Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Emergency management and Incident Command System (ICS) concepts serve as the basis for the MSCC Management System. However, unlike traditional descriptions of emergency management and ICS, which organize assets around a defined scene, the MSCC Management System has adapted the concepts to be more applicable to large-scale medical and public health response where there is no defined scene, or where multiple incident scenes may exist (e.g., infectious disease outbreak). Public health and medical professionals must understand the utility of emergency management and ICS concepts as they relate to public health and medical disciplines.
The following pages examine key distinctions between emergency management and ICS and the roles that each is designed to fulfill during a major medical incident.
Emergency management describes the science of managing complex systems and multidisciplinary personnel to address extreme events, across all hazards, and through the phases of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Hospital staff and other healthcare personnel might equate emergency management activities to a hospital's Disaster Committee (hence the recommended name change to Emergency Management Committee). The sum of all emergency management activities conducted by a response organization may be collectively referred to as an Emergency Management Program (EMP) for that entity. The term program is used because it denotes activity that is continuously ongoing, whereas a plan is often considered a series of actions that occur only in response to defined circumstances.
The activities of the EMP address the phases of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. They are based on a hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA), which if properly accomplished, will identify potential hazards, assess their likelihood of occurrence, their potential impact and the organization's vulnerabilities to the impact, and provide a basis for understanding how the hazard likelihood and organizational vulnerabilities can be addressed. Each EMP phase is briefly described below.
The ICS provides guidance for how to organize assets to respond to an incident (system description) and processes to manage the response through its successive stages (concept of operations). All response assets are organized into five functional areas: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Administration/Finance. Figure 1-3 highlights the five functional areas of ICS and their primary responsibilities.
Figure 1-3. Incident Command System
The ICS, as described in NIMS, refers to the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure and designed to aid in the management of resources during incident response. The ICS is based on eight concepts that contribute to the successful application of this system
Exhibit 1-3. Incident Command System Core Concepts
For ICS to be effective, the incident must be formally defined so that there is clarity and consistency as to what is being managed. This may be best accomplished by defining the incident response through delineation of response goals and objectives, and by explaining response parameters through an Incident Action Plan (IAP)—the primary documentation that is produced by the incident action planning process.
Early in the response to the Pentagon on 9/11, incident command (headed by the Arlington County, VA, Fire Department) defined the incident as managing the fire suppression, building collapse, and the search and rescue activities at the Pentagon. It did not include objectives for managing the disruption of traffic or other countywide ramifications of the plane crash. Arlington County emergency management officials, therefore, quickly knew they had to manage these other problems through their Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was geographically separate from, but closely coordinated with, incident command at the Pentagon.
The utility of ICS becomes evident when analyzing the demands encountered during an incident response.
Figure 1-4. Types of Demands Encountered in Incident Response
When an incident generates demands on the response system, the issues addressed first are usually demands created by the hazard itself—hazard-generated demands. For example, in a highly contagious disease outbreak, hazard-generated demands include the need to evaluate and treat victims, while controlling the spread of the disease. Simultaneously, the response system itself creates response-generated demands. In the same example, these demands include the need to coordinate disparate resources, to process widely dispersed data into accurate epidemiological information, to coordinate the public message, and to protect healthcare workers. Too often, the response community focuses on the hazard demands and neglects response demands until the latter create a significant impediment to overall response effectiveness. With well-developed ICS and emergency management support, the incident response proactively addresses both types of demands and, in fact, reduces many response-generated demands to routine status.
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