Incident Command System
Incident Command System (ICS) is used to manage natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other events. In an urban forestry context, its most common usage will be a storm event such as rain, hurricane,wind or snow that results in a large scale disruption of services and may do extensive damage to both green and gray infrastructure.
ICS provides a functional structure for actively managing any type of incident faced by responders. If that incident involves damage to a city’s green infrastructure, it’s essential that urban foresters are part of the response team.
ICS is a time-tested systematic process of planning, logistics, operations, finance, and command functions. If an Incident Management Team (IMT) is established with an ICS structure, the IMT will be responsible for a wide range of functions in carrying out an incident response. These might include public safety, managing evacuees, debris removal, and other types of activities that would get a community back to a normal level of function.
Urban foresters should have a basic understanding of ICS structure and IMT functions in case a team is deployed in response to an event. Additionally, some parts of the US are creating Urban Forest Strike Teams (www.UFST.org) that operate as a stand-alone function in an ICS framework and narrowly but specifically focus on tree risk assessments and debris management.
- Urban forestry must be part of the larger incident command structure – The ICS and the use of IMTs are ‘scalable’ –- the size of the team and the structure of the response is dependent upon the size of the incident. At the municipal level, ICS is most often applied in an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). If an EOC is established in your city, representatives of various city and county functions will all be involved, and it is vital that urban forestry have a defined role. Typically, urban forestry might be a one branch of an Operations function – but within that division, urban forest response functions like risk assessment and debris removal might be assigned to different work groups.
- Integrating urban forestry with ICS must be planned in advance – If you manage or are responsible for trees in the urban forest you must have a seat at the ICS table during planning, exercise, and response, not just as a tertiary component. This role doesn’t get established during an incident – it must be cultivated in the ICS planning process prior to an event. Urban foresters should participate in “table-top” exercises and mock-disaster response exercises in order to know and become known to other responders.
- Urban foresters need to learn the ICS system – There are a range of ICS courses offered by the various public safety agencies at the local, state, and national level that can help urban foresters learn the basics of how ICS functions. It is recommended that all urban foresters have some working knowledge of ICS before being assigned to an incident.
- An urban forestry function needs to be integrated into the first responder ICS – The city or municipality must understand the importance of ICS training for the urban forest. Incident response involving hazardous tree removal or urban forestry issues can help or hinder ICS operations. Use of this guide can control risk factors and injuries for the ICS team.
- Pre-Identify your urban forestry stakeholders and resources – Urban foresters should develop a viable emergency response plan that contains the information needed to manage their portion of an event. This should include both operational and communication strategies.
1. The guide is designed to provide the infrastructure for a storm response with the understanding that the local ICS team will be in place and functioning.
2. Ensure appropriate resources are available – housing, food, fuel, etc. Work with the ICS logistics function to manage these needs.
3. Outside contractors must have adequate training to work within the ICS system.
4. See the planning section of this document for additional recommendations on how to plan for a natural disaster. Integrate those tasks into the ICS.
1. ICS AND Mutual Aid Agreements (MAA) – There is an interface for MAAs and ICS. ICS has provisions for mutual aid at a regional, state, and county level. Again, advanced planning is required.
2. EMAC, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact – The US Forest Service is developing EMAC resource packages for Certified Arborists trained for disaster deployment to help cities accomplish risk assessment and FEMA debris identification. Visit www.emacweb.org for additional information.
3. NIMS -the National Incident Management System, has been developed to support ICS implementation across agencies – For resources and ICS training check this link ICS training.
FEMA Emergency Management Institute National Incident Management System Retrieved on July 8, 2012 from http://training.fema.gov/IS/Nims.asp
This ICS section was reviewed and updated by Paul Ries, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager, Oregon Department of Forestry.