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Utilities Are Adopting the Incident Command System

2015 April 28
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

Increasingly, public and private utility companies are moving to the Incident Command System as a framework for responding to incidents.  The increase in incidents affecting their infrastructure, and the ubiquitous use of the National Incident Management System have prompted movement among critical infrastructure owners and operators toward the national standard.

However straight ICS is not always the best solution for utilities, and electricity, gas, water and telecommunications infrastructure systems require an approach that takes into account the complexity of networks.  According to Electric Energy T&D Magazine, 52% of utilities surveyed employ some sort of in-house or combination FEMA-based and in-house training in incident management.  This indicates that utilities are tailoring ICS for their own unique applications.  As a result, there could be different versions of ICS among utilities, complicating the response to incidents, especially where mutual aid and multi-company collaboration is required.  While some ICS is better than no ICS, standards would help the industry stay focused on the core tenets of NIMS, like the avoidance of company-specific jargon.

The recent announcement by the Western Energy Institute of a strategic partnership to create a National Training Center for Utility Incident Management makes sense.  Incident management curriculum designed by utilities, for utilities will focus ICS for the industry and provide training in best practices that serve the utilities specifically.  The goal of the national center is to develop cost-effective, world-class training tailored specifically for utilities that will increase the pace of the adoption of incident management best practices, like the Incident Command System, among critical infrastructure.  This will result in a more resilient national critical infrastructure system.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. April 28, 2016

    Hello Jason,

    have just read this article with interest. Are you planning to write an update on any further developments that have taken place in this field since 2015? if so we would be interested in running an article for our readers.

    kind regards

    • Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP permalink*
      June 11, 2016

      Hi Elaine – the work I did on this was in partnership with the Western Energy Institute. The best way to get an update is to read their Special Magazine edition on this subject. You can access it here:


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