Managing Extended Operations Using an ICS-201

EMSI is pleased to announce that we will be offering our recently revised and enhanced ICS-220 Initial Response Team course (All-Hazards Initial Response) at the All-Hazards IMT (AHIMT) Association (AHIMTA) Training & Education Symposium, December 2-3. Training enrollment is limited to symposium attendees and will be managed by the AHIMT Association.

Planning P Initial ResponseAlthough we typically think of the Incident Command System’s operational process as the Operational Planning “P”, there may be situations where an Incident Commander can meet the needs of the incident without ever leaving the “stem” or initial response phase of the “P”. The period of Initial Response & Assessment occurs in all incidents. Short-term responses, which are small in scope or duration (e.g., a few resources working one or two operational periods), can often be coordinated using only the ICS-201 (Incident Briefing Form).

In the normal progression of an incident, the Incident Commander determines that an expanded ICS organization will be needed to manage the response and the ICS-201 Incident Briefing will end the initial response phase and launch the Operational Planning Cycle. The 201 Brief is used by the Command and General Staff to brief their assigned personnel and to begin managing, monitoring, and planning the response.

An Incident Commander must evaluate the situation to determine if the incident and resource conditions are conducive to moving into a managed planning cycle (development of an Incident Action Plan). Several factors need to be evaluated, including:

• Incident dynamics (growth potential/stability)
• IMT staffing,
• Resource availability
• Weather conditions.

If an IC determines that the IMT is not sufficiently staffed with adequate resources or skill set, or that the incident is growing in complexity quickly, the IC may decide to continue to manage and document operations using an ICS-201.

Ultimately, the IC is responsible to ensure that the ICS-201 continues to serve as the document that is guiding operations and documenting the response. Further performing as a briefing document, the ICS 201 also functions as an initial action worksheet and serves as a permanent record of the initial response to the incident.

Stem of the Planning P initial responseThe key to successfully operating in the stem is that the ICS-201 must be kept up to date. It cannot be considered “one and done”. The IC can assign the task of keeping the ICS-201 current to staff members and is typically assigned to the Planning Section Chief (PSC) or the Operations Section Chief (OSC).

Regardless of whom the IC assigns the ICS-201 task, success depends on relentless teamwork, aggressive communication, and a sustained Common Operating Picture (COP). In reality, it makes little difference which of these two Chiefs are updating the ICS-201. Both will have a significant role in keeping the ICS-201 current and meaningful. Specific roles and processes will evolve within the IMT to sustain the process, and rarely will they change.

Ideally, the ICS 201 is duplicated and distributed before the initial briefing of the Command and General Staff or other responders as appropriate. The “Map/Sketch” and “Current and Planned Actions, Strategies, and Tactics” sections (pages 1–2) of the briefing form are given to the Situation Unit, while the “Current Organization” and “Resource Summary” sections (pages 3–4) are given to the Resources Unit.

In addition to updating the ICS-201, there should be recurring Incident Briefs using the most up-to-date 201 to ensure responders are maintaining awareness of the current situation and its response as they evolve. The Incident Briefing (ICS 201) provides the Incident Commander (and the Command and General Staffs) with basic information regarding the incident situation and the resources allocated to the incident. Using the ICS-201 as its basis, this briefing should follow a basic agenda, such as:

1. Current situation (include territory, exposures, safety concerns, etc.; use map and/or charts).
2. Facilities established.
3. Initial objectives and priorities.
4. Current and planned actions.
5. Current on-scene organization.
6. Methods of communication and current frequencies used.
7. Resource assignments.
8. Resources ordered and/or en-route.
9. Potential incident complexity.
10. Notifications completed.

It is important to note that as an incident grows in complexity and size, Incident Commanders should move into the full Operational Planning Cycle. Using the ICS-201 only for managing an incident should be constrained to those incidents that are small in nature and/or can be resolved within a couple of operational periods.

Looking to further develop your team? EMSI offers training, preparedness, and exercises for individual ICS positions, Incident Management Teams (IMT), and leadership. Contact us today to find out how we can help your organization with its preparedness efforts.