific tactical missions.