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Multiagency Coordination Systems


Multiagency Coordination Systems Overview

Multiagency coordination is a process that allows all levels of government and all disciplines to work together more efficiently and effectively. Multiagency coordination occurs across the different disciplines involved in incident management, across jurisdictional lines, or across levels of government. Multiagency coordination can and does occur on a regular basis whenever personnel from different agencies interact in such activities as preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation.

Often, cooperating agencies develop a Multiagency Coordination System (MACS) to better define how they will work together and to work together more efficiently; however, multiagency coordination can take place without established protocols. MACS may be put in motion regardless of the location, personnel titles, or organizational structure.

Initially the Incident Command/Unified Command and the Liaison Officer may be able to provide all needed mulitagency coordination at the scene. However, as the incident grows in size and complexity, off-site support and coordination may be required.

Diagram showing Incident Command/Unified Command providing on-scene multiagency coordination. As incident grows and transitions, coordination moves off-scene. Incident Command/Unified Command provides requests and information to off-scene EOCs and/or MAC Groups (Dispatch Centers, Jurisdictional EOCs, MAC Groups, and DOCs) who in turn provide support and coordination to Incident Command/Unified Command.

Integral elements of MACS are dispatch procedures and protocols, the incident command structure, and the coordination and support activities taking place within an activated Emergency Operations Center. Fundamentally, MACS provide support, coordination, and assistance with policy-level decisions to the ICS structure managing an incident.

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Q: Can you provide additional guidance regarding NIMS and the Emergency Operations Center?

A: NIMS characterizes Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) as an element of a Multiagency Coordination System. EOCs do not have to be organized around ICS. The NIMS states in the Command and Management chapter that "EOCs may be organized by major discipline (e.g., fire, law enforcement, or emergency medical services); by emergency support function (e.g., transportation, communications, public works and engineering, or resource support); by jurisdiction (e.g., city, county, or region); or, more likely, by some combination thereof. Incident Command Posts need reliable communication links to EOCs to ensure effective and efficient incident management. EOCs may be staffed by personnel representing multiple jurisdictions and functional disciplines and a wide variety of resources. For example, a local EOC established in response to a bioterrorism incident would likely include a mix of law enforcement, emergency management, public health, and medical personnel (local, State, or Federal public health officials and possibly representatives of health care facilities, emergency medical services, etc.). The physical size, staffing, and equipping of an EOC will depend on the size of the jurisdiction, resources available, and anticipated incident management workload. EOCs may be organized and staffed in a variety of ways. Regardless of its specific organizational structure, an EOC should include the following core functions: coordination; communications; resource allocation and tracking; and information collection, analysis, and dissemination.”

Q.  How does an EOC relate to MACS?

A:  MACS is designed to facilitate the process of multiagency coordination, which allows all levels of government and all disciplines to work together more efficiently and effectively.  Multiagency coordination can and does occur on a regular basis whenever personnel from different agencies interact in such activities as preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation. More specifically, the primary function of MACS is to coordinate activities above the field level and to prioritize the incident demands for critical or competing resources, thereby assisting the coordination of the operations in the field.  MACS consists of a combination of elements: personnel, procedures, protocols, business practices, and communications integrated into a common system.

Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are one of several system elements included within the Multiagency Coordination System(MACS).  EOCs are intended to facilitate MACS functions, and may provide support to Area Command, Incident Command, or Unified Command when resource needs exceed local capabilities.

Q.  What is the relationship between an Incident Command Post and an EOC/MAC Group?

A:  The Incident Command Post is a physical location that administers the on-scene incident command and the other major incident management functions.  An EOC is a physical location that is located separately from the on-scene Incident Command Post and supports the on-scene response by providing external coordination and securing of additional resources.  A MAC Group does not have any direct incident command involvement and will often be located some distance from the incident site(s).  EOC/MAC Groups do not command the on-scene level of the incident, but rather supports the Incident Command Post’s command and management efforts.

Q.  What is the difference between Area Command and MACS?

A:  Area Command is an organization that oversees the management of multiple incidents handled individually by separate incident command organizations or to oversee the management of a very large or evolving incident engaging multiple incident management teams. Area Command should not be confused with the functions performed by MACS as Area Command oversees management coordination of the incident(s), while a MACS element (such as a communications/dispatch center, EOC, or MAC Group) coordinates support.

Q: In addition to Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), which subordinate documents must also be NIMS compliant?

A: Any plan, procedure, field guide, or standard operating procedure (SOP) must support the State, territory, tribal, or local EOP and NIMS. SOPs that are not NIMS compliant will only serve to undermine the EOP's compliance with NIMS. While no schedule is proposed for EOP elements, they should be reviewed and revised for NIMS compliance as soon as it is practicable to do so.

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NIMS Alerts

  • NIMS Alert 20-06: IS701, NIMS Multiagency Coordination [12/06] (PDF 40KB, TXT 3KB)

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Additional Resources

  • Multiagency Coordination (MAC) Guide - Coming Soon

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