The Incident Command System (ICS) is a systematic tool used for the command, control and coordination of an emergency response.


ICS was originally developed in the 1970s during massive wildfire suppression efforts in California and following a series of catastrophic wildfires in California’s urban interface.

ICS was designed to improve the overall response management effectiveness and is now used across North America.

ICS is flexible and expandable to deal with different types and levels of emergencies and is fully interchangeable – anyone trained in ICS should be able to fill any role. ICS promotes a “manageable span of control” while ensuring that all important functions are covered.

The Incident Command System meets government & lead agency requirements. It is used by all levels of government — federal, provincial, and municipal —as well as by many nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. ICS is also applicable across disciplines. It is typically structured to facilitate activities in five major functional areas: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance/Administration. All of the functional areas may or may not be used based on the incident needs.

As a management system, ICS is extremely useful; not only does it provide an organizational structure for incident management, but it also guides the process for planning, building and adapting that structure. Using ICS for every incident or planned event helps hone and maintain skills needed for the large-scale incidents.