Before You Begin - The Incident Command System (ICS)

When there is an incident, such as a natural or man-made disaster, an Incident Command System (ICS) is typically established for response command, control, and coordination. ICS is a nationally-recognized framework under which all involved or interested entities and stakeholders (whether federal, tribal, state, local, or private) operate. It establishes one command structure with known and scheduled deliverables and uses standardized terminology.

Because the ICS is mandated for disaster response agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), it is important to note that the ICS may be in place and active in your area, even if the response phase is over and the recovery phase has begun.  It is often best to start by performing a search on an internet search browser for "ICS Liaison" and the name of the event or location to see if the ICS has a website set up. If this does not yield an established website for your response, go to and enter the address of the affected property. 

If the area inclusive of the address entered has been declared for individual assistance, you can try "Find Assistance" and then "Apply Online" if applicable. If you do not have access to the internet, you may contact FEMA directly:

  • Call 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:
    • 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
    • TTY 1-800-462-7585
    • 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362
    • You can also email: (get a response in 1 to 2 business days) or write to:

P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

This step is important because the incident command may be able to provide invaluable data about what is happening as well as additional resources before you attempt to return to or enter your home or business.