INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM

An Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized structure that enables cooperation among and within the government, the private sector, and civil society organizations (CSO) to coordinate operations in times of crisis. The ICS is focused on addressing the most pressing needs of the constituents and ensuring that resources are efficiently used.

The DOH recommends a standard ICS structure (below) organized by the Provincial Government and with representations from the City or Municipal Governments and the Barangay. It is headed by an Incident Commander, followed by a Public Information Office and Liaison Officer. There are four main units in the structure: Planning, Operations, Logistics, and Administrative/Finance Units.

Under the Operations Unit are four sub-units or clusters. The Health Cluster includes the Barangay Health Stations (BHS), Barangy Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs), and the City Isolation Units (CIU). The three other clusters are the Food and Social Security Cluster, Peace and Order Cluster, and Management of the Dead Cluster.

Establishing an Emergency Operations Center

In addition to the structure recommended by DOH, the National Task Force against COVID-19 also provides a guide on establishing an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for COVID-19 at the City or Municipal level. The EOC structure expands the basic ICS template into 16 clusters with respective teams organized under each area.

Emergency Operations Center Organizational Structure Source: National Task Force against COVID-19

The proposed EOC structure (above) is headed by the Local Chief Executive. They are supported by two deputies—one for Administration and Operations and another for Medical Services—who shall work closely with the national agencies concerned with providing technical, administrative and logistics support to the locality. There will also be a Data Collection, Analysis, and Management Section as well as a Secretariat. A total of 16 clusters cover specific tasks related to public health, logistics, communication and engagement with the community, and legal and compliance monitoring.

The goal of establishing such a comprehensive EOC is to create a centralized command system in which there is a lead decision-maker and a corresponding set of teams equipped and prepared to carry out their cluster-specific responsibilities. This ensures a swift and harmonized approach to the management of COVID-19 cases within the community.

🔍 From the ground: Local practices on establishing an Incident Command System (ICS)

The City Government of Iriga activated an Incident Management Team (IMT) led by Mayor Madel Alfelor. It works hand-in-hand with the local COVID-19 Task Force and the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs). The IMT is composed of different task forces for contact tracing, case management, transportation, and facility management. They constantly go the community to assess the situation and identify the appropriate interventions and resources needed. The team is also involved in border control planning and implementation together with law enforcement bodies, barangay officials, and city health office personnel.

Mayor Hermie Velasco actively welcomes and follows the input of San Gabriel’s Municipal Health Officer in leading the local response to COVID-19. Although the local chief executive is at the top leadership role, he recognizes that those in the health sector have a better understanding of the public health situation, and he is always ready to support the direction they advocate.

As early as January 2020 upon the report of the first COVID-19 case locally, the City Government of Cagayan de Oro organized the Task Force NCoV which became the main strategists of the city’s COVID-19 response. Working in tandem with the task force is the Incident Command System, extending from the BHERTs at the community level to the City Health Office. It also works closely with the City Health Epidemiological Surveillance System and the Health Emergency Management System.

Citations:

  • Guidelines on Local Isolation and General Treatment Areas for COVID-19 cases (LIGTAS COVID) and the Community-based Management of Mild COVID-19 cases (April 15, 2020), Joint Administrative Order No. 2020-0001.
  • National Task Force against COVID-19, EOC Manual for COVID-19 Response.