GSB and ICS Dimension Factors


The Incident Command System (ICS) is a harmonized method used in the direction, control and synchronisation of emergency reactions. Therefore, this system provides a common chain of command that responders from various agencies use to be effective during emergency responses. ICS is a management scheme meant to facilitate effective local handling of unpleasant occurrences by putting together different facilities, tools, human resources, processes and infrastructures functioning within a shared organisational assembly (Jensen & Thompson 2016). ICS was originally created to deal with issues of inter-agency reactions to wildfires in California and Arizona (Perry 2003; Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006). However, it was later adopted by the US National Incident Management System (NIMS), where it has advanced into utilisation in all hazard circumstances ranging from active shootings to hazardous materials (Jensen & Thompson 2016). Moreover, ICS has been used as an example for related tactics all over the world. In the United Kingdom (UK), the Gold, Silver and Bronze (GSB) system is used in the management and mitigation of disasters.

Several studies investigating the GSB and ICS emergency response systems in the USA and the UK were examined. These articles were published between 1995 and 2018. Implementation, organisational, individual, barrier and driver dimensions were assessed in the publications in both countries. The preliminary findings of the factors are recorded in Tables 1 and 2. This literature review compares the ICS and GSB systems in the USA and UK based on these factors.

Table 1. The UK GSB factors

UK GSB Literature
Dimension Factor (Pearce & Fortune 1995) (Flin & Slaven 1996) (Brunacini 2002) (Crichton et al. 2005) (Arbuthnot 2008) Chlimintza 2008) (Devitt & Borodzicz, 2008) (Stott et al. 2008) (Kirrage et al. 2007) (McMaster & Baber 2012) (Stuart et al. 2014) (Mishra et al. 2015)
Implementation Better Cooperation
Clear Roles and Responsibilities ‎
Information flow
Achieving goals
Individual Decision Making
Situation Awareness
Command and control
Lack of Qualifications and Experience
Commanders were disorganized
No SOPs following
Personal conflict
Organisational Communication
Training and exercising
Barriers Transferring from theory to practice
Delay in structure setting
Lack of Clarity of Command and who is in Charge
Lack of clear roles and responsibilities
Inflexibility in structure
Not always fit a particular ‎emergency ‎
Overlap in Command
Lack of Decision Making
Lack of Coordination and Information Sharing
Lack of Qualifications and Experience
Lack of SOPs understanding
Drivers Reduce the need of pre planning
Recognition of the hierarchy
Information Flow
Minimise Confusion

Table 2. The US ICS factors

The US ICS Literature
Dimension Factors (Bigley & Roberts 2001) (Anderson et al. 2004) (Buck et al. 2006) (Lutz & Lindell 2008) (Moynihan 2008) (Taber et al. 2008) (Lamb et al. 2014) (Jensen & Waugh 2014) (Jensen & Thompson 2016) (Groenendaal et al. 2013)
Individual Lack of Knowledge and understanding
Training and exercising
Qualifications and Experience
Commander characteristics
Organisational Importance of SOPs
Lack of coordination between organisation
Training and exercising
Barriers Transferring from theory to practice
Delay in structure setting
Loss of control over the situation
Do not solve communication problems
Lack of Qualifications and Experience
Drivers Organise chaos
Coordinate action
Achieving goals
Support any type of emergency
Structure elaborating
Role switching
Common terminology
Modular organization
Comprehensive resource management
Better Communication
Chain and unity of command
Clarify leadership and command issue
Increase the safety of responders
Information sharing

Implementation Factors

The first implementation factor in the UK GSB system is better cooperation, which is reported by Pearce and Fortune (1995). Conventional policing is a solitary activity conducted by officers working in distinct geographical areas in response to occurrences. In the UK, urban riots on the mainland necessitated the creation of the Gold, Silver and Bronze command structure. This three-tier chain of command consists of levels that execute mutually-exclusive roles at different locations. Accountability for tactics, scheme and processes are assigned to three distinct roles in an identifiable hierarchy. The success of this system depends on the strength of the association, which is a factor of communication within the levels and their surroundings. Therefore, the success of the UK system relies heavily on the level of cooperation, which emphasises the existence of enhanced cooperation in the GSB model (Uhr 2017).

Other factors with respect to enhanced cooperation in the GSB model are the existence of clear roles and responsibilities, information flow and achievement of goals, which are described by Kirby, Graham and Green (2014) in reference to the Cumbrian spree killing that led to the demise of 12 people. The UK recognises serious and vibrant policing events such as spree killing as critical occurrences where the efficacy of police reactions has a substantial impact on the confidence of the affected parties. A chosen Gold commander establishes a primary strategy for the monitoring function and communicates a succession of distinct and unambiguous goals. The Silver commander then implements this plan by developing and synchronising a strategic plan to attain the objectives, including mobilising the required resources. Ultimately, several Bronze commanders are chosen, each tasked with executing and overseeing specific elements of the working plan.

Gold and Silver commanders are unlikely to be available at the scene of the crisis because they are expected to be present in furnished operations centres to enable effective communication. On the other hand, Bronze commanders are present at the scene of operational activity because they should be close to the people under their command. The main benefit of the GSB approach is the capacity to maintain responsibility and accountability even in multiplex scenarios where various agencies are involved. Additionally, the system permits the effective flow of information across various positions and agencies, which facilitates the effective execution of the overall strategy (Kirby, Graham & Green 2014).

Kirrage et al. (2007) emphasise the importance of the flow of information in the GSB system using the epidemic of Legionnaires disease that took place in 2003 in Hereford, West Midlands UK. The declaration of the epidemic sparked media, political and public interest for a number of weeks thereafter. A collaborative initiative was necessary to enable this flow of information between various local and neighbouring teams (Kirrage et al. 2007). Overall, no implementation factors concerning the US ICS system were reported.

Organisational Factors

Three organisational factors were identified in the UK GSB system. They include communication, coordination (McMaster & Baber 2012) and training and exercising (Crichton, Lauche & Flin 2005). Effective training helps to establish competent teams that are capable of managing disasters effectively. Incident management training (IMT) aims at advancing command dexterities through detailed comprehension of IMT processes as well as full-sized reproduced emergency exercises. These activities mainly focus on the response phase as opposed to the subsequent recovery phase. Participants involved in the study by Crichton, Lauche and Flin (2005) report that prior participation in IMT exercises empowered them to handle emergencies effectively. However, the training did not provide precise command skills such as making decisions under pressure. Therefore, there is a need for IMT training to focus on specific command skills and aspects of the recovery phase of disaster management. Additionally, team leaders can undergo training using immersive computer-generated reproductions such as Hydra, which is employed by the Metropolitan police in the UK (Crichton, Lauche & Flin 2005).

McMaster and Baber (2012) use a case study of flooding in Gloucestershire, South West of England to show that successful coordination in key emergencies needs a deep understanding of the situation and a high level of trust among the responding agencies. Although the rescue operation was successful, several setbacks were encountered, which highlighted the need for enhanced coordination. For example, there was poor shared awareness and cooperation among the agencies involved. These issues were partly linked to the inadequate experience of the workers and agencies as well as the detection of command authority. McMaster and Baber (2012) recommend the adoption of a sociotechnical system approach in the development process to facilitate effective communication and coordination during emergency responses. Also, personnel should receive training to adjust to the need to work alongside new affiliate agencies at short notice, in addition to recognising and preparing for extemporisation in extraordinary situations.

Organisational factors in the US include the importance of SOPs (Anderson, Compton & Mason 2004; Moynihan 2008; Jensen & Waugh 2014), lack of coordination between organisations (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006) and training and exercising (Lutz & Lindell 2008; Jensen & Waugh 2014; Jensen & Thompson 2016). Moynihan (2008) reports that responders in the US depended on a coordinated strategy in the form of SOPs apart from the hierarchical structure of the ICS to achieve the objectives. Therefore, task forces should homogenise their operations. Thus, Jensen and Waugh (2014) indicate that the protocols used by the Fire Ground Command System and FIRESCOPE ICS were merged into a single system that could be applied by fire and rescue personnel from both systems. Using SOPs provides organisation, transparency and knowledge. Buck, Trainor and Aguirre (2006) assert that coordination is a precondition to effective ICS. However, Jensen and Waugh (2014) also report that strict adherence to SOPs in situations that require flexibility lowers the efficiency of the ICS. Nonetheless, the bureaucracy observed in the ICS system hampers coordination.

Individual Factors

Eight individual factors were evident in the GSB system in the UK. They include decision making (Brunacini 2002; Crichton, Lauche & Flin 2005; Chlimintza 2008; Mishra, Allen, Pearman 2015), situation awareness, cooperation, command and control (Brunacini 2002; Crichton, Lauche & Flin 2005) and lack of qualifications and experience (Arbuthnot 2008; Chlimintza 2008; Devitt & Borodzicz 2008). Crichton, Lauche and Flin (2005) stressed the importance of a high level of decision-making and teamwork skills in IMTs. Such knowledge is obtained through competent training. Situation awareness is described as the cognisance of the ongoings and foreseeing how the situation can unfold. Situation awareness is a crucial step that precedes decision making because it facilitates the evaluation of a situation. A rule-based decision-making approach is employed in the tactical level of command. Cooperation involves working together to achieve shared goals and is best exhibited as teamwork. Important aspects of teamwork include workload management, which ensures that tasks are apportioned appropriately among team members such that irregularities and gaps are recognised. Effective teams should coordinate their activities and support team members by recognising their tasks (Crichton, Lauche & Flin 2005). Command and control are shown by effective leadership that commands, plans, provides direction, delegate’s duties and communicates effectively (Flin & Slaven 1996; Brunacini 2002).

Lamb et al. (2014) report that different command training courses have been advanced in the UK Fire and Rescue Service. However, these courses vary from one station to another based on the specific needs of the centre. Four incident command levels are available. Additionally, continuous application of knowledge following training was required to maintain a specific skill set (Lamb et al. 2014).

In addition, Chlimintza (2008) report personal conflict, disorganisation of the commanders and nonadherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs). The SOPs of interventions require that military camps in an area faced with forest fires be notified together with the law enforcement agency, local forestry agencies and civil protection officials working in the affected area. The military is expected to provide help when asked by the fire brigade. However, disparities in the training knowledge between military officials and professional firefighters may disrupt large emergency responses. In the 2007 forest fire in the UK, there were delayed deployments of military forces (Chlimintza 2008). Disorganisation was seen when the Gold authority of the emergency response failed to request additional firefighting resources apart from those given by the British fire agency and other rescue services. Furthermore, the allotment of the received resources needed a team of employees. Instead, only one individual who was a junior employee was given this responsibility. However, power-related problems arose because a few senior officers were not willing to receive directions from a junior employee, hence leading to personal conflicts. The number of firefighters exceeded the number of forest fires, which also resulted in personal conflicts between incident commanders. These conflicts spilled over to the various organisations involved in the management of the fires, which endangered the overall outcomes.

The decision to disclose the information underlined an effort at transparency. This was made so as to ascribe accountability, specifically to the organisation responsible for the misconducts (Chlimintza 2008). When reacting to a crucial event, three stages of decision-making stages of Gold, Silver and Bronze are involved. This process implies that decisions are made on three different levels, which may lead to ill-timed operations. Mishra, Allen and Pearman (2015) assert that the decision making adopted in the GSB system is relatively complex and is linked to context and individual factors, particularly expertise. The issue of a lack of qualifications and experience arose when first-responders from other fire brigades stepped in to assist the Buncefield oil fire. However, they did not have knowledge of the area as well as adequate knowledge of fighting practices (Chlimintza 2008). The inability to identify the most suitable place for an individual or agency in the response structure during an incident can cause grave inefficiencies and conflict (Arbuthnot 2008). Devitt and Borodzicz (2008) assert that previous experience plays a significant role in the effectiveness of a response team. However, other factors such as motivation, expertise and personal values also play an important role.

Conversely, four individual factors were identified in the US ICS. They include lack of knowledge and understanding (Lutz & Lindell 2008; Taber, Plumb & Jolemore 2008; Jensen & Waugh 2014), training and exercising (Jensen & Waugh 2014), qualifications and experience (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006; Taber, Plumb & Jolemore 2008; Jensen & Waugh 2014) and commander characteristics (Jensen & Waugh 2014). The National Incident Management System (NIMS) has established a national database for functional qualifications and training for all employees of the ICs to ensure adequate skills. Additionally, there are inadequate efforts to educate and provide hands-on training first responder community, which need to be increased (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006). However, Jensen and Waugh (2014) report that the ICs cannot guarantee that all members responding to hazardous situations have the pertinent knowledge associated with the kind of disaster they are addressing. Effective training was also possible if there was a short time between the acquisition of knowledge through training and the practical application of the knowledge through response efforts (Jensen & Waugh 2014). There were two similarities between the individual factors in the UK GSB and US ICS systems. These were commander characteristics and the lack of knowledge and experience.

Barrier Factors

One of the main barriers to the use of the GSB approach is the ability to transfer the model from theory to practice (Pearce & Fortune 1995; Kirby, Graham & Green 2014). Other barriers include delays in setting structure, inflexibility and unfitness for specific emergencies (Pearce & Fortune 1995), the lack of decision making, inadequate experience and insufficient qualifications (Stott, Livingstone & Hoggett 2008). Bearing in mind the accessibility of performance information, it is anticipated that facts about the activity of the operations will be conveyed from Bronze to Silver as part of the management. However, no distinct performance monitoring system that reports back to Silver and Gold exists. Such a system would compare the anticipations of the decision-making subsystem and the execution of the Bronze functions. Additionally, the GSB system faces significant environmental turbulence, but there are inadequate initiatives to shape the surroundings from within the system. The wider system cannot devise the original design of the activities of the command system due to the mechanistic usage of the command structures. As a result, the structure may not always match specific operational procedures.

Kirby, Graham and Green (2014) highlight the inflexibility of the GSB system and a lack of coordination and information sharing. The speed and mobility of certain emergency scenarios such as the Cumbrian spree killing pose significant problems such as poor communication, which results in confusion. Additionally, the system is characterized by a rigid command protocol that cannot be applied effectively in such scenarios. Traditional approaches that make use of a ranked authority and control management tactics are usually slow and perfunctory, particularly when reacting to rare and volatile situations. The use of the GSB system in the UK was obscured by the lack of qualifications and experience. Most members of the response team had not had training or first-hand experience with spree killings. Moreover, a significant proportion of the respondents admitted that they would not be able to handle similar incidents effectively in the future (Kirby, Graham & Green 2014).

The lack of clarity of command and who is in charge as well as the lack of clear roles and responsibilities are additional barriers exhibited in the GSB response system in the UK (Arbuthnot 2008; Chlimintza 2008). For instance, in the Buncefield emergency response, firefighters argued that the Silver command did not determine the required strategies, hence transferring the responsibility for strategic affairs to the Bronze command. Another notable issue was self-deployment of firefighting services. Officers from the fire service in charge of the affected area claimed that their adjacent brigades went to the site before its help was requested. On the other hand, the accused team denied self-deployment and argued that they were in standby mode ready to provide help. Arbuthnot (2008) reports that the terms ‘command’, ‘control’ and similar words as well as the levels of command (strategic, operational and tactical) are ambiguous and can have various meanings in different settings, which may lead to confusion during emergency responses. Consequently, the terms Gold, Silver and Bronze are used instead. Nevertheless, despite the use of these terms, simple questions such as who is in charge during an incident can still yield confusing answers. Another shortcoming is an overlap within the structures of the systems utilised by civil and military responders, which are meant for different roles (Arbuthnot, 2008). As a result, there is a poor understanding of the required SOPs.

Stott, Livingstone and Hoggett (2008) examined the possible effect of policing on crowd dynamics and chaos in England and Wales. It is evident that risk changes according to the dynamics of intergroup dealings and can arise from the intricacy and working of tactical paradigms and police organisational arrangements. Hence, the most successful way of dealing with such risk is guaranteeing that continuous threat evaluations are connected to information directed and fast tactical placements. Bronze commanders within the police organisational structure are in the best position to adjust the operational procedures and the tactical schemes, which highlights the importance of Bronze level autonomy. Therefore, Bronze commanders should be empowered and trained with the required strategic aptitudes.

On the other hand, five barrier factors were identified in the US ICS system. They include difficulties transferring from theory to practice, delay in structure setting (Taber, Plumb & Jolemore 2008), loss of control over the situation, failure to solve communication problems (Buck et al. 2006) and a lack of qualifications and experience (Taber, Plumb & Jolemore 2008; Jensen & Waugh 2014). The transfer of command from the original responder to high-level employees often causes a loss of control over the incident (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006).

Common barriers observed in the UK and US systems include the lack of qualifications and experience, delays in structure setting and difficulties transferring from theory into practice. Both systems face challenges in implementing the theoretical strategies in real-life scenarios. Overall, the UK system reported more barrier factors than the US system.

Driver Factors

Driver factors of the GSB system in the UK include reducing the need of preplanning, recognition of the hierarchy (Pearce & Fortune 1995), information flow (Arbuthnot, 2008) and minimising confusion (Kirrage et al. 2007). Arbuthnot (2008) reports that the strength of the British system is the effective flow of information, which is linked to the Regional Civil Contingencies Committee (RCCC) that serves to monitor developments of an incident and provide the required coordination. In the 2003 outbreak of Legionnaires disease in the UK, communication played a vital role in the management of the situation from the beginning of the outbreak not only in the affected communities but also in the entire public. Effective communication strategies should be in place to prevent confusion and facilitate the timely, reliable and effective internal and external conveyance of information during epidemics. The first press statement that was released caused intensive media coverage, numerous enquiries and responses from various organisations (Kirrage et al. 2007).

On the other hand, the drivers identified in the US ICS system include enhanced organisation of chaos (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006), coordinated actions, achievement of goals (Taber, Plumb & Jolemore 2008), support for any type of emergency, structure elaborating, role switching (Bigley & Roberts 2001), common terminology, modular organisation, comprehensive resource management, better communication (Groenendaal, Helsloot & Scholtens 2013; Jensen & Waugh 2014), chain and unity of command, clarification of leadership and command issues, and an increase the safety of responders (Anderson, Compton & Mason 2004). Bigley and Roberts (2001) report that the ICS system is a highly bureaucratic organisation form that can attain tremendous outcomes in diverse working conditions, including those characterised by volatility and uncertainty. Therefore, this system can be effective in any form of emergency. Structure elaborating refers to detailed and central processes of organisation creation. The ICS underscores techniques of system assemblage because ICS-based organisations are usually constructed at the scene and should be able to manage up several thousand people under exacting conditions. Overall, the ICS structure elaboration progression is well developed because all initial constructions of ICSs start in a similar manner.

ICS contains structures such as unified command, area command and multiagency synchronisation centres to address harmonisation problems in different levels of the government (Buck, Trainor & Aguirre 2006). As a result, it has been possible to achieve numerous goals that the system sets out to accomplish. Role switching harmonises the structure elaboration activities. ICS roles are created based on the functional needs of a situation as determined by the incident commander (Bigley & Roberts 2001). Ranks are also disabled when they outlive their purposes. The swapping of roles entails the reassignment of workers to other positions that are created within the organisation.

Anderson, Compton and Mason (2004) discuss the successful execution of the ICS by the Arlington County Fire Department. These strengths are attributed to the use of common terminology, which eliminates confusion and promotes unity. The modular organisation of the ICS develops in a top-down manner according to the complexity of the issue and the hazardous environment. This approach permits the development of distinct functional elements to manage specific situations. The chain and unity of command are indicated by the well-ordered line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organisation. Hence, each individual reports to a specific supervisor, which simplifies reporting relationships and eradicates confusion caused by contradictory directives (Anderson, Compton & Mason 2004). There is a clear picture of the available resources that is brought about by resource management procedures that entail arranging, posting, tracing and recovering resources. Furthermore, there is an organised method of collecting, disseminating and handling incident-related intelligence. This information is disseminated through organised, interoperable communication systems (Jensen & Waugh 2014). All activities in response missions are also executed according to predetermined SOPs.

The ICS is considered to have the capacity to initiate order from chaos and solve communication problems. The system also clarifies leadership issues, promotes the efficient utilisation of resources and ensures the wellbeing of responders. Therefore, the system has been used effectively in the command, management, communication and synchronisation of emergencies (Jensen & Waugh 2014).

The failure to attain some of these drivers in the UK GSB system have led to the identified barriers in the British system. For example, the UK system lacks unity of command due to confusion in some of the terms used. Clarity of leadership and command also poses significant problems in the British system. However, both systems have comparable communication efficacy.

UAE Civil Defence Emergency Procedures Manual: A Glance

The Civil Defence of the United Arab Emirates has adopted a UK incident command system known as Gold, Silver and Bronze. However, there is inadequate information concerning research on the topic. As a result, no research publications about the UAE system exist. The only available information is available on the Khaleej Times Website (UAE civil defence emergency procedures manual: a glance 2015). The use of the Emergency Procedures Manual is crucial to attaining the main goal of the Ministry of Interior, which is to guarantee preparedness by offering a fast and efficient response to all hypothetical emergency circumstances in the UAE. The guide controls leadership and decision-making regulations in all instances and phases. The guide also highlights the value of procedural underpinnings for calamities, crises and disaster management as one of the Civil Defence’s major strategic objectives, facilitates quality responses, develops leaders and plays a role in the advancement of human resources.

The availability of clear, accurate and simple procedures clarifies the roles of each leader or participant in all stages of addressing incidents and calamities. This information is valuable to rescue teams as well as firefighters. In addition, it makes up the organisation’s institutional work at management, managerial and policymaking levels (UAE civil defence emergency procedures manual: a glance 2015). The guide also includes the tenets, standards and values that should be adhered to by firefighters and other members of the response team. These guidelines also direct the evaluation of performance levels based on specific targets meant to achieve better outcomes in the management of disasters. The standard exemplifies a scientific approach to integrating team and leadership roles in various incidents and makes it possible for leaders to appraise individual and team operations based on assessable measures and defined markers, which enhance work values and facilitate a scientific appraisal of the plans in the field. Furthermore, the plan gives a regulatory machinery for collaborative actions in major calamities based on a proactive and detailed disaster management approach.

From a civil defence viewpoint, the guide’s objective is to direct risk management leadership at the accident location by pursuing precise goals for safe and effective outcomes within reasonable time frames as other corresponding emergency services proceed with their operations (UAE civil defence emergency procedures manual: a glance 2015). Operational leadership at the scene of the crisis should be flexible enough to respond to the nature of the incident, its magnitude and extent of severity. Each team at the site is expected to have someone charged with ensuring the management and safety of the group. In this regard, all members of the civil defence team should receive training to help them recognise and evaluate the risk machinery, which facilitates the development of an adaptable and safe strategic plan to handle all possible risks.

The guide was implemented towards the end of 2012 following a succession of classes, exercises and preparation workshops, which were conducted in all civil defence departments in the UAE and were attended by managers and their teams. The directory contains various crucial leadership elements. A multi-stakeholder leadership system is employed. Three main hierarchical grades for field leaders exist: Bronze, Silver and Gold (UAE civil defence emergency procedures manual: a glance 2015). Bronze is the primary and lowest level of leadership. In the evolution of an accident, a Civil Defence Commander, who is at the Silver level of leadership is expected to assume leadership onsite following an accident. However, if the magnitude of the accident is beyond the decision-making capacity of the Silver level, management should be transferred to the Gold level, which is the highest level. This leadership is set in motion when the involvement and assistance of several establishments are needed to mitigate the crisis. Nonetheless, the Gold level of leadership is hardly ever used. Its main roles include scheduling, guiding and articulating risk management schemes.

Dubai Civil Defence Command and Control Structure

The SOP of incident command in Dubai is reported by the General Headquarters of Civil Defence (2012). Officers who are eligible for nomination to the strategic Gold command are listed as the major general and strategic heads of the Dubai Civil Defence. These positions hold strategic roles, which is defined as the overall executive command of all concerned agencies, including fire, police and health departments. The Gold commanders manage all resources within their jurisdiction and create strategies for the incident response. Nonetheless, tactical decisions are delegated to the Silver command, whose main role is strategic supervising of the incident response. Operational Majors and Senior Managers of the Dubai Civil Defence are eligible for appointment to this position. The Silver command takes charge and is liable for devising the tactical scheme to be assumed by their service to attain the strategic goals. Additionally, the Silver command is expected to oversee and provide any operational responses to the Bronze commanders without any direct involvement. Therefore, the Bronze command is the third in rank in the ICS. Officer in Charge (OIC) of crews and stations and qualified operational majors are eligible for appointment to the Bronze command. These officers serve operational roles, which means the provision of emergency responses in close scenes and management of resources related to the services provided.

The decision-making process of the Bronze command is provided based on eight considerations. These include the situation at hand, the tactics required, additional assistance in terms of resources, the safety needs, the teams required for supervision and deployment, review of plans, updating the plans based on the situation and the mandatory requirement for dynamic risk assessment before committing teams (General Headquarters of Civil Defence 2012). On the other hand, the decision-making process of the Silver command involves describing the incident, assessing life risk, estimating hazards, determining the control measures as well as the taken actions and services isolated, resources requested and their location, other agencies involved in the rescue mission, the mode of operation and the most recent message delivered to the control room. The decision-making command of the Gold command is similar to that of the Silver command apart from the requirement of a brief from the Silver commander.

The officer taking over commands needs to state “I am taking over” before confirming sectors and identifying the person in charge (General Headquarters of Civil Defence 2012). Thereafter, a specific order of instructions is followed. The generic decision-making process follows three main rules of identifying the problem, considering the available options and making a decision.

However, this file, which is the only evidence concerning the implementation of the GSB ICS in the UAE Civil Defence, has one main limitation. The SOPs file only addresses the role of commanders but does not mention any key fundamental factors affecting the incident command system implementation in the UAE Civil Defence Emergency Agency. There is a limitation of articles on the adoption of the incident command system in the UAE. Therefore, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact issues encountered in the implementation of the GSB ICS system in the UAE. However, the SOPs file shows numerous similarities between the UAE ICS and the UK GSB systems. For example, the ‘strategic’, ‘tactical’ and ‘operational’ levels of command in the UAE system are common to the UK and US systems. However, there is an element of bureaucracy in the UAE ICS system, which is evident in the need to affirm the person in charge when taking over a command. Bureaucracy is a distinguishing characteristic of the US ICS system, which has been associated with a number of shortcomings as reported by Jensen and Waugh (2014).


This review indicates that the UAE ICS system bears numerous similarities with the GSB system in the UK. Both systems are characterized by three command levels of Gold, Silver and Bronze, which are also synonymous with the strategy, tactics and operational activities in the UK system. However, there is limited information concerning the implementation of the GSB system in the UAE, which identifies a knowledge gap in the application of this system in this country. The review has also shown that as much as the UK and USA ICS systems have been successful in containing disasters on numerous occasions, there are various limitations that can be addressed to enhance the efficiency of future operations. Common problems include difficulties transferring the operations from theory to practice, delays in structure setting, communication setbacks and inadequate qualifications and experience. The key lessons learned from this review can inform efforts to improve these emergency response systems.

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