Incident Command in the Time of COVID-19

Lab Med. 2020 Sep 10:lmaa073. doi: 10.1093/labmed/lmaa073. Online ahead of print.


The SARS-CoV-2 virus was initially contained in China but rapidly spread across the globe. The grave threat was not apparent until it was already in our midst. Our organization implemented an Incident Command System (ICS), based on previous experience, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a comprehensive and effective manner. This well-known management and response framework is used by many specialties and organizations in disasters of different complexity and size. Our ICS was able to assemble the appropriate people, assess the situation, and develop and implement plans to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The effectiveness of the ICS structure and its execution was instrumental in getting in front of the virus and managing regional activities. The ICS is an effective tool to improve safety and mitigate risk when dealing with large-scale disasters and should be implemented and practiced before the need arises. Our organization implemented a formal Incident Command System (ICS) very early as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it recently disbanded, we are maintaining its core functionality and communication as we continue to deal with COVID-19 into the future. The author has observed the ICS being used at hospitals through hurricanes, blizzards, and riots but never saw it work as well as it did during the initial weeks of the pandemic. This group deftly navigated through uncharted waters by leveraging the spirit and structure of Incident Command.

PMID:32909043 | DOI:10.1093/labmed/lmaa073