As soon as an incident requires fewer resources, the incident commander or an EOC director may begin to return or demobilize some resources. Once the incident response objectives have been met, the incident commander or an EOC director may release all incident responders and resources. This process is called demobilization.

The demobilization process should include:

  • releasing incident response personnel and resources as soon as they are no longer needed
  • a formal check-out procedure
  • awareness of any mental and physical health and safety concerns with special emphasis on:
    • incident response personnel who have worked the longest or performed exhausting tasks who may need to be released first
    • formal or informal support that may be needed for incident response personnel who have been exposed to extreme stress or trauma
  • the return of all equipment to the organization(s) who provided them
  • storing all records, data and final reports for future reference
  • a plan for the transfer of ongoing recovery activities (if possible)

It is important to note that demobilizing personnel and other resources is not the end of demobilization. An after-action review process (often called lessons learned) offers important lessons for improvement.

Demobilization should also include:

  1. hot wash/debrief activity
    • a hot wash:
      • is an informal debrief with involved personnel
      • should take place immediately after the incident response ends
    • a debrief:
      • is usually an in-person session to capture feedback from the incident response personnel
      • is often more structured and may take more time than a hot wash
      • should involve both an in-person and a written commentary component to allow for feedback from those involved
      • should occur while the incident is still fresh in the minds of those involved but may occur a short while after the incident
  2. after-action review process
    • reviewing and documenting the performance of tasks during an incident
    • making tangible recommendations in a report for improvement
  3. improvement planning for future incidents
    • taking recommendations from the after-action review process and best practices to improve the management of future incidents


Once the incident commander or an EOC director has demobilized all resources, the process of deactivation has begun. Deactivation is the end of incident activities and the return to normal operations.