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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Overview of MSCC, Emergency Management and the Incident Command System

Contents


Key Points of the Chapter

Mass casualty and/or mass effect[1] incidents create demands that often challenge or exceed the medical infrastructure of an affected community. A mass effect incident may be defined as a hazard impact that primarily affects the ability of the organization to continue its usual operations (in contrast to a mass casualty incident). For healthcare systems, the usual medical care capability and capacity can be compromised and the ability to surge prevented. The ability to provide adequate medical care under such circumstances is known as medical surge. There are two components of medical surge: (1) surge capacity is the ability to respond to a markedly increased number of patients; (2) surge capability is the ability to address unusual or very specialized medical needs. Strategies to enhance medical surge capacity and capability (MSCC) require a systems-based approach that is rooted in interdisciplinary coordination and based at the local level.

The MSCC Management System describes a framework of coordination across six tiers of response, building from the individual healthcare organization (HCO) and its integration into a local healthcare coalition, to the integration of Federal public health and medical support. The most critical tier is jurisdiction incident management (Tier 3) since it is the primary site of integration for public health and medical assets with other response disciplines. Each tier must be effectively managed internally in order to integrate externally with other tiers.

Emergency management and Incident Command System (ICS) concepts form the basis of the MSCC Management System. Within ICS, response assets are organized into five functional areas: Command establishes the incident goals and objectives (and in so doing defines the incident); Operations Section develops the specific tactics and executes activities to accomplish the goals and objectives; and the Planning, Logistics, and Administration/Finance Sections support Command and Operations. The Planning Section is particularly critical because it manages complex information across tiers and facilitates information exchange among responders to promote consistency within the overall system.

Because multiple agencies may have leadership responsibilities in a mass casualty and/or mass effect incident, a unified command approach is essential. Unified command enables disparate entities (both public and private) to collaborate and actively participate in the development of incident goals, objectives, and an overarching response strategy. Participation by public health and medical disciplines in unified command is important since these disciplines have a primary responsibility for ensuring the welfare of responders and the general public. Where unified command is not implemented due to sovereignty issues (e.g., across State borders or between private facilities), effective mechanisms for management coordination should be established.


  1. A mass effect incident may be defined as a hazard impact that primarily affects the ability of the organization to continue its usual operations (in contrast to a mass casualty incident). For healthcare systems, the usual medical care capability and capacity can be compromised and the ability to surge prevented.

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  • This page last reviewed: February 14, 2012