October 14, 2022

Interagency Cooperation in High Threat Situations

High threat situations demand collaboration among fire, EMS, and law enforcement responders. As demonstrated in reviews of active killer events included in this and previous ACEP TEMS newsletters, first responder agency roles may blur, but each agency has a critical and distinct role to play in the response. These roles are interdependent, and no agency can work effectively in isolation. Most Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement agencies are comfortable with their own command; however, unified command is a must in managing complex and chaotic emergencies.

NIMS defines unified command as a structure that brings together the Incident Commanders of all major organizations involved in the incident to coordinate an effective response while at the same time carrying out their own jurisdictional responsibilities. FEMA further explains unified command (UC): In incidents involving multiple jurisdictions, a single jurisdiction with multiagency involvement, or multiple jurisdictions with multiagency involvement, unified command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.

FEMA has incident command training opportunities on their website.

These courses teach the principles of the incident command system and unified command.  Familiarity with ICS and UC ensures agencies are speaking the same language, understand common goals and practices, and can coordinate the most effective interagency response. Police1 has several relevant videos on unified command and interagency collaboration also.

As active killer events increase, it behooves all agencies to work together with the framework of unified command.

Dominique Wong, MD

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