Managing Incident Potential

Incident Management Teams (IMT) spend a significant amount of time preparing and planning for the next operational period, while still managing on-going operations. This includes developing required support documents and/or needed contingency plans. As an IMT, we must also consider the need for managing incident potential in the event things get worse or we find ourselves in a crisis situation.

Remember, initial responders begin to document their response using the ICS 201 form.  In this document, we can obtain a map of the response area, situational awareness summary, list of priorities, incident management and operational objectives, current and planned actions, safety summary, incident organizational chart and resource summary.  In addition to the above elements in the ICS 201 form, we also list the “Incident Potential.”  Here is the IMT’s first opportunity to consider potential worst case or crisis issues that may occur.  During the ICS 201 briefing, the Initial Incident Commander informs the in-coming Incident Commander/Unified Commanders or the IMT that potential problems must be evaluated and possible solutions to manage them must be developed.

Our credibility and reputation as an IMT are influenced by the perception of our response to crisis situations.  We must ensure that everyone on the IMT is involved in managing incident potential and is briefed on our preferred solutions for response to potential crises in a timely manner.  Therefore, the IMT must identify the types of crises that can arise.  Some potential crises an IMT can see at an incident include:

  • Incidents within an incident

  • Serious injury/fatality.

  • Accidents (vessel, vehicle, aviation, railroad, etc.)

  • Technology crises (technology breakdowns, software failures, communication problems)

  • Organization misdeeds (not keeping stakeholders aware, deception, misconduct)

  • Rumors (false information)

  • Malevolence (anger, hostility, unethical behavior, illegal activity)

  • Natural disasters that are underestimated or continue to expand

  • Cascading events

  • Terrorism or criminal attacks

Some of the above listed situations will occur without warning, while others occur slowly and still others may occur rapidly.  However these events may occur; the IMT still needs to devote the appropriate time to becoming prepared.  Prevention and preparation are the keys to our success as an IMT in averting a crisis or being able to respond and minimize/control the situation.

Successful planning that the IMT can implement to meet the challenges of a crisis or worst case event are:

  • Identify impending trouble or danger

  • Choose appropriate strategies

  • Identify resources, equipment and staff needed

  • Establish trigger points to commence implementation

  • Implement an effective response

  • Evaluate and monitor the situation

  • Upon completion, conduct an after action review to identify future improvements

As stated in this article, this component of incident management is often put aside until a crisis or worst case situation arises.  Proactive IMTs will stay on top of this issue and be prepared to manage incident potential.

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