Tragically, school shootings have become the norm. During the first five months of 2018, the U.S. averaged more than one school shooting per week, according to CNN.
Though they’re not traditional response organizations, schools are now firmly on the frontlines, carrying the burden of having to keep students, faculty, and staff safe from the terrifying security threat. As such, higher education institutions have taken up the task of developing and implementing active shooter response plans based on best practices in the field.
Today, we’ll focus on one of those best practice models: the command structure, which is proven to make incident response efforts more efficient.
Back when researchers studied responses to a whole slew of California fires in the 1970s, they found that the efforts didn’t, by in large, fail because of a lack of resources or a failure of tactics. Instead, the chief culprit was inadequate management. Out of this realization came the Incident Command System (ICS,) which remains with us to this day.
The ICS was designed to enable the effective and efficient management of incidents, like schoolyard active shooter situations. The system integrates a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. And its primary purpose is to let incident managers pinpoint key incident-related concerns under urgent conditions.
The ICS is structured around five major functional areas: command, operations, logistics, planning, and administration/finance. Here’s what they each mean:
- Command defines the incident goals and operational objectives. It includes an Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Public Information Officer, among other personnel.
- Operations establishes strategy and specific tactics to accomplish the goals and objectives set by Command.
- Logistics supports Command and Operations in their use of personnel, supplies, and equipment. It also performs technical activities required to maintain the function of operational facilities and processes.
- Planning coordinates support activities for incident planning as well as contingency, long-range, and demobilization planning. It coordinates information activities across the response system.
- Administration/Finance supports Command and Operations with administrative issues as well as tracking and processing incident expenses. It tackles issues like licensure requirements, regulatory compliance, and financial accounting.
At the end of the day, the ICS provides a fundamental form of incident management, extremely useful to your response efforts. Just remember: the point of the structure, as laid out by FEMA, is to help your managers identify key incident concerns without losing sight of the command as a whole.
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