Sea Logistics

Coast Guard Emergency Management Acts as Valuable Force Multiplier During Crises


The U.S. Coast Guard Office of Emergency Management & Disaster Response (OEM) excels in crisis leadership, planning, organizing, and training to respond to incidents during crises. Their efforts focus on domestic national response while also supporting the development of response management systems in the international community. The office is organized under the current National Response Framework (NRF) while building upon the established National Response System – the federal system for emergency response and coordination of oil and chemical discharges into U.S. waterways and the environment. Today, the Coast Guard’s OEM maintains policy and capabilities to respond to all types of hazards.

What Is Emergency Management?

To the United States government, emergency management is a function that coordinates and integrates all activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, or mitigate against threatened or actual natural disasters, acts of terrorism, accidents, or other manmade disasters.

Federal Authority

The USCG’s role in dealing with emergencies is outlined in Section 753 of 6 the U.S. Code under Federal Preparedness. This section requires all federal departments and agencies to be prepared to respond to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other manmade disaster. Cumulatively, to the federal government, these types of disasters fall under the rubric of “all-hazards.”

Incident Management Teams

Coast Guard Incident Management Teams (IMT) are organized using the National Incident Management Systems (NIMS), which operates through the Incident Command System (ICS). They are made up of highly trained, readily deployable manpower who can assist with management experience of various incidents. The organizational elements of the ICS are the position titles and responsibilities that describe the key positions in this standardized response management system. For example, an IMT will normally have an Incident Commander, with standardized support positions that include a public information officer, safety officer, liaison officer (to outside agencies), and other key officers such as planning, logistics, finance, communications, investigations, etc.

Command Structure

The Coast Guard is geographically organized by areas, districts, and sectors (largest command), each having specific readiness requirements to support incident management activities. These commands maintain several IMTs. Sectors are required to maintain an IMT, and districts and areas maintain and staff a NIMS Area Command (AC) to manage multiple incidents occurring within their Area of Responsibility (AOR) or an IMT as applicable when managing an incident or event. The purpose of an AC is to oversee the management of an exceptionally large or overly complex incident that impacts a broad area, focusing primarily on strategic assistance and direction, and resolve competition for scarce response resources. An AC is activated depending on the complexity of the incident. An IMT will usually deploy within their specific AOR, but also are deployable anywhere in the United States, and sometimes are sent internationally. 

Team Member Participation

The Coast Guard is one of the few first responder federal agencies; as such, each Coast Guard member either is the first responder or supports the Coast Guard’s first response operations. Because of this, service members who are part of an IMT will have met certain required competencies, based on prudent screening of an individual’s experience, judgment, maturity, and satisfactory completion of mandatory training and personnel qualification standard (PQS) requirements. Once assigned to an IMT, they will help that team maintain readiness requirements; this includes maintaining excellent proficiency in NIMS.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary also participates in the IMT and maintain an Incident Management Auxiliary Coordinating Cell…



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