ICS development in Canada

The development of the Incident Command System (ICS) was the result of lessons learned by responders fighting wildfires in California during the 1970s. Firefighters and fire managers recognized the need to improve and standardize command and coordination of personnel, equipment, aircraft and facilities regardless of the size or scale of a fire.

The adoption of ICS in Canada began in the mid 1990s in British Columbia through its British Columbia Emergency Response System, followed by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) and member agencies in 2002.  Prior to 2002 most provinces and territories operated under the what was called a “large fire management” model.  This led to some inefficiencies and occasional confusion as some agencies used different positions titles to describe positions on fires. In some cases the position titles were similar but the duties and responsibilities varied.  In the fall of 1999 a committee of fire managers from CIFFC, the provinces and the territories reviewed different wildfire management models with the goal of establishing a national standard for the management of wildfires.  The ICS model used in the United States was given serious consideration as was the thought of creating a made in Canada model.  In the summer of 2000, the United States experienced a major wildfire situation in the state of Montana. Resources in the United States were stretched to the limit.  Hundreds of Canadian firefighters, support staff and several overhead teams (Fire Teams) were deployed to Montana through CIFFC.

Canadians adapted quickly to working with the Incident Command System and saw the benefits of managing small and large fires with a common organization structure and operating procedures.  In the fall of 2000 Canadian wildfire management agencies agreed to move to ICS.  Background documents and training materials were developed and full implementation of ICS took place in 2002.  Over the next 10 years resource mobilization increased across the country as a result of some very active fire seasons.  Firefighters and fire managers quickly saw the benefits of moving to ICS as did those coordinating the sharing of personnel and resources.  In subsequent years, the emergency management community in Canada became more aware of ICS and began to adopt the model.  In 2010 ICS Canada was formed to standardize the ICS all hazard approach within Canada .

The primary objectives for ICS Canada are to promote the standardized usage of ICS Canada products among agencies to enhance interoperability, to provide governance in the development of those training products in both official languages, and to promote reciprocity between agencies as responders and emergency management personnel are deployed or relocate throughout Canada.

For more information visit the ICS Canada website.