Who is the Incident Commander?

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The Incident Command System is used by many facilities including schools, churches, and hospitals. It uses the basis of a hierarchy of individuals who work together with separate responsibilities to accomplish a common goal of safety. Arguably the most important role in ICS is the incident commander position, as they are responsible for all aspects of an emergency response. Read more to learn who the incident commander should be for your facilities safety team.

Incident Commander

So, who is the incident commander? The incident commander can be a number of different people. Take this list for example, all of these roles could potentially fill the role as the incident commander at any given time during an emergency.

  • Principal/Pastor

  • Assistant Principal/Associate Pastor

  • Receptionist

  • Facilities Manager

  • Nurse

  • Counselor

  • Security Officer

The answer to our question, “Who is the incident commander,” is, whoever is the most qualified.


A Teacher collapses on the playground and the only other adult present is another teacher. By default the conscious teacher becomes the incident commander because they are the most qualified. The teacher radios for help and the assistant principal comes out. Now, the assistant principal becomes the incident commander because they are the most qualified. The new incident commander tells the teacher to take the children inside. Around this time, the nurse arrives and assumes the incident command position because he/she is the most qualified. The nurse explains that the school needs to go into a soft lockdown, to keep the hallways clear for emergency medical services, and that another administrator needs to meet the ambulance outside and show them how to access the playground.

Paramedics arrive and establish a unified command over the scene, while the assistant principle assumes the role of incident commander for the school’s response to the emergency. At this point, the paramedics are assessing the situation medically, while the assistant principal is obtaining records to contact the victim’s family and begin documentation of the incident.

This is just one example out of thousands and anyone can be the incident commander if they are the most qualified at the time. It is important to remember that more often than not, the incident commander position is fluid and evolves frequently while responding to emergencies. As an incident progresses, the incident commander position does also, providing the opportunity for many qualified individuals to offer their assets to the situation.



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