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Emergency Medical Services: ICS—Now More Than Ever

Regardless of your length of service in fire and EMS, I'm pretty sure you have taken at least one incident-command system class. There's a host of classes and acronyms, including all the basic online and advanced classroom ICS classes as well as the NIMS (National Incident Management System) and NRF (National Response Framework) courses.

I hope you have taken all of these since now, more than ever, ICS should be an integral part of your daily operations.

I know, I know; I've heard all of the other definitions, such as ICS (incident command sucks), CHAOS (chief has arrived on scene) and some others that can't be printed in these pages. However, when performed properly, ICS greatly enhances our service delivery and actually makes our jobs that much easier.

Yes, EMS can be easier, and it isn't always the last three letters of the word "problEMS."

It's all about scene management.

The system can expand or contract based on the size of the incident. A complex mass-casualty incident will probably have a complex system with multiple positions while a simple medical will probably only need an incident commander in place.

That's right, even a simple medical call can operate under ICS.

My organization establishes command on almost every call we go on, regardless of size or complexity. This allows our comm center to know who's in charge on scene and it establishes a clear line of control for our public-safety partners.

Practice makes perfect. We train like we fight and fight like we train, and no matter what type of incident, our personnel are comfortable operating in an incident command system because we do it all of the time.

As our calls have become more challenging and complex, so has the need to work with our mutual/auto aid and other public-safety partners. From natural and manufactured disasters to active killer incidents to a so-called simple domestic violence or mental health call, we rely on each other to provide outstanding patient care while ensuring safety and successful incident mitigation.

In some instances we take the lead, and in others we follow. Active-shooter incidents require a unified effort, and learning or teaching ICS on the fly at one of these incidents is not practical.

The good years are a thing of the past. We continue to do more with less even with a rebounding economy. We're training more with our law-enforcement friends and operating in new environments, and public expectation is causing us to rethink how we do business.

If, for some reason, you or your agency has not embraced ICS, please reconsider your position. The risks are too great not to be fully engaged, and you certainly don't want to end up as the top story on any of the daily EMS or fire eblasts.

I'm not saying that ICS will do your job for you, but it will make your incidents more manageable. And now more than ever, we need all of the help we can get.

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