The operational period briefing is usually conducted by a senior officer, sometimes assisted by subordinates. The briefing should be conducted at least once a month. There are three types of operational briefing: medium-term, long-term, and short-term. Each type of operational briefing addresses a different aspect of a given mission.
Planning Section Chief
In an operational briefing, the Planning Section Chief reviews the agenda and facilitates the briefing. The Incident Commander presents the incident objectives and any existing objectives to the group, and the Planning Section Chief provides information on the current situation. The current Operations Section Chief also presents a current assessment and covers work assignments for the next operational period. Other members of the planning team, such as the Finance/Administration Section Chief and the Public Information Officer, give briefings to provide information to the general public.
In addition to conducting briefings, the Planning Section Chief conducts a formal interagency planning meeting, during which an IAP is developed. Although an oral IAP may be sufficient for a minor traffic incident, larger highway incidents and more complex incidents usually require a written IAP. The IAP must include incident objectives, one or more strategies per objective, associated operations tactics and resource assignments.
The initial incident briefing is a key step in initiating the appropriate ICS structure. While a single person may be able to perform the command function during minor highway incidents, this becomes a more important role during major incidents, which usually involve multiple agencies and several types of responders. To facilitate this transfer of command, the current Incident Commander should brief the incoming Command, and all on-scene responders should be aware of the change. Additionally, a review of existing facilities should be conducted, including the decision to designate an initial ICP or other mobile facility. During this process, interagency communications should be maintained through established frequencies.
In a large incident, the ICS structure may expand to accommodate more personnel and more resources. In smaller incidents, a senior public agency will be assigned as incident commander. The command will then transfer to the senior on-scene officer. Once the public agency departs, the incident will transfer back to normal business.
The initial incident briefing is a critical part of instituting an appropriate ICS structure. It may include an Agency Representative recognizing a transfer of command, or it may be as simple as a change in command structure. In either case, the current IC should brief the incoming Command, and all on-scene responders should be notified of the change. A review of established facilities should also be conducted, including a decision to designate the initial Incident Command Post (ICP) as permanent or a mobile facility. In addition, interagency communications should be maintained through established frequencies.
The ICS management structure should include the following elements: the Resource Unit, Situation Unit, and Documentation Unit. The Resources Unit ensures that all assigned personnel are on-scene, and the Situation Unit evaluates and synthesizes situation information to produce an incident situation summary. The Situation Unit should forecast and plan for the incident’s demobilization. The Documentation Unit maintains accurate incident files.
ICS management structure
The ICS management structure generally facilitates operational briefs and communication between the incident command and the responders. Organizational structure should be delineated based on span-of-control, geography, and functional responsibilities. The size and complexity of an incident will determine the size of the ICS organization.
In an ICS, the command function is usually performed by one or more individuals. The person with the most authority over incident activities is known as the Incident Commander. During a minor highway incident, the command function can be performed by one person, but in larger incidents involving several agencies, the command function becomes more critical.
Once the incident command has established the incident command structure, the incident command will organize incident briefing meetings to review incident objectives, agency policies, and alternative strategies. Participants will identify the operational tactics to be used. They will also develop an effective ICS management structure. These meetings will ensure that the chain of command will be efficient and coordinated within the span-of-control limits. During these meetings, the command or the designated Operations Section Chief will determine the operational resources needed for the incident. The planning meeting will also determine the availability of tactical resources. Once the decision-making process is complete, the command or Operations Section Chief will designate staging areas.
The ICS structure uses modular teams and organization to ensure a coordinated response. Each team is comprised of specific ICS resources who are responsible for a particular operational function. The ICS structure follows the Span-of-Control recommendations. The ICS structure is organized by five functional areas.
The ICS has clear rules for the transfer of command and the chain of command. This organization emphasizes unity of command and eliminates confusion resulting from multiple directives. The ICS structure requires all agencies to share a common goal and end result. This structure is crucial to a successful response to a major incident.
The ICS structure integrates public safety responders and non-public safety agencies. It also uses organizational terminology that is acceptable across all levels of government. By providing a consistent system of operations within a jurisdiction, ICS helps agencies move from small, single-agency operations to large, multiagency ones. Initial ICS structures are often small, but expand quickly to meet the demands of real-time conditions.