At the 2004 ASSE conference in Las Vegas, both John Henshaw, then Director of Federal OSHA, and John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each stated unequivocally that every safety professional in today's world needs to have a knowledge of and background in the use of the standardized Incident Command System (ICS). Both of these safety industry leaders recognized that effective emergency incident management, of almost any size or type, requires a system of command and control, and the ICS was the best system to use.
A system of command and control is needed because the risk to our emergency responders, who are often our employees, is high. Because the incident is an "emergency," we take unnecessary risks that as safety professionals, we would not ordinarily accept within our own organizations. Such risks however, are not necessary because of the safeguards used in ICS.
Why is it that some safety professionals have not taken the advice of these key leaders? Why is itthat the ICS, which has been shown to be effective in both managing the incident and in promoting the safety of response personnel, is not well known or well understood by those of us in the safety profession? Perhaps the answer is simple: we don't feel it is necessary because it seems so complex. The truth is the system is quite basic and filled with common sense.
We will look into this system that is not only effective, but also mandated by OSHA for use inresponse to specific types of emergency situations. What we will soon discover is that you don't need to have years of experience or days of training to understand and implement ICS. In fact, the major concepts behind the system are so easy to grasp that even a "dummy" could implement it.
We must have some type of standardized management structure to safely and effectively managean incident. As many safety professionals know, someone else has likely had a similar problem and has come up with an answer which you can simply "borrow" and apply to your situation. Such is the case with handling emergencies. Professionals in Fire Service manage emergency situations of all types, including fires, multiple casualty events, natural and man-made disasters, hazardous materials releases, and even responses to terrorist attacks like those in Oklahoma City, New York, and the Pentagon.