Posted August 22, 2014 by Scott Reed 

Using ICS for Emergency Response Planning

We all have emergency response or action plans for our facilities to help us respond in a systematic, preplanned way once we need to evacuate. After researching these plans for some time, there are several different ways to approach the development of these vital response plans. Over the last few years, we have moved to FEMA’s National Incident Management System’s Incident Command System (ICS) to base our response plan which is producing potential advantages in communication, training, and fluency.

First, to give you an idea of scope, we have four response plans for four facilities covering approximately 300,000 square feet of student union space. Each of our facilities is unique in response needs, so we only use part of the ICS Response Model as applicable to make sure we can operationalize uniqueness in facilities. The main components to consider in this plan are the incident commander role, an operations section, a planning section, and logistics. For us, the public information aspect and finance section are more applicable to recovery or continuity planning.

The primary reason we are incorporating ICS is to standardize response language with safety industry language. Our plans connect to university and external responding authorities such as police, fire, rescue, or other emergency officials. Most official responders are trained under the ICS model and understand the language. So using this industry language creates an advantage when working with them as part of a complete or longer term response. ICS Model

We have found that training from an ICS base is beneficial due to the wealth of quality, low-cost (or free) common training options. For our emergency or continuity training, we often utilize the FEMA website for reference videos, examples of exercises, etc. In this case, we are using expert preparedness to supplement our facility specific roles as building emergency coordinators or onsite incident commanders.

In summary, we are all charged with creating quality emergency response plans that keep our students and staff safe. Many models exist to base these plans but one expert reference is using the FEMA ICS model at some level applicable to your assets and organization. These expert resources give us an advantage on how to communicate in an incident with any type of responder and also help provide quality resources for improving our training programs. In the end, the combination of a strong ICS based incident response, can create the fluency and efficiency desired in these emergency situations.

Scott Reed

Scott Reed is the Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.

Scott oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.


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