National Disaster Management Authority Government of India
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Incident Response System

The Guidelines on the Incident Response System (IRS) are issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) under Section 6 of the DM Act, 2005 for effective, efficient and comprehensive management of disasters in India. The vision is to minimize loss of life and property by strengthening and standardising the disaster response mechanism in the country.

Though India has been successfully managing disasters in the past, there are still a number of shortcomings which need to be addressed. The response today has to be far more comprehensive, effective, swift and well planned based on a well conceived response mechanism.

Realisation of certain shortcomings in our response system and a desire to address the critical gaps led the Government of India (GoI) to look at the world’s best practices. The GoI found that the system evolved for firefighting in California is very comprehensive and thus decided to adopt Incident Command System (ICS).

In view of the provisions of the DM Act, 2005, NDMA felt that authoritative Guidelines on the subject, with necessary modifications to suit the Indian administrative setup, were essential. To meet this need, a core group of experts was constituted and four regional consultation workshops were conducted. It was ensured that representatives of the State Governments and MHA participate and their views given due consideration. Training Institutes like the LBSNAA, NIDM and various RTIs / ATIs along with National core trainers also participated. The adaptation of ICS by other countries was also examined. The draft prepared was again sent to all States, UTs and their final comments were obtained and incorporated. A comprehensive set of Guidelines has thus been prepared and is called the Incident Response System (IRS).

Definition and Context
The Incident Response System (IRS) is an effective mechanism for reducing the scope for ad-hoc measures in response. It incorporates all the tasks that may be performed during DM irrespective of their level of complexity. It envisages a composite team with various Sections to attend to all the possible response requirements. The IRS identifies and designates officers to perform various duties and get them trained in their respective roles. If IRS is put in place and stakeholders trained and made aware of their roles, it will greatly help in reducing chaos and confusion during the response phase. Every one will know what needs to be done, who will do it and who is in command, etc. IRS is a flexible system and all the Sections, Branches and Units need not be activated at the same time. Various Sections, Branches and Units need to be activated only as and when they are required.

The main purpose of these Guidelines is to lay down the roles and responsibilities of different functionaries and stakeholders, at State and District levels and how coordination with the multi-tiered institutional mechanisms at the National, State and District level will be done. It also emphasises the need for proper documentation of various activities for better planning, accountability and analysis. It will also help new responders to immediately get a comprehensive picture of the situation and go in for immediate action.

IRS Organisation
The IRS organisation functions through Incident Response Teams (IRTs) in the field. In line with our administrative structure and DM Act 2005, Responsible Officers (ROs) have been designated at the State and District level as overall in charge of the incident response management. The RO may however delegate responsibilities to the Incident Commander (IC), who in turn will manage the incident through IRTs. The IRTs will be pre-designated at all levels; State, District, Sub-Division and Tehsil/Block. On receipt of Early Warning, the RO will activate them. In case a disaster occurs without any warning, the local IRT will respond and contact RO for further support, if required. A Nodal Officer (NO) has to be designated for proper coordination between the District, State and National level in activating air support for response.

 

Apart from the RO and Nodal Officer (NO), the IRS has two main components; a) Command Staff and b) General Staff as shown in this Fig.

Command Staff
The Command Staff consists of Incident Commander (IC), Information & Media Officer (IMO), Safety Officer (SO) and Liaison Officer (LO). They report directly to the IC and may have assistants. The Command Staff may or may not have supporting organisations under them. The main function of the Command Staff is to assist the IC in the discharge of his functions.

General Staff
The General Staff has three components which are as follows;

Operations Section (OS)
The OS is responsible for directing the required tactical actions to meet incident objectives. Management of disaster may not immediately require activation of Branch, Division and Group. Expansion of the OS depends on the enormity of the situation and number of different types and kinds of functional Groups required in the response management.

Planning Section (PS)
The PS is responsible for collection, evaluation and display of incident information, maintaining and tracking resources, preparing the Incident Action Plan (IAP) and other necessary incident related documentation. They will assess the requirement of additional resources, propose from where it can be mobilised and keep IC informed. This Section also prepares the demobilisation plan.

Logistics & Finance Section (L&FS)
The L&FS is responsible for providing facilities, services, materials, equipment and other resources in support of the incident response. The Section Chief participates in development and implementation of the IAP, activates and supervises Branches and Units of his section. In order to ensure prompt and smooth procurement and supply of resources as per financial rules, the Finance Branch has been included in the LS.