Emergency Response Team Roles + Responsibilities

Steve Bassine

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The First Person On-Scene

The first person on-scene will typically serve as the Incident Commander (IC), until relieved by a more senior person. Responsibilities for the first person on-scene may include:

  • Taking appropriate personal protective measures
  • Notifying Supervisory Personnel and/or Incident Commander of the incident
  • Advising personnel in the area of any potential threat and/or initiate evacuation procedures
  • Eliminate potential ignition sources

Supervisory Personnel responsibilities may include:

  • Initiate initial response actions if they are the first person on the scene (see above)
  • Restrict access to the incident scene and surrounding area as the situation demands Take any other steps necessary to minimize any threat to health and safety
  • Request medical assistance, if necessary
  • Verify substance released and obtain Safety Data Sheets, as necessary
  • Identify and isolate source to minimize product loss
  • Coordinate further response actions with Incident Commander and local responders

Incident Commanders

Incident Commander responsibilities may include:

  • Activate the Emergency Response team
  • Activate additional response contractors and local resources
  • Evaluate the Severity, Potential Impact, Safety Concerns, and Response Requirements based on the initial information provided by the First Person On-Scene
  • Confirm safety aspects at site, including need for personal protective equipment, sources of ignition, and potential need for evacuation
  • Communicate and provide incident briefings to company superiors, as appropriate
  • Coordinate/complete additional internal and external notifications
  • Communicate with Emergency Response Team, as the situation demands
  • Direct response an cleanup operations

The number of personnel required to staff the Emergency Response Team will depend on the size and complexity of the incident. The duties of each position may be performed by the Incident Commander directly or delegated as the situation demands.


Priorities of an incident commander should include, but are not limited to the following:

Swift evaluation and cyclical incident updates: With early evaluation and continual progress assessments, the IC can utilize current conditions to establish the necessary responses to counteract the circumstances. The consideration of responder safety should be incorporated into every evaluation and response measure.

Effective communications: The ability to receive and transmit information, maintain situational awareness, and communicate with all components within the incident organization is essential to ensure effective supervision, directives, and response controls.

Strategic decisions: The response team’s risk level may be driven by the extent of the incident and site-specific response strategy.

  • A defensive strategy removes members from high-risk activities and interior response positions. The defensive approach is utilized to minimize incident escalations until properly trained responders arrive at the scene.
  • An offensive strategy places members in interior positions where they are likely to have direct contact with the incident or hazard. Utilizing an offensive strategy requires specialized training. While an offensive strategy may result in a more timely response, the IC must ensure the team’s training level coincides with this type of approach.

Tactical-level management: Tactical response management centers around the tactics used to implement the required strategy. The IC may utilize tactical-level management from within the facility or from an off-site command center.

Tactical Response Team Members

Tactical response team members may include:

  • operational
  • communications
  • safety manager
  • liaison officers
  • and/or other managing supervisors.

However, the IC is responsible for directing the response activities and should assume responsibility of all the primary positions until the duties are delegated.

The response team should monitor incident communications and provide the necessary support per assigned responsibilities. However, it is the responsibility of the IC to ensure tactical objectives are completed effectively.

The more knowledgeable individuals are of their roles and responsibilities during an emergency event, the better prepared a team can be to implement a streamlined response.

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