The selection of incident commanders is a critical process within the realm of incident management, emergency response, and disaster control. The role of an incident commander (IC) is pivotal in ensuring that resources are effectively managed, response teams are coordinated, and the incident is brought under control as swiftly and safely as possible. This article delves into the importance of selecting incident commanders and the factors involved in the decision-making process.

    The Incident Commander’s Role

    An incident commander is responsible for taking charge of the incident scene, making critical decisions, and coordinating the efforts of various response teams and agencies. Their primary duties include:

    Establishing Command: The IC is responsible for designating an incident command post, communicating its location, and ensuring it is well-marked.

    Assessing the Situation: The IC conducts an initial assessment of the incident, determining its scope, potential hazards, and required resources.

    Formulating an Incident Action Plan (IAP): Based on the assessment, the IC develops an IAP that outlines response objectives, strategies, and tactics.

    Resource Management: The IC allocates and manages resources, ensuring they are used efficiently and effectively.

    Coordination and Communication: The IC coordinates activities among responding agencies, communicates with key stakeholders, and relays critical information to responders.

    Safety and Accountability: Safety is a top priority for the IC, who ensures that responders are equipped and trained for the tasks they undertake. They also maintain personnel accountability.

    Documentation and Reporting: The IC maintains detailed incident records, keeps a log of all actions taken, and provides regular situation reports to higher authorities.

    Selection of Incident Commanders

    The selection of an incident commander is a crucial decision made in the early stages of an incident. Several factors influence the selection process:

    Training and Qualifications: Potential ICs should possess the necessary training, qualifications, and certifications. Many responders undergo specific courses, such as the Incident Command System (ICS) training, to prepare for this role.

    Experience: Experience in managing similar incidents is valuable. Candidates with a proven track record in incident management are often preferred.

    Leadership Skills: Effective leadership is a key attribute for an incident commander. They must be able to make tough decisions, manage stress, and inspire confidence in the response teams.

    Decision-Making Abilities: The IC must be a quick and critical thinker, capable of making informed decisions under pressure.

    Communication Skills: Effective communication is paramount, as the IC will need to coordinate efforts, convey vital information, and interact with a wide range of individuals and organizations.

    Knowledge of the Incident: Familiarity with the specifics of the incident, including its nature, hazards, and potential consequences, is advantageous.

    Resource Management: The IC should have experience in resource management, understanding how to allocate and deploy resources efficiently.

    Delegation Skills: Effective delegation is essential for handling the complex web of responsibilities during an incident. The IC must know when and how to delegate tasks.

    Adaptability: Incidents can evolve rapidly. The IC must be adaptable and able to adjust the response strategy as circumstances change.

    Crisis Management: The ability to remain calm and composed in crisis situations is a critical attribute for an incident commander.

    Selection Process

    The selection process typically involves several stages:

    Identification of Potential ICs: Candidates with the necessary qualifications and experience are identified from within the organization or from collaborating agencies.

    Assessment and Interview: Potential ICs may undergo assessments and interviews to gauge their preparedness and suitability for the role.

    Designation: After a thorough evaluation, the most qualified candidate is designated as the incident commander.

    Transition and Handover: If the IC is not already on-site, they may be dispatched to the incident command post. The transition and handover of responsibilities are carefully managed to ensure a smooth transfer of command.


    The selection of incident commanders is a pivotal aspect of incident management, directly influencing the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency response efforts. The IC plays a central role in coordinating response activities, ensuring the safety of responders, and managing resources in a way that brings the incident under control. Attributes like training, experience, leadership skills, and adaptability are essential for success in this role.

    The decision-making process involves the careful assessment and evaluation of potential ICs, taking into account their qualifications, experience, and readiness to handle the complexities of incident management. Effective selection and appropriate training contribute significantly to the overall success of incident response and the safety of all those involved.