Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Training - Incident Command System (ICS)


The Need for a Common Incident Management System

The Incident Command System (ICS) was developed to provide federal, state, and local governments, as well as private and not-for-profit entities, with a consistent framework for the preparation for, response to, and recovery from any incident or event, regardless of the size, nature, duration, location, scope, or complexity.

The Incident Command System provides for interoperability, efficiency, and effectiveness through a core set of concepts, principles, terminology, and technologies encompassing all aspects of incident management. These include multi-agency coordination, unified command, training, identification and management of resources, qualification and certification, and the collection, tracking, evaluation, and dissemination of information.

On March 5, 1996, Executive Order No. 26 was signed establishing the National Interagency Incident Management System - Incident Command System as the State standard command and control system that will be utilized during emergency operations. ICS is a management system that sets forth standardized procedures for managing personnel, communications, facilities, and resources.

In New York State, the primary responsibility for implementing the Governor's Executive Order on ICS rests with the New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission's Task Force on ICS coordinated by the State Emergency Management Office.

By way of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #5 (HSPD-5), President Bush directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop the National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS integrates effective practices in emergency preparedness and response into a comprehensive national framework for incident management. NIMS will enable responders at all levels to work together more effectively to manage domestic incidents no matter what the cause, size or complexity.

Executive Order 26 was updated in 2006 as Executive Order 26.1, which reflects the change to NIMS.

The benefits of the NIMS system will be significant:

  • Standardized organizational structures, processes and procedures;
  • Standards for planning, training and exercising, and personnel qualification standards;
  • Equipment acquisition and certification standards;
  • Interoperable communications processes, procedures and systems;
  • Information management systems; and
  • Supporting technologies - voice and data communications systems, information systems, data display systems and specialized technologies.

For additional information on NIMS, please visit FEMA's NIMS web

IS-700 NIMS: An Introduction is a Web-based awareness level course that explains NIMS components, concepts and principles. Although this is not part of the core ICS curriculum, this will provide you with information on the NIMS / HSPD-5 program and requirements. To take IS-700 NIMS, please visit the EMI web page for the IS-700 course.

ICS resulted from the obvious need for a new approach to the problem of managing rapidly moving wildfires in the early 1970s. At that time, emergency managers faced a number of problems:

  • Too many people reporting to one supervisor
  • Different emergency response organizational structures
  • Lack of reliable incident information
  • Inadequate and incompatible communications
  • Lack of a structure for coordinated planning between agencies
  • Unclear lines of authority
  • Terminology differences between agencies
  • Unclear or unspecified incident objectives

Designating a standardized emergency management system to remedy these problems took several years and extensive field testing. The Incident Command System was developed by an interagency task force working in a cooperative local, state, and federal interagency effort called FIRESCOPE (Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies). Early in the development process, four essential requirements became clear:

  1. The system must be organizationally flexible to meet the needs of incidents of any kind and size.
  2. Agencies must be able to use the system on a day-to-day basis for routine situations as well as for major emergencies.
  3. The system must be sufficiently standard to allow personnel from a variety of agencies and diverse geographic locations to rapidly meld into a common management structure.
  4. The system must be cost effective.

Initial ICS applications were designed for responding to disastrous wildland fires. It is interesting to note that the characteristics of these wildland fire incidents are similar to those seen in many law enforcement and other situations, including WMD and terrorist incidents.

They occur with no advance notice. They develop rapidly. Unchecked, they may grow in size or complexity. Personal risk for response personnel can be high. There are often several agencies with some on-scene responsibility. They can very easily become multi-jurisdictional. They often have high public and media visibility. Risk of life and property loss can be high. Cost of response is always a major concern.

ICS is now widely used throughout the United States by fire agencies, and is increasingly used for law enforcement, other public safety applications, and for emergency and event management. ICS applications and users have steadily increased since the systems original development. A number of disciplines and agencies now use ICS, as it has evolved globally as a standard of incident and event management organization for any incident of any size, nature, location, or discipline.

For additional information on the Incident Command System refer to the I-100 (ICS Orientation) course.

ICS Curriculum Offerings in New York State

The Incident Command System National Training Curriculum is a progressive curriculum developed and revised by a multi-agency, multi-discipline steering group. Most classroom delivered courses contain participants from several agencies and disciplines, which enhances the learning experience for all participants. Not all participants will need to advance through the entire curriculum - the ideal level of training for each person will depend upon their level of responsibility during an incident or event. If you have any questions on the ICS curriculum or the Incident Command System in general, feel free to contact us.

  • I-100 (Introduction to ICS) is the starting point for the curriculum and is available to everyone as a FEMA Independent Study program
  • I-200 (ICS Basic) is designed as a 12-hour (typically one and one-half days) classroom-delivered program. The ICS Basic program is comprised of five modules intended to provide all participants with an understanding of the primary components of the Incident Command System. The five modules cover the Principles and Features of ICS, the ICS Organization, Facilities used to support incident management, Incident Resources, and Common Responsibilities for all responders. The ICS Basic program is delivered in locations throughout the State. Please see our Training Calendar for scheduled training dates and locations. I-200 is a prerequisite for the I-300 program.
  • I-300 (ICS Intermediate) is a 24-hour course usually delivered in a 3-day classroom format. The I-300 program combines the application of the principles learned in the ICS Basic program with an emphasis on organizing and planning for incidents and events. The five modules of the ICS Intermediate program cover Organization and Staffing, Organizing for Incidents and Events, Incident Resource Management, Air Operations, and Planning for Incidents and Events. The ICS Intermediate program is delivered in locations around the State. Please see our Training Calendar for scheduled training dates and locations. I-300 is a prerequisite for the I-400 program and is typically the prerequisite for the ICS Skills Courses.
  • I-400 (ICS Advanced) is a classroom-delivered program that discusses advanced management applications of the Incident Command System including Command and General Staff, Unified Command, Major Incident Management, Area Command, and Multi-Agency Coordination. Candidates for this course should have a considerable background in incident management in both academic and practical application.

ICS Resources

(Publications, Forms, and Tools)

NOTE: While many of these sites provide links to curriculum materials (visuals, participant and instructor guides), presentations and courses should only be delivered by qualified instructors.