The following pages examine key distinctions between emergency management and ICS and the roles that each is designed to fulfill during a major medical incident. Emergency management describes the science of managing complex systems and multidisciplinary personnel to address extreme events, across all hazards, and through the phases of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
It is important to note that the procedures and systems used to conduct preparedness activities (committee structure and meetings, memo writing, regular email notification of meetings, etc.) are typically not adequate for use during emergency response. The ICS provides guidance for how to organize assets to respond to an incident (system description) and processes to manage the response through its successive stages (concept of operations). The ICS, as described in NIMS, refers to the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure and designed to aid in the management of resources during incident response.
Common terminology - use of similar terms and definitions for resource descriptions, organizational functions, and incident facilities across disciplines.
Unified command structure - multiple disciplines work through their designated managers to establish common objectives and strategies to prevent conflict or duplication of effort.
Consolidated action plans - a single, formal documentation of incident goals, objectives, and strategies defined by unified incident command. Comprehensive resource management - systems in place to describe, maintain, identify, request, and track resources.
Pre-designated incident facilities - assignment of locations where expected critical incident-related functions will occur.

For ICS to be effective, the incident must be formally defined so that there is clarity and consistency as to what is being managed. The utility of ICS becomes evident when analyzing the demands encountered during an incident response. When an incident generates demands on the response system, the issues addressed first are usually demands created by the hazard itself—hazard-generated demands. Appendix A highlights several critical assumptions that were made in developing the MSCC Management System. Hospital staff and other healthcare personnel might equate emergency management activities to a hospital's Disaster Committee (hence the recommended name change to Emergency Management Committee).
In Comprehensive Emergency Management, mitigation activities are undertaken during the time period prior to an imminent or actual hazard impact. It includes activities that establish, exercise, refine, and maintain systems used for emergency response and recovery. This point is often missed by organizations as they attempt to utilize emergency preparedness committees and their associated structures and processes to manage response to an event. Specific guidance for incident response, including processes for asset deployment, is addressed in an EOP. The initial recovery stage (which actually begins in the late stages of response) is integrated with response mechanisms, and the EOP incident management process should be extended into recovery.

Examples include the use of emergency notification procedures for disseminating preparedness information, the use of a management- by- objective approach when planning preparedness tasks, and using tightly managed meetings with detailed agendas.
The sum of all emergency management activities conducted by a response organization may be collectively referred to as an Emergency Management Program (EMP) for that entity.
The critical task in preparedness planning is to define the system (how assets are organized) and processes (actions and interactions that must occur) that will guide emergency response and recovery. The EOP defines effective process and procedures for the context of emergency response (emergency notification procedures, establishing an incident management team, processing of incident information, etc.). An effective EOP not only guides the initial (reactive) response actions but also promotes transition to subsequent (proactive) incident management. Arlington County emergency management officials, therefore, quickly knew they had to manage these other problems through their Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was geographically separate from, but closely coordinated with, incident command at the Pentagon. Staff should be educated and trained on the system so they gain the knowledge and skills necessary to adequately perform their assigned roles. With well-developed ICS and emergency management support, the incident response proactively addresses both types of demands and, in fact, reduces many response-generated demands to routine status.
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