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Unified Command - Awareness Level

Introductory Information:

Participants who complete this course will understand how to implement the Incident Command System when multiple agencies respond to an emergency and more than one Incident Commander is present.

The Incident Command Awareness program is a prerequisite for this course.

Main Topics Covered in this Course Include:

  • Purpose
  • When to Use
  • Participants
  • Coordination
  • Decisions

Opening Remarks:

SafeResponse has developed this on-line program on Unified Command for personnel working for federal, state, and local government agencies. This includes law enforcement personnel, fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel, and others who may be first on the scene of a hazardous materials (Hazmat) emergency.

When your agency responds to a hazardous materials emergency, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and state OSHA laws require that your agency use an Incident Command System (ICS). (Before taking this program on Unified Command Awareness, you must complete the Incident Command System Awareness program.)

For those situations when a hazardous materials emergency requires the response efforts of several agencies, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the National Response Team have adopted the principle of Unified Command. Unified Command brings together the Incident Commanders of all major agencies involved in the incident in order to coordinate a more effective response.

Legal Requirements:

OSHA's standard on Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) requires the use of an Incident Command System when responding to hazardous materials incidents. Although the HAZWOPER standard does not refer specifically to Unified Command, several federal agencies, including OSHA, have endorsed its use.

  • OSHA states, "Unified Command is a necessary tool for managing multi-jurisdictional responses to oil spills or hazardous substance releases."
  • The National Response Team advocates the Incident Command System and Unified Command as effective tool for managing both large and small incidents.
  • On February 28, 2003, the President issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-5, which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in announcing approval of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) states, "To ensure further coordination, the principle of unified command has been universally incorporated into NIMS."

In this course, you will learn how your agency can work with other agencies in implementing a Unified Command approach. When you have completed this course, you will not be certified as an Incident Commander. However, you will be able to function within the Incident Command System/Unified Command when multiple agencies are involved.


Certificates of completion can be printed by the participant once a 70% or greater score is achieved. The participant may take the quiz as many times as necessary in order to reach the 70% mark. In order to meet OSHA requirements, a representative from your agency will need to certify your participation by signing the certificate. In order to be certified, all participants must also complete the required information within the registration process that follows. In addition, each participant must complete the training on an individual basis. If you ask someone else to go through the program for you, you will not learn the information that will be necessary to protect your health and safety. This will render your certificate null and void.

Getting the Most out of the Program:

  1. Before starting the course, click on each Section Tab at the top of the Introduction page. This will tell you how the course is organized.
  2. You do not need to complete the course in one session. Plan 20 to 30 minute blocks of time for each module.
  3. This course should take (on average) 3 hours to complete. Use this number if you are required to track time spent during training.
  4. Use the "Stop" link on the left hand side of the page to mark your place before leaving the course. When restarting a session, it will be helpful to back track to the end of the previous module to review the summary before you start on the new module.
  5. You should try to complete an entire module before ending your session. Also, if your computer system crashes during your session, you may have to start your current module all over again when you return.
  6. Each of the modules of this course has a summary and questions at the end. Completing these questions will reinforce what you have learned.
  7. At the end of the course, you will have to take complete the "check for understanding". In order to receive a certificate, you will have to get a minimum score of 70%. Certificates of completion can be printed by the participant once the 70% or greater score is achieved. The participant may take the quiz as many times as necessary in order to reach the 70% mark. Passing the learning check will mean that you have met OSHA and National Response Team training guidelines for Unified Command at the Awareness Level.
  8. Many of the questions in the learning check are based on information that appears in the the links that occur throughout the course. You will get a better score if you click on any words or phrases that are linked to another resource.
  9. Finally, online learning is based on content and learner responsibility. As a learner, you have even more responsibility when taking this course. If you skip a section or fail to review all the material, it could result in an injury to you, a fellow employee, or a member of the general public. For this reason, we urge you to get as much out of this course as you can.