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Beyond ICS: how should we govern complex disasters in the United States?

Author(s): Branda Nowell, Toddi A. Steelman
Year Published: 2019

The complexity of large-scale disasters requires governance structures that can integrate numerous responders quickly under often chaotic conditions. Complex disasters – by definition – span multiple jurisdictions and activate numerous response functions carried out by numerous legally autonomous public, nonprofit, and private actors. The command operating structure of the Incident Command System (ICS) is a hierarchical structure used to manage complex incidents. Increasingly, complex disasters are seen as networks of multiple actors. Improving our capacity to respond to large-scale, complex disasters requires moving beyond the “hierarchy versus networks” debate to understand the conditions under which governance structures can best serve disaster response goals. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of the governance structures embedded in our national policy tools and frameworks can enhance our ability to govern effectively in networked contexts. In this article, we suggest the need to shift focus to build greater capacity for hybrid and network governance approaches, including a more sophisticated understanding of the conditions under which these governance forms are most effective.

Citation: Nowell B and Steelman TA. 2019. Beyond ICS: How Should We Govern Complex Disasters in the United States? Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 16(2) . DOI: 10.1515/jhsem-2018-0067
Topic(s): Fire Policy & Law, Management Approaches, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 19567
Record updated: Jun 4, 2019