Incident Objectives That Drive Incident Operations Are Established By The


Incident management is a critical aspect of emergency response and disaster recovery. When an incident occurs, whether it is a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or a large-scale accident, it is essential to have clear and achievable objectives that guide response efforts. These objectives create a framework for incident operations, allowing first responders and emergency management teams to coordinate their efforts effectively.

Incident objectives that drive incident operations are established by the Incident Commander (IC). The IC is responsible for setting the overall strategy and goals for managing the incident. These objectives guide the actions of all response personnel and help ensure a coordinated and effective response effort.

What Are Incident Objectives?

Incident objectives are the specific goals and targets that guide the response to an incident. They are established based on the nature of the incident, the resources available, and the desired outcomes. Objectives should be clear, measurable, and achievable within the context of the incident.

For example, in the case of a wildfire, incident objectives might include containing the fire within a certain perimeter, protecting critical infrastructure, and ensuring the safety of residents in the affected area. For a public health emergency, objectives might focus on preventing the spread of disease, providing medical treatment to those affected, and communicating accurate information to the public.

The Role of the Incident Commander

The Incident Commander (IC) plays a crucial role in establishing incident objectives and ensuring that they drive incident operations. The IC is the individual responsible for overall management of the incident and has the authority to make strategic decisions and allocate resources.

The IC is typically a senior official from the jurisdiction where the incident occurs, such as a fire chief, police officer, or emergency management director. In some cases, the IC may be appointed from a state or federal agency, particularly for larger incidents that require a multi-agency or intergovernmental response.

One of the primary responsibilities of the IC is to establish incident objectives that align with the overall mission and goals of the response effort. These objectives should be informed by an assessment of the situation, including the scope and impact of the incident, the resources available, and the potential risks and challenges.

Establishing Incident Objectives

The process of establishing incident objectives begins with a thorough assessment of the incident. This may involve gathering information from multiple sources, such as eyewitness reports, surveillance data, and situational awareness tools. The goal is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the incident and its potential impacts.

Once the situation has been assessed, the IC will work with key stakeholders and subject matter experts to identify the top priorities and desired outcomes for the response effort. This may involve considering factors such as public safety, resource availability, environmental concerns, and legal or regulatory requirements.

Incident objectives should be SMART:

Specific: Clearly define what needs to be accomplished and why it is important.
Measurable: Establish criteria for evaluating progress and success.
Achievable: Set goals that are realistic and can be accomplished with available resources.
Relevant: Ensure that objectives are aligned with the overall mission and strategic goals for the incident.
Time-bound: Establish a timeline for achieving the objectives, taking into account the urgency and impact of the incident.

Driving Incident Operations

Once incident objectives have been established, they serve as the foundation for incident operations. These objectives guide the allocation of resources, the development of tactical plans, and the coordination of response efforts.

Each operational period, the IC will communicate the incident objectives to all response personnel and agencies involved in the response effort. These objectives help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and that their actions are coordinated and aligned with the overall strategy for managing the incident.

In some cases, incident objectives may need to be revised or adjusted based on changing conditions or new information. The IC is responsible for monitoring the progress of the response effort and making strategic decisions to adapt to evolving circumstances.

Key Considerations for Incident Objectives

When establishing incident objectives, there are several key considerations that should be taken into account:

1. Public Safety: The primary objective of any incident response effort is to protect the safety and well-being of the public. Incident objectives should reflect this priority and include specific goals for minimizing the impact of the incident on individuals and communities.

2. Resource Constraints: Response efforts are often limited by available resources, including personnel, equipment, and funding. Incident objectives should take into account these constraints and focus on achievable goals that make the most effective use of available resources.

3. Interagency Coordination: Many incidents require a multi-agency or intergovernmental response. The establishment of incident objectives should involve input from all relevant stakeholders and agencies to ensure a coordinated and collaborative effort.

4. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Incident objectives must also align with legal and regulatory requirements, such as environmental regulations, public health guidelines, and emergency management protocols. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to legal consequences and public backlash.


Incident objectives that drive incident operations are a critical component of effective incident management. These objectives provide a clear framework for response efforts, ensuring that all personnel and agencies involved in the response effort are aligned and working towards the same goals. The establishment of incident objectives is a collaborative process that involves input from key stakeholders and subject matter experts, and the responsibility falls on the Incident Commander to ensure that these objectives are clear, achievable, and aligned with the overall mission for managing the incident.

By establishing SMART objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, incident commanders can provide a clear sense of direction for response efforts and monitor progress to ensure a successful outcome. As incidents evolve, it may be necessary to adapt and adjust these objectives, making strategic decisions to respond to changing conditions and improve the effectiveness of the response effort.

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