The continued evolution of all-hazards incident management and the ever increasing complexity of the response environments has created new challenges for modern-day Incident Commanders. With more external influences and non-operational management challenges than ever before as well as an increased potential for post-incident inquiries and litigation, a critical resource to an Incident Commander is a legal specialist.
Traditionally, when legal services were needed by an Incident Commander, lawyers were brought in as Technical Specialists or were available remotely. Today legal specialists are often embedded in the field-level ICS organization and play an invaluable role, interacting with and provide advice and services to many different positions on an IMT.
Due to the dynamic and important nature of this position, EMSI recommends that where legal specialists are required, they be included as a member of the Command Staff as a Legal Officer.
A Legal Officer can contribute to an IMT organization in a number of ways. They can:
- Provide legal counsel and review for Incident Commanders or a Unified Command
- Advise on applicable statutory or regulatory authorities or individual organizational policies/constraints
- Assist with Command level decision-making, documentation, and official incident documents/memos
- Establish appropriate incident documentation and record-keeping requirements
- Review financial processes such as claims, contracting, or procurement
- Identify and work through insurance requirements
- Determine relevant disaster law and applicability
- Evaluate information requests/releases
- Coordinate with agency or company executives and explain potential liabilities
To support the continued evolution of this important function, EMSI has developed a Legal Officer Job Aid. This job aid covers the roles and responsibilities of a Legal Officer when assigned to an incident. The job aid addresses:
- the Legal Officer’s contributions to the ICS organization and process
- Interactions and information exchange between the Legal Officer and members of the IMT
- Appropriate staffing requirements for the Legal function
- Various tools that can be of assistance to the Legal Officer in performing their job
EMSI is planning to develop a Legal Officer course in the near future to support the needs of the government and private sector incident management community. In the interim, EMSI is available to conduct specialized workshops on this topic to help the legal community prepare for incident response.