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Appendix A: IMS glossary and definitions

  1. After-action report (AAR): The purpose of an after-action report is to evaluate the actions of the incident responders and make recommendations for improvement. The after-action report is completed as a part of demobilization.
  2. Area command: Set up to oversee the management of multiple sites or large or escalating incidents which involve several incident management teams. Area command has the responsibility to develop broad objectives for their assigned area and set priorities for the sharing of critical resources across incident sites.
  3. Area command post (ACP): The location from which area command manages multiple incident management teams and is similar to an incident command post (ICP).
  4. Assisting organization: An organization providing personnel, services or other resources to the organization with direct responsibility for incident management. May also be referred to as a supporting organization.
  5. Available resources: Resources (personnel or equipment) assigned to an incident, checked-in and available for use in an incident.
  6. Base: The location where personnel coordinate logistics resources and administrative functions for an incident. There is only one base in an incident. The equipment and resources staged at the base are not in use; they may be waiting to be assigned or out-of-service. The base can be in the same location as the incident command post.
  7. Branch: A level of functional or geographical responsibility for major elements of incident operations. A branch is situated under a section.
  8. Camp: A temporary, separate facility from the base. It is an option if an incident needs to provide support functions such as food, sleeping areas and sanitation. Multiple camps may be used and they may be relocated to meet the needs of the incident.
  9. Check-in: The process through which resources first report to an incident.
  10. Chief (also known as section chief): The personnel who manage the IMS sections: operations, planning, logistics, finance and administration and when required, public information management.
  11. Command: To direct or lead as a result of legislation, regulation or delegated authority.
  12. Common operating picture: An understanding of a situation based on the most up-to-date information and is shared among all responders and incident response organizations.
  13. Complex incident: This type of incident involves many factors which cannot be easily analyzed and understood. They may be prolonged, large-scale and/or involve multiple jurisdictions.
  14. Coordination: The process of organizing communities, organizations and resources to ensure an effective and efficient response.
  15. Coordination and command staff: The personnel who report directly to either the incident commander or the EOC director. They can include the emergency information officer, safety officer, liaison officer and other positions as needed.
  16. Continuity of operations: Ensures that the day-to-day operations of the organization are maintained. In certain incidents, there may be a need to closely coordinate these efforts with the overall response.
  17. Debriefing: A formal opportunity to evaluate efficiency, learn from the experience gained and determine how well the incident management process went. Leadership should facilitate the debriefing and the results should be included in the after-action report (AAR).
  18. Deputy: A fully qualified individual who, in the absence of a superior, can be delegated the authority to manage a function or coordinate tasks. In some cases, a deputy can act as relief for a superior, and therefore must be fully qualified in the position. Deputies can be assigned to the incident commander, general staff and others as needed.
  19. Deputy incident commander: An individual appointed by the incident commander to assist with incident coordination and command. The deputy incident commander may also take site command while the incident commander handles other duties such as acting as a public spokesperson or briefing senior and elected officials.
  20. Division: The organization of an incident into defined geographical areas of operation. Divisions are established when the number of resources exceeds the manageable span of control of the operations section chief. A division is located within the IMS structure between the branch and resources under the operations section.
  21. Emergency control group (ECG): A group composed of senior staff and personnel of an organization and others that may be involved in directing that organization’s response to an emergency, including the implementation of its emergency response plans and procedures. Unless needed, this group may not be directly involved in an EOC and may participate in multi-organization coordination to advise and provide strategic direction at a senior-level. Regulatory information on the emergency control group (ECG) can be found within Ontario Regulation 380/04: Standards, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9.
  22. Emergency information centre (EIC) and joint-emergency information centre (joint-EIC): A designated location that is properly equipped to coordinate public information management activities including the sharing of information with the public and the media, receiving public inquiries and monitoring. A joint-EIC includes representatives from multiple communities and organizations to allow information and key messaging to be coordinated more easily.
  23. Emergency information officer (EIO): A designated individual responsible for public communications and coordinating the communications team in an incident. In large or more complex incidents, the public information management function may be organized into the public information management section with the EIO as the section chief. Regulatory information on the emergency information officer can be found within Ontario Regulation 380/04: Standards, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9.
  24. Emergency: An event or situation that poses a serious danger to people, property and/or the environment. The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9 provides the statutory definition.
  25. Emergency operations centre (EOC): A designated location where personnel representing communities and organizations come together to support site response efforts and on-site response personnel in an incident. In some non-site-based incidents, an EOC may coordinate and command direct response efforts.
  26. EOC director/EOC commander: Coordinates support (resources and information) for an incident response. In rare circumstances, the EOC director may be in command of the incident response and take on the title of EOC commander.
  27. EOC support section (only in option 2 – incident support EOC): Provides resources and support to the EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the EOC.
  28. EOC support and finance and administration section (only in option 3 – incident support hybrid EOC): Provides resources and support to an EOC facility and its personnel, including the financial and administrative functions directly related to the site and the EOC.
  29. Emergency social services (ESS): An additional function responsible for providing various services to individuals and families affected by emergencies or disasters to preserve their well-being. The ESS function intends to help affected individuals meet their basic human needs and may provide food, clothing, shelter, personal services, registration and inquiry services. These services are provided on a short-term, temporary basis so that people affected by an incident can receive physical, mental, social and economic support.
  30. Finance and administration section: The finance and administration section is responsible for the financial and administrative aspects of the incident including payroll, vendor contracts and tracks incident costs. The section is led by the finance and administration section chief (FSC).
  31. Function: A set of tasks and responsibilities which must be carried out. IMS functions common to all incidents include: coordination and command, operations, planning, logistics, finance and administration and public information management. In some incidents, additional functions need to be carried out. These may include intelligence, investigations, scientific/technical, emergency social services, and continuity of operations. Other functions may need to be considered depending on the nature of the incident.
  32. General staff: A group of incident management personnel organized according to function who report directly to either the incident commander (at the site) or the EOC director (in an EOC). The general staff typically consists of an operations section chief, planning section chief, logistics section chief, and finance and administration section chief. It may include the emergency information officer if they are acting as the section chief of the public information management section.
  33. Health and safety officer: The EOC equivalent of the safety officer. The health and safety officer is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of the incident response personnel within the EOC.
  34. Hot-wash: A hot-wash occurs immediately following an incident and allows responders the opportunity to provide immediate feedback. It enables personnel running a hot-wash to capture events while they remain fresh in the minds of the responders to determine any issues or concerns and proposed improvements. Each functional section should conduct a hot-wash facilitated by their section chief.
  35. Incident: An occurrence or event that requires an emergency response to protect people, property, the environment and/or services.
  36. Incident action plan (IAP): A verbal or written plan which describes how an incident will be managed. It includes incident objectives, strategies and tactics. In a simple incident, objectives, strategies and tactics may be determined by the incident commander or EOC director. The written IAP is coordinated by the planning section and explains how incident response personnel will work together and utilize resources to achieve the response objectives.
  37. Incident commander (also referred to as the incident manager): The individual responsible for site coordination and command of the incident response and the incident management team. The incident commander should be a representative from the lead response organization and have the authority to make command-level decisions.
  38. Incident command post (ICP): The incident command post (ICP) is the location from which incident command oversees incident management. An ICP is only established when an incident occurs or is planned. There is only one ICP for each incident or planned event. However, the ICP may change locations during an incident. The ICP should be set up outside of the present and potential hazard zone but close enough to the incident to maintain effective coordination and command. It typically consists of those carrying out the coordination and command function (single or unified) and may include other incident responders including the general staff. The ICP may be located in a vehicle, trailer, tent or within a building.
  39. Incident management team (IMT): The incident management team includes the incident leadership and those who work with them to manage the incident. They provide specialized knowledge, skills and advice as needed. The roles and responsibilities of the IMT may be different from an organizations’ regular organizational structure.
  40. Incident objectives: Statements that guide and direct the selection of appropriate strategies for managing an incident and the tactical direction of resources. Incident objectives should be based on realistic expectations of what can be accomplished when all allocated resources have been effectively deployed. Incident objectives must be achievable and measurable yet flexible enough to allow for strategic and tactical alternatives if necessary.
  41. Incident telecommunications centre (ITC): Coordination and command manages telecommunications at an incident, using a common telecommunications plan, (IMS form: IMS 205, incident telecommunications plan, which is part of the IAP) and an incident-based telecommunications Centre (ITC). The ITC is established for use by the command, tactical and support resources assigned to an incident. All entities involved in managing the incident should utilize common terminology for telecommunications.
  42. Intelligence: Is responsible for: (1) gathering and assessing incident-related information; (2) operations security and information security; and (3) information management. This includes preventing or deterring unlawful incidents or attacks. Since the intelligence function involves deterring and preventing attacks, personnel performing this function may only share sensitive information with the incident commander or EOC director.
  43. Investigations: An additional function responsible for identifying, collecting, processing, creating a chain of custody for, protecting, analyzing and storing supportive evidence. This function also determines the source or cause of an incident to control its impact and/or help prevent the occurrence of similar incidents. When required, it may involve the identification, apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators of regulatory breaches or criminal activity related to an incident.
  44. Jurisdiction: A range or sphere of authority. Jurisdictional authority at an incident can be political, legislative or geographical (e.g. municipal, provincial or federal).
  45. Large incident: An incident that escalates from a single organization incident response to a multi-organizational incident response, resulting in an expansion of the incident management structure to help the additional response organizations work together towards common incident objectives.
  46. Liaison officer: The primary contact for outside communities and organizations involved in supporting the incident response; reporting directly to the incident commander or an EOC director. The liaison officer advises the incident commander or EOC director on any matters relating to outside support for an incident response, including any requests for assistance.
  47. Local, provincial and national level emergency: A complex incident with very serious or potentially catastrophic consequences to life safety, critical infrastructure, property and/or the environment. The duration of the incident response and/or recovery period in these large-scale incidents may last for an extended amount of time. Local, provincial and national level emergencies may involve a large geographic area or are non-site specific and have consequences which may affect a large geographic area. Local emergencies involve whole communities whether they are towns, cities, municipalities or regions. A provincial emergency can affect a part of or the entire province and a national emergency can affect a part of or the entire country.
  48. Logistics section: Provides services and supports including personnel, supplies, facilities and other resources to an incident. The logistics section is led by the logistics section chief (LSC).
  49. Logistics support section (only in option 3 – incident support hybrid EOC): Combines the resource support functions of both the operations and logistics sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources.
  50. Mobilization: The process and procedures used by all communities and organizations for activating, assembling and transporting all resources that have been requested to respond or support an incident.
  51. Multi-jurisdictional incident: An incident requiring action from multiple response organizations that each have the accountability and responsibility to manage certain aspects of an incident. In rare instances, these incidents may be managed under unified command.
  52. Mutual aid/mutual assistance agreement: A written agreement between parties that they will assist one another on request, by furnishing personnel, equipment and/or expertise in a specified manner. An agreement between emergency services (including private sector emergency services where applicable) is known as a ‘Mutual Aid’ agreement. When it is between jurisdictions, it is known as a ‘Mutual Assistance’ agreement.
  53. Nongovernmental organization (NGO): An entity with a common interest or focus that is not created by a government but may work cooperatively with governments. NGOs include, but are not limited to, the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and faith-based charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse.
  54. Operational awareness section (only in option 3 – incident support hybrid EOC): Contains the situation unit. It maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the operations section at the site and other means. This section is responsible for issuing situation reports and shares all relevant situation information with the planning support section. The operational awareness section may also offer information, support and guidance to the operations section at the site.
  55. Operational period: The time scheduled for executing a given set of operation actions, as specified in the IAP. Operational periods can be of various lengths, although usually not over 24-hours.
  56. Operations section: The role of the operations section is to meet current incident objectives and priorities stated in the IAP on behalf of coordination and command. The operations section is led by the operations section chief (OCS).
  57. Planned event: A pre-planned, non-emergency activity. IMS can be used as the management system for a wide range of planned events (e.g. parades, concerts or sporting events).
  58. Planning meeting: A meeting held as needed prior to and throughout the duration of an incident to select specific strategies and tactics for incident control operations and for service and support planning. For large incidents, the planning meeting is a major element in the development of the IAP.
  59. Planning section: Collects, confirms, analyzes and shares incident situation information based on information gathered from incident responders. The planning section also prepares the IAP and develops contingency and long-term plans. The planning section is led by the planning section chief (PSC).
  60. Planning support section (only in EOC option 2 and option 3): Tasked with long-term, contingency and demobilization planning but without the responsibility for situational awareness and information management.
  61. Private sector: Organizations and entities that are not part of any governmental structure. It includes for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, formal and informal structures, commerce and industry, and private voluntary organizations.
  62. Public information management section: Develops and shares messages with the public directly and through the media. Tracks media reports including social media feeds and shares information with coordination and command. Incident responders under this section should connect directly with the community if required. The public information management section is led by the emergency information officer (EIO).
  63. Resource and operational support section (only in option 2 – incident support EOC): Combines the resource support functions of both the operations and logistics sections into one streamlined section. This section does all sourcing, ordering and tracking of resources, including the financial and administrative functions related to those resources.
  64. Resource management: Efficient incident management requires a system for identifying available resources at all levels to enable timely and unobstructed access to resources needed to prepare for, respond to, or recover from an incident. Resource management includes mutual aid and mutual assistance agreements.
  65. Resources: Personnel, equipment, supplies, services, facilities, telecommunications and IT support, transportation and medical services for incident responders available or potentially available for assignment to the incident response. Resources are described by kind or type and may be used in operational or support capacities.
  66. Resources unit: A functional unit responsible for recording the status of resources committed to an incident. This unit also evaluates resources currently committed to an incident, the effects additional responding resources will have to an incident and anticipated resource needs.
  67. Responder: Any person who is involved in responding to an incident. Responders range from first responders from paramedics, police and fire services to personnel from public works, regional conservation authorities and those in an EOC. Personnel from nongovernmental organizations and the private sector may also be involved in an incident response.
  68. Response: Activities that address the short-term, direct effects of an incident. Response includes immediate actions to save lives, protect property and meet basic human needs. Response also includes the execution of emergency response plans and mitigation activities designed to limit the loss of life, personal injury, property damage and other unfavourable outcomes.
  69. Safety officer: The safety officer monitors safety conditions and develops safety measures for an incident. They assess and communicate information on hazards that are present within an incident and contribute to the safety portion of the IAP and/or incident medical plan as needed. The safety officer advises the incident commander (or unified command) on matters relating to the health and safety of incident responders. They have the authority to change, suspend or stop any activities that are deemed hazardous in order to protect the health and safety of incident responders.
  70. Scientific/technical section: A dedicated section that is stood up in an incident to perform ongoing monitoring and surveillance of scientific or technical issues including field-based monitoring, sampling and surveillance. This section reports directly to the incident commander or EOC director and analyzes and evaluates scientific data to provide expert technical advice to leadership and makes recommendations for protective action, mitigation and remediation.
  71. Scientists and technical specialists: In some incidents, a scientist or technical specialist may be needed to provide technical expertise and recommendations. Scientists and technical specialists may have specific responsibilities and authorities and may be included in the operations section or planning section. A dedicated scientific/technical section may be stood up if needed.
  72. Scribe: Scribes take notes during meetings and teleconference calls as well as documenting key activities, events, agreements and any matters of potential legal significance throughout an incident.
  73. Section: The organizational level having responsibility for a major functional area of incident management (e.g. operations, planning, logistics, finance and administration and public information management). The section is situated between the branch and incident command.
  74. Single command: Single command exists when coordination and command of an incident response is the responsibility of a single organization or jurisdiction. This may be by default if only one organization is involved, by design if multiple response organizations agree on which organization will be the lead organization and confirm single command or by legislation if a response organization or jurisdiction has a legislative responsibility to become the lead organization in the incident response.
  75. Site: Refers to the place where an incident is or has happened (e.g. the scene of a fire or a transportation accident involving hazardous materials). Some incidents such as ice storms and health emergencies do not have one single, defined site.
  76. Situation unit: The situation unit is responsible for maintaining situational awareness and managing situation information.
  77. Situational awareness: Maintaining and sharing situational awareness is often the responsibility of the situation unit within the planning section. In some EOCs, situational awareness can be a section of its own or under the operations section.
  78. Situational awareness section (only in option 2 – incident support EOC): The situational awareness section maintains current situational awareness and information tracking through contact with the operations section at the site and other means. It contains the situation unit, which can be found in the planning section in the site-based EOC option. The situation unit shares situation information with the planning section and incident response personnel through situation reports.
  79. Small incident (single organization): In a single organization response, there is a single line of command and resources (personnel and equipment) come from one organization. There is a single, straightforward line of command. Minimal resources are needed.
  80. Span of control: The number of individuals or teams that one person can manage. The best ratio for span of control at the site is anywhere between three to seven resources reporting to one lead. In an EOC or additional incident management location(s), this ratio may be increased to have more resources reporting to one lead as long as it does not compromise effective management.
  81. Staging area: Location(s) established where resources can be placed while awaiting a tactical assignment. The operations section manages the staging area(s).
  82. Supporting organization: An organization providing support services to the organization with direct responsibility for incident management, but not providing any direct support or input to an incident. It may also be referred to as an assisting organization.
  83. Task force: Any combination of resources assembled to support a specific mission or operational need. All resource elements within a task force must have common communications and a designated leader.
  84. Telecommunications unit: An organizational unit within the logistics section responsible for providing communication services at the site or in an EOC. It is responsible for developing plans for the use of incident telecommunications equipment and facilities; installing and testing telecommunications equipment; supervision of the incident telecommunications centre; and the distribution and maintenance of telecommunications equipment.
  85. Unified area command: Established in rare instances when the decision-making process under area command may require the involvement of multiple incident response organizations, making it difficult to establish single command. Management of an incident under area command is shared between two or more lead organizations or jurisdictions through a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics.
  86. Unified command: Established in rare instances when the decision-making process may require the involvement of multiple incident response organizations, making it difficult to establish single command. Management of an incident is shared between two or more lead organizations or jurisdictions through a common set of objectives, strategies and tactics.
  87. Unity of command: The concept that each person within an organization reports to one and only one designated person. The purpose of unity of command is to ensure unity of effort under one responsible lead for every objective.
Updated: July 18, 2022
Published: March 24, 2022