Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-68-03

Incident Management Systems

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-68-03


Emergency Response


March 2000


Incident Management Systems


Under Review


To assist persons developing incident management system operational guidelines.


  • Emergency operations are inherently dangerous and often very confusing in the early moments of any emergency service agency's arrival.
  • As firefighters assemble at the scene of an emergency strong, positive, recognizable and proactive leadership is required.
  • A standardized approach to emergency or fireground management ensures consistent approach to decision-making, incident priorities, and life-safety for responders and the public.
  • The fire service, through the National Fire Service Incident Management Consortium, has created a recognized Incident Management System (IMS) that could be customized by any fire department to meet local needs and circumstances.


  • The organizational structure of an IMS should be adaptable to any incident regardless of type or complexity.
  • Any IMS used by an emergency service agency must be expandable and easily applied to small routine incidents up to and including large multi-company or multi-agency operations.
  • An incident management system should be universal throughout the community, and within a county, district or region. The system should employ common elements in organization, terminology and procedures. A system employing these goals will satisfy fire department needs during mutual or automatic aid responses and facilitate fire, ambulance, police joint operations.

Operational Considerations:

Incident management systems should consider or respond to the following points:

Command Procedures

  • Responsibilities and functions of command
  • Establishing command
  • Radio communications and radio designations
  • Command options
  • Passing command, and transfer of command

Command Structure

  • IMS organizational development from initial response to small scale incidents, to large scale complex emergencies
  • Description of command organization (for both offensive and defensive operations) at the strategic, tactical and task levels
  • Description of command structures, from simple events to larger incidents, requiring tactical management through the creation and deployment of sectors
  • Responsibilities of tactical level officers and sector operational guidelines

Expanding the Command Structure

  • Use of "branches" and "sections"
  • Roles and responsibilities of:
  • Operations Section
  • Planning Section
  • Logistics Section
  • Finance/Administration Section
  • Role and responsibilities of the incident commander in the expanded organization

Unified Command

  • Use of either single command or unified command
  • How jurisdictional responsibilities can affect command function

Related Functions/Considerations:

Incident management systems have become industry standards and appear in various fire service standards and guidelines.

  • Ontario Ministry of Labour, Section 21 Advisory Committee, Fire Fighters Guidance Note #2-1, Incident Command (revised March 2001).
  • National Fire Protection Association, Standard 1561, Fire Department Incident Management System.

A reference that deals with Operational Considerations, is:

  • Model Procedures Guide for Structural Firefighting, prepared by the National Fire Service Incident Management Consortium Model Procedures Committee. Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University.

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at . Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

NFPA Standard 1561
Additional References:
Health and Safety Guidelines for Ontario's Fire Services
Model Procedures Guide for Structural Fire Fighting, Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University