QS Community Board

Respond to Hospital Emergency Situations with HICS

Heather M., Editor

As a health care administrator, it’s important to properly prepare the personnel in your facility to respond to any threat, disaster event or other emergency situation. For an effective response, every emergency incident calls for certain operational and management functions to be performed, and you can do this by applying the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS).

No matter the size of your facility, whether it’s a large-scale hospital, a small clinic, a rehab or treatment center or a long-term facility, as long as you provide patient care, it’s good practice to get prepared for an emergency by familiarizing your personnel with HICS.

About HICS

HICS is a standardized system used to organize response personnel and resources, and to manage response opera­tions. It’s based on the same prin­ciples as the Incident Command System (ICS), but is adapted to suit the health care environment.

This system establishes a standard approach for responding to emergencies that other responding agencies can quickly identify, thereby enabling community response partners to integrate and coordinate efforts with the health care facility.

In adopting HICS, hospitals and health care facilities of any size, location, patient volume or care capability can develop and implement an emergency response system that is nationally recognized and proven to be reliable.

Get more background on HICS.

HICS Is Adaptable

HICS has flexible, scalable and adaptable design principles, so it can be customized and modified to suit your facility’s needs and capabili­ties for when you need to respond to any type of emergency situation.

Situations where hospitals and other health care facilities may need to modify stan­dard HICS principles can include incidents:

  • Requiring an extensive hazardous materials (hazmat) response.
  • Involving grave conditions, such as a large-scale flu pandemic or the detonation of a nuclear device.
  • Requiring a large and/or complex behavioral health response.
  • Requiring personnel during off hours or on holidays or weekends.

Learn more about preparedness for public health emergencies.

Who Should Get on Board at Your Facility

All the personnel who are in positions to respond to an emergency in your facility should understand how to apply HICS. Aside from the administration, this can include the following:

  • Department heads
  • Physicians
  • Nurses

Volunteers and students preparing for a career in medicine, nursing or hos­pital administration should become familiar with the principles and practices of this system.

The HICS Toolkit

Tools are available to help you develop the Incident Action Plans (IAPs) that are useful in managing incident-response operations.

Some HICS tools include:

  1. Incident scenarios, which describe different incidents and ways to respond to them.
  2. Incident planning guides, which list fundamental decision consider­ations for managing specific hazards. They may be used as templates to build recommended actions and strategies into your emergency management program.
  3. Incident response guides, which provide checklists of recommended actions for managing specific hazards during their different phases. These actions are to be adapted for the unique needs and capabilities of your facility.
  4. Job action sheets (JASs), which serve as a job manual that briefly outlines the critical aspects and responsibilities of the Hospital Incident Management Team (HIMT) position the user is assuming. They list the tasks and key actions for the position, specifying what to do and when to do it. You can download JASs here.
  5. HICS forms, which are preformatted documents designed to accommodate the health care environment. They are used to exchange and record incident-related information. You can download HICS forms here.

For more information on medical security and preparedness topics, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including HICS Roadmap: Hospital ICS in Action and Hospital Evacuation Decision Guide.

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