Home Opinion Back to the Basics: The Initial Incident Commander (IC)

Back to the Basics: The Initial Incident Commander (IC)


This will begin a series of the basics of Emergency and Disaster Response.

The local level and positions held at the local level will be the focus of this series, as much of the success of any type of disaster response. Today’s topic is the initial incident commander (IC), as this position will be filled (hopefully in this day and age of NIMS training and adoption) at every event.

Who is the Initial IC?

The initial IC can be a police officer, a medic on an ambulance, the company officer on a fire engine, or the battalion chief.

With the exception of the battalion chief, all of the aforementioned persons are normally task-based personnel who are accustomed to being very action driven, and are ready to take actions that will remedy the problem. If it’s the engine company officer, he or she will take immediate action to slow or stop the problem the emergency response organization was called to.

Taking a Command Position

The first and most important point for the initial IC at a large-scale emergency or disaster is to take a command position. This means: no tasks, no activities to change the outcome. Why? Because the time you spend conducting the task will only solve a very minute part of the problem.

However, if you can gain information on the size of the event and order resources to match the event (because I have not heard, “hey this is huge, send everything you have” from any dispatch center), you will begin to have what is most needed at any disaster, manpower to complete tasks and command functions.

Remember that the initial minutes of an incident set the stage for the next hours and days. Be sure you take the right position and mentality to get ahead of the event and not play catch up the entire event.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.