What is a Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS)?

Definition: The Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS) serves as a structured framework adopted by healthcare facilities and hospitals to proficiently manage emergency situations and to organize their response procedures effectively. It aims to provide healthcare organizations with an established organizational structure and open lines of communication during emergencies, enabling them to handle a variety of incidents, from natural disasters to mass casualty events.


A Hospital Emergency Command System explained

In the event of floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, human-caused emergencies, threats, or even planned events, hospitals are tasked with a responsibility to cater to the requirements of patients, staff, and visitors. The Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS) equips them with a structured foundation that enables a rapid and adaptable response, tailored to match the severity of the circumstance.

Critical incidents are sudden, unanticipated events that require quick decision-making. HEICS is currently the most common and most comprehensive hospital management system in the world, gaining more recognition due to its successful outcomes.

HEICS is based on the Incident Command System (ICS), a widely used management system that emergency response organizations use to create common terminology and structure during crises. The HEICS system customizes ICS principles to the unique requirements and challenges encountered by healthcare facilities.

Who should be a part of HEICS?

The Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS) comprises several essential components, which include:

  • Incident Commander (IC): The individual responsible for overall incident management and decision-making - usually a senior hospital administrator or an appointed representative with the authority to make critical decisions
  • Command Staff: This group involves individuals who provide various support roles to the IC. This includes the Public Information Officer (PIO), tasked with handling communication with the media and the public, and the Safety Officer, entrusted with ensuring the well-being of responders and patients
  • General Staff: This group is responsible for specific functional areas of the response, including:
    • Operations: Coordinating medical care, patient transport, and other healthcare-related tasks
    • Planning: Collecting and evaluating data to formulate strategies and action plans
    • Logistics: Managing resources, supplies, equipment, and personnel
    • Finance/Administration: Monitoring costs, overseeing financial aspects, and orchestrating administrative functions.
    • Incident Action Plan (IAP): This documented plan outlines objectives, strategies, and tactics to execute during the response. It serves as a guiding blueprint for how the hospital will navigate the incident.
  • Resources: HEICS outlines a system for resource management, ensuring that the hospital has access to the necessary personnel, supplies, equipment, and facilities to competently manage the incident
  • Communication: HEICS underscores effective communication as a fundamental pillar. It establishes clear communication channels to ensure that responders, staff, and pertinent external partners are well-informed and synchronized
  • Unified Command:  In certain instances, multiple healthcare facilities or agencies may need to collaborate to handle a sizable incident. The Unified Command structure facilitates cooperative incident management, enabling disparate organizations to operate under a singular command arrangement.

HEICS enables healthcare facilities to respond to incidents of emergency more efficiently and effectively, protecting the safety of patients, staff, and visitors while minimizing the disruption of essential healthcare services.

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