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Human Resource And Management

The Incident Command System (ICS)

Developed in 1970 after the Southern California Wildfires, the Incident Command System (ICS) was formed to answer the question “Who is in charge” of the overall response and rescue effort. Before its development, duplication of roles, inadequate coordination, and inadequate communication slowed down response, as in the case of the fires in Southern California in 1970. ICS’s major function is to create a set of management and planning structures that would assist the agencies responding to a disaster work in an organized approach (Cole, 2000).

This, in turn, enables effective use of resources and personnel at their disposal. In this discussion, the events of the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster as a case study illustrate the challenges in responding to a big disaster event and the role of the Incident Command System.

After 28 successful space flights, the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 reentered Earth on February 1, 2003. It carried seven astronauts, including Rick D. Husband, who was the commander. The flight had earlier been postponed a record thirteen times. When the shuttle lifted off, ground control crews started noticing problems in several parts of the left wing, in addition to communication problems with the crew. A very loud explosion was heard, a signal that the shuttle was coming down. The ruins of the shuttle poured debris, covering large miles across Western Louisiana and East Texas.

Upon assessing the situation with both FEMA and DHS officials, U.S. President George Bush ordered emergency declarations for the two affected states. The disaster declaration, according to the Stafford Act, approved the Federal Emergency Management Agency to manage federal support and all the resources used by responders in the disaster. This was led by FEMA’s deputy director, who considered the mission a “search, find, and secure’ task. Their work was major in ensuring public safety, recovering pieces of the shuttle, and compensating the expenses of the government and ordinary citizens who sustained damage to property as a result of the crash (Cromp, 2011). The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) also worked with both the local authorities and the state to secure public places (Schools, parks, campuses). EPA used the resources of Emergency Response and Removal Services (ERRS) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to test the water and air samples to ensure their safety. The teams from NASA, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and others carried out a successful search and recovered the bodies of the shuttle’s crew. About sixty agencies, including private groups, responded swiftly with personnel, equipment, and various supplies.

By the 3rd day of February, FEMA had formed a Joint Information Center (JIC) in Lufkin, TX, located at the Lufkin Civic Center. This center served as the dissemination point for public information. The center consisted of representatives from the U.S. Red Cross, NASA, FEMA, and The U.S. Coast Guard, among others. By March 1st, there were slightly above 5,200 Federal and State personnel working harmoniously day and night on the response. The operation looked smooth and well-coordinated. Later on April 30, FEMA officially announced it’s handing over to NASA, about three months after the disaster. FEMA covered over 85% of land searches and 93% of assigned air operation arrears, with it having concluded all water search operations.

In conclusion, the Space Shuttle Colombia Disaster can be described as the single utmost mobilization of civil servants in the history of The U.S. There were just seven primary fatalities, no injuries were recorded, and destruction on the property was minimal. This was a success story of an Incident Command System (ICS).


Cromp, R. F., & Suberri, G. (2011). U.S. Patent o. 7,996,465. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Cole, D. (2000). The incident command system: A 25-year evaluation by California practitioners. Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.



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