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Can You Use An Incident Action Plan for Marriage? Part 1

Updated: Apr 29

Too Often My spouse and I can NOT get along.

 I am so frustrated with our inefficiencies!

I had this idea to get organized like as though it was an Emergency and Disaster response, using the Incident Command System (ICS). ICS is smart and we need all the help we can get.

The Incident Command System is clear, efficient, and concise. It is to get the job done even with high stakes and varied diverse needs and dilemmas.

I hope this will help me figure out some things with my family and with my business. Maybe it will help others too. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one dealing with this.

I’m sharing it here with you. You're welcome.

The Incident Command System ALWAYS has an Incident Action Plan. Sometimes, if it's quick and small enough, that plan is only verbal. 

But as things get more complicated, bigger, and more difficult, it becomes even more important to get clarity. Planning on paper helps with communication and accountability.

An Incident Action Plan has 2 very important components.

 They are:


#2. Plan

TWO basic concepts that my husband and I consistently fail to incorporate. Most likely there's a whole generation doing the same.

We try to plan all the time, but we usually get stuck in the decision-making process. We stall the plan and move on without fully completing the budget, or the calendar, or the project. We're pretty steady at 75% completion on every plan for every thing.

In terms of Command I'd give us a grade of 15%. It might be simpler if we just each had clear and defined roles. But we haven't succeeded in doing that, yet. We both always want to be involved in EVERYTHING. Each has a stake and input on every decision whether its groceries, childcare, business decisions or when, how and where to feed the animals. Never sure who is command and way to often are stuck in the power struggle. It feels like targets are constantly moving and it is exhausting.

The difficult part for me, for my marriage, and for my business as well (because we were business partners for 15 years), – has always been- How do we designate COMMAND?

Here’s where I hope ICS can be of most help. 

I think that if we can sort out who is command for which incidents, we would have an easier time in the decisions part of building the action plan.

Why have we not set up some kind of traditional roles with simple command flows? There a lot of reasons for this. One might be that we are both a little bit of obsessive DYI ers to the point that we can't ever do anything conventionally. Always have to ask WHY and HOW. Well at least it feels like that sometimes.

Anyways....Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to designate command and what an action plan entails we need to consider the ICS foundational value of Common Terminology.

First we have to use the same words to mean the same thing. The goal of common terminology is to promote understanding among all parties involved.

From The US Federal Emergency Management Agency Red/underlined are my additions:

Common Terminology

In  ICS, Common Terminology is established to allow diverse individuals to work together across a wide variety of emergency functions and hazard scenarios. This common terminology covers the following:

  • Organizational Functions and Units remain standard and consistent.

  • Resource Descriptions: personnel, equipment, teams, and facilities – are given common names and are “typed” with respect to their capabilities.

  • Incident Facilities: Common terminology is used to designate the facilities in the vicinity of the incident area.

During an incident:

  • Communications should use common terms.

  • Organizations should avoid radio codes, agency-specific codes, acronyms, or jargon. Usage of these types of codes may cause confusion or possibly compromise life safety due to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation Swearing, Blaming, Name calling.Sarcasm Yelling. Threats

Examples for home/farm life: both parties using same name or term when:

  • referring to an event, task...

  • referring to a specific pet, child, piece of furniture, vehicle....

  • designing field maps, planting scheduals,

  • operating equipment ...

That makes sense right? First step to getting the team onboard is to use the same language.


What do we need to do?

Whose responsible for doing it?

What resources are needed?

How do we communicate?

Incident Action Plan Basics

Having an Action Plan sounds sooooooo great to me after being stuck in the seaweed of what feels like arguing and backwards progress for 20+ years…..mulling about aimlessly or just treading water to stay afloat.

I LOVE a good action plan.

Action Plan is my LOVE language.

In an Action Plan You get really clear on : What needs to be done?

Whose responsible for doing it? What things and help do we need to do it? And How will we communicate?

To be effective, an Incident Action Plan also needs to

  • Cover a specified timeframe

  • Be proactive

  • Specify the incident objectives

  • State the activities to be completed

  • Assign responsibilities

  • Identify needed resources

  • Specify communication protocols

We'll look at this in more detail in part 2. Let's finish getting clear on definitions.

To help us be nice. 

So we can enjoy our life. 

Definition of Incident Command

The act of directing, ordering, or controlling by virtue of explicit statutory, regulatory, or delegated authority.

An Incident Commander is assigned. The Incident Commander has the authority to establish objectives, make assignments, and order resources. 

To achieve these ends, the Incident Commander works closely with staff and technical experts to analyze the situation and consider alternative strategies.

The Incident Commander should have the training, experience, and expertise to serve in this capacity. [🥴]

Unified Command is an authority structure in which the role of incident commander is shared by two or more individuals, each already having authority in a different responding agency. Unified command is one way to carry out command in which responding agencies and/or jurisdictions with responsibility for the incident share incident management.

This is what Jeff and I are usually striving for, but seem to always fall short.

In Unity of command

Chain of command: Formal direction & control follows hierarchy of flow- BUT communication flows freely throughout every direction.

Hmmm? I wonder how we could incorporate something like this?

In UNITY of COMMAND all individuals have a single designated supervisor they report to.

Based on the principle of unity of command, you will:

  • Report to only one Incident Command System (ICS) supervisor.

  • Receive work assignments only from your ICS supervisor.

This is to prevent the problem of people going off on their own getting into projects or predicaments without considerations for what else is already going on. Orders are from one person and you report to that person through chain of command.

I think that somehow this will relieve us to

encourage  each other and generally be less assholes to each other.

So it will feel more like a home than some kind of chronic emergency situation.

I'm not entirely sure how, but I'm willing to give it a shot- learn as we go- more like: "our obstacles are adventures" sort of thing.

In Part 2 we'll look more closely at what are the roles and responsibilities of the Incident Commander, how to designate and transfer command. If it all works out, I'll share the story of how we completed our sauna. But we're not there yet. I'm not there yet. It's all a work in progress.

Frontline Helpline: 1-866-676-7500

FIRE/EMS Helpline for 1st responders: 1-888-731-3473

Crisis Text Line: Text "HELP" to 741741

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