Establishing an Incident Command Structure at Special Operations Incidents

The changing times in our society today has resulted in the alteration of the roles of the Nation's emergency responders. Today's rescuers can find themselves on the front lines at a Special Operations Incident. Moreover, the long-term success at these...

Weather - It can become necessary to provide shelter for a lot of displaced victims of the incident. Moreover, the responders will need a place to rest that is warm, dry, and out of the elements between operational periods. What impact will weather conditions have on the operation?

EMS concerns - Incidents such as these will require an Advanced Life Support (ALS) response. It may also be necessary to set up temporary triage sites, morgues, and care centers for responders.

Access to scene - In other words, Scene Control. It is imperative to scene success. Having one way in and one way out of the incident will help manage the scene.

Long term needs - Taking care of the responders is an important part of Command's responsibility. Boarding, comfort stations, food, Critical Incident Stress teams, and other miscellaneous supplies are needed to keep the scene running (Photo 5). Additionally, rescuers can be exposed to communicable diseases and infections when the damage to the area infrastructure compromises the safety of everybody in the region. Keeping an eye on the rescuers for signs of trouble, and acting appropriately and efficiently is vital.

Timing of incident - Did this incident occur near or on dates of national significance? (September 11th, Oklahoma City, etc…)

Hazardous materials - Is their presence the cause of the incident, or an end result of the occurrence? How will they be handled, and to what extent is the environmental impact?

Support materials - Saw blades go dull, generators need fuel, PPE rips and breaks. There are enormous logistical support issues that will have to be addressed to keep the incident moving forward.

Our society has placed the first-in emergency responder in the forefront on responding to a more diverse list of incidents. While many first responders may go their entire career without operating at a Special Operations incident, it is still imperative that rescuers train and prepare to be able to handle this type of response. Waiting to practice until the incident commences puts the responders in a dangerous, ill-equipped position that can result in injury, liability, and culpability. Until next time, stay focused and stay safe.

MICHAEL P. DALEY is a lieutenant and training officer with the Monroe Township, NJ, Fire District No. 3, and is an instructor with the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where he is responsible for rescue training curriculum development. Mike has an extensive background in fire service operations and holds degrees in business management and public safety administration. Mike serves as a rescue officer with the New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and is a managing member for Fire Service Performance Concepts, a consultant group that provides assistance and support to fire departments with their training programs and course development. Mike was a panelist on the Successful Rescue Operations in Today's Fire Service podcast and a guest on The Buzz on Technical Rescue: A Look at the USAR Equipment Cache. You can reach Michael by e-mail at