Santa Clara County, California
ARES/RACES

Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS)
Introductory Course of Instruction

Module A2: Introduction to SEMS Components and Features


A2.3. Basic Features Used at Each SEMS Level

SEMS has several features based on the Incident Command System (ICS). The field response level uses functions, principles'. and components of ICS as required in SEMS regulations.

Many of these field response level features are also applicable at local government, operational area, regional and state levels. In addition, there are other ICS features that have application to all SEMS levels.

Described below are the features of ICS which are applicable to all SEMS levels. These features are covered in more detail in appropriate parts of the Guidance, and. the approved training courses.

Essential Management Functions

SEMS is based on the Incident Command System (ICS). ICS has five primary functions applicable to any emergency. These are: command, operations, planning/intelligence, logistics and finance/administration. These functions are required for use at all SEMS levels, To avoid confusion, and to stress the role of the EOC, the term management is used rather than command at all EOC levels.

Management by Objectives

The Management by Objectives feature of ICS as applied to SEMS, means that each SEMS level should identify measurable and attainable objectives to be achieved. The time: frame necessary to accomplish these objectives is known as the Operational Period.

Action Planning

Action planning should be used at all SEMS levels. The use of action plans provides designated personnel with knowledge of the objectives to be achieved and the steps required for achievement. Once objectives are determined, the operational period action plan provides a framework for establishing the necessary organization, making assignments and allocating resources to accomplish the objectives. At the incident, action plans are known as Incident Action Plans.

Organizational Flexibility - Modular Organization

At each SEMS level, only those parts of the planned organization that are necessary to meet current objectives need to be activated, and the organization can be arranged in various ways within or under the five SEMS functions. The tasks assigned to non-activated parts of the organization will be the responsibility of the next highest level in the organization.

Organizational Unity and hierarchy of Command or Management

Organizational Unity means that every individual within an organization has designated supervision.

Hierarchy of command/management means that all parts of the organization within each activated SEMS level are linked together to form a single overall organization within appropriate span-of-control limits.

Span of Control

Maintaining a reasonable span of control is the responsibility of every supervisor at all SEMS levels. ICS development established a one to seven ratio as the maximum span of control under emergency response conditions. One to five ratio was established as an optimum This means that in an emergency response organization, one supervisor should have direct supervisory authority of no more than five positions if they are performing separate functions.

Personnel Accountability

Personnel accountability is accomplished through the Organizational Unity and Hierarchy of Command/management feature along with the use of check-in forms, position logs and various status keeping systems.

Common Terminology

Common terminology is applied to organizational elements, position titles, facility designations and resources in order to rapidly enable Multi-agency, Multi-jurisdiction organizations, disciplines and resources to work together effectively.

Resources Management

At all SEMS levels there is a responsibility related to managing resources. This will vary: from level to level in terms of tactical directing and controlling, to coordination, to resource inventorying or strategic planning.

Integrated Communications

At the field response level, integrated communications is used on any emergency involving multiple agencies At all EOC levels, and between all SEMS level there must be a dedicated effort to ensure that communications systems, planning, and information flow are being accomplished in an effective manner.


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