A team may be defined as two or more people with clearly defined roles temporarily working together interdependently toward achieving a common goal that exceeds individual or organisational goals.
Incident commanders take on the role of team leader at an incident in order to create their command structure and team, and exercise their leadership skills. On some occasions they may also lead a multi-agency team or be a member of such a team under the leadership of another agency.
Incident commanders will need to use their teamwork skills to form a command team based on their priorities and the demands of an incident. These include:
- Whenever possible matching the knowledge, skills and attitude of individuals to the required team roles or tasks
- Communicating effectively to establish and maintain trust between themselves and other team members
- Co-operating with command team members and the team members of other agencies
- Co-ordinating the actions of their command team and also with those of other agencies
- Supporting others to carry out their role or task
Effective teamwork is essential for the safe resolution of incidents; it is also essential when intraoperability or interoperability is in use. Incident commanders should know and understand how different elements of team working can affect team performance. They should recognise that effective teamwork enables the consistent application of service and JESIP policies and procedures.
Teamwork engages command team members, gains their commitment, and can contribute to lower levels of stress. It also facilitates intraoperability between fire and rescue services, and interoperability between other emergency services and responders at complex or major incidents.
Incident commanders should understand the different responsibilities of the generic roles they may assign to personnel, such as sector commander or safety sector commander. They should also understand specialist roles, such as tactical advisers and fire investigators.
Incident commanders should be aware of the stages of team formation. When forming their command team incident commanders should recognise that team membership is based on the resources available at an incident and often in what order they arrive. The incident commander may not know the team members, so may not be familiar with their levels of experience, knowledge and skills. This can compromise traditional team management techniques such as matching the knowledge and skills of an individual to a role.
Incident commanders may also become the fire and rescue service team member of a multi-agency team at complex or major incidents. When incident commanders form part of a multi-agency team they will be required to be team leader in circumstances where the fire and rescue service is the lead agency. In all other circumstances they will be a team member.
Incident commanders should understand the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of other emergency services and of other agencies who respond to incidents, such as local authorities. It is likely that an incident commander will not know the other members of a multi-agency team or be familiar with their experience, knowledge and skills.
Incident commanders should recognise the importance of trust between themselves and members of their command team, or multi-agency team members, especially when team members are unknown to them. Under such circumstances establishing trust is paramount, for example, in each other’s abilities to perform their respective roles.
Incident commanders should recognise how effective communication and co-operation benefits teamwork. They should understand the impact trust has on co-operation, co-ordination and communication and in turn the affect these may have on shared situational awareness and decision-making.
All personnel should be prepared to function effectively as a team member and to perform an appropriate role within the command structure.
Further information may be found in Incident command: Knowledge, skills and competence: Teamwork.