The Incident Command System is a guide that helps members know what their role is in a search and rescue mission. The system developed from the Firefighting Resources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies, or FIRESCOPE. This was a plan that told which members would do what task in the case of a fire. The ICS is a flexible and organized system that is designed so any search and rescue, or SAR, worker can do their task.

The ICS has five major concepts, unity of command, common terminology, management by objective, flexible and modular organization, and span of control. Unity of command is simply a recognizable chain of command that SAR members can follow. The common terminology is a standardized word code made to eliminate confusion, which improves efficiency. Management by objective is the members working with the same goal in mind. Flexible and modular organization is the ability to grow or shrink an operation without causing any disruption. Lastly, Span of control limits the amount of members one can command to seven.

There is also a chain of command in the ICS. The person at the top of the chain is the incident commander, or IC. The IC is either in charge of all sections or appoints staff to run the sections. Under the IC are the Command Staff, which is composed of the Information, Liaison, and Safety officers. The Information and Liaison officers both deal with other agencies as “middlemen” who give information to these agencies*. The Safety officer manages the safety of the environment to protect SAR members as best as they can.

The last major position is the Section Chief. There are four section chiefs, one for each section. They are the Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance. The Operations Section Chief manages the resources and tactics used in SAR missions. The Planning Section Chief plans the missions, the Logistics section chief manages the SAR personnel’s basic needs, and the Finance section chief manages the SAR member’s payroll.