Glossary of Terms

Acclimate - To become accustomed to a different environment.

Agency - A division of government with a specific function, or a non-governmental agency that offers some kind of assistance. In ICS agencies are defined as jurisdictional or assisting or cooperating ( providing resources and/or assistance).

Aiming Off - Normally used on a Dead Reckoning approach over distance, and requires a catching feature as a backstop. When backstop is reached, the navigator knows which direction to turn in order to reach the target.

Air Scent/Wilderness Search K9 - Common terms for Search and Rescue Dogs with the ability and training to detect live human airborne scent particles carried by air currents that lead the dog to find a lost person.

Alert - A trained response when the dog has located the scent source or object it has been trained to find.

Allocated Resources - Resources dispatched to an incident.

Assigned Resources - Resources checked in and assigned work tasks on an incident.

Assignments - Tasks given to resources to perform within a given operational period, based upon tactical objectives in the incident Action Plan.

Attack Points - A feature that appears on the map that you can positively ID on the ground (Intersections, Trail and Streams, Two Roads, Benchmarks, Cemeteries, Churches, or Schools)

Available Resources - Incident based resources which are ready for deployment.

Bait - Food or the process of using food to encourage the K9 to perform a behavior. Another name for food reward.

Bark Alert - The K9 remains at the scent source and barks until the handler comes and gives the dog another command.

Base - The location at which primary logistics functions for an incident are coordinated and administered. There is only one base per incident. The Incident Command Post may be collocated with the base.

Blind Search - Neither the handler or the dog knows where the victim is located.

Catching Features - Natural or Man-made feature that crosses your line of travel. Catching Features have the same type of linear features as in Collecting Features. Catching Features can by used like way points to measure distance traveled, or as a backstop to prevent over-shooting a target.

Cache - A predetermined complement of tools, equipment, and/or supplies stored in a designated location.

Camp - A geologic site, within the general incident area, separate from the incident base, equipped and staffed to provide sleeping, food, water and sanitary services to incident personnel.

Check-In - The process whereby resources first report to an incident.

Chain of Command - A series of management positions in order of authority.

Command - The act of directing and /or controlling resources by virtue of explicit legal, agency, or delegated authority. May also refer to the incident Commander.

Command Staff - The Command Staff consists of the Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer. They report directly to the Incident Commander. They may have and assistant or assistant, as needed.

Coning - Neutral thermal conditions with a normal adiabatic lapse rate. It is typical on a cloud-covered day or night where affects of solar radiation and nighttime cooling are reduced. This creates excellent air-scenting conditions.

Course Navigation - Using a compass to point in the general direction of the destination, and then following an intended path and using "can't miss" features like a large tree or road as a target.

Collecting Features - Collecting Features allows you to mocha easily in a constant direction while maintaining a general bearing to your surroundings. Generally used in combination with Catching Features.

CSS - Canine Search Specialist, the dog handler.

Demobilization Unit - Functional unit within the Planning Section responsible for assuring orderly, safe, and efficient demobilization of incident resources.

Dog Team - One dog, and one handler.

DHS - Department of Homeland Security

Director - The ICS title for individuals responsible for supervision of a Branch.

Dispatch - The implementation of a command decision to move a resource or resources from one place to another.

Dispatch Center - A facility from which resources are assigned to an incident.

Division - Divisions are used to divide an incident into geographical area of operation. A Division is located within the ICS organization between the Branch and the Task Force/Strike Team. (See Group.) Divisions are identified by alphabetic characters for horizontal applications and often, by floor numbers when used in buildings.

Emergency Management Coordinator/Director - The individual within each political subdivision that has coordination responsibility for jurisdictional emergency management.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) - A health-care specialist with particular skill and knowledge in prehospital emergency medicine.

Emergergency Operations Plan - The plan that each jurisdiction has and maintains for responding to appropriate hazards.

Fanning - Occurs in the most stable air conditions when cooling aloft is reduced. The plume is compressed vertically but fans out horizontally. If the point source is on flat area, the scent will remain along the ground or the same elevation. If the point were on a hill the scent could be overhead and out of reach of the air-scenting dog at a lower elevation. This usually occurs just before sunrise on calm, clear nights.

FEMA- The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fine Search - A directed search where the search grids are close together.

Free Search - The K9 is free to search without any direction from the handler.

Fumigating - Occurs with a combination of stable air aloft and unstable air at the surface. As the morning sun strikes the surface, it rapidly warms. The cooler scent plume will then diffuse down through the warmer air. High ground concentrations may occur which is why it's advisable of having the dog/handler out in the field at daybreak.

Function - In ICS, function refers to the five major activities in the ICS, i.e., Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration. The term function is also used when describing the activity involved, (ex. the planning function)

General Staff - The group of incident management personnel reporting to the Incident Commander. They may each have a deputy, as needed. The General Staff consists of - Operations Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Logistics Section Chief, Finance/Administration Section Chief.

Grid Search - A controlled methodical search using a grid or defined pattern to endure coverage of the area.

Ground Support Unit - Functional unit within the support branch of the Logistics Section responsible for the fueling, maintaining, and repairing of vehicles, and the transportation of personnel and supplies.

Group - Groups are established to divide the incident into functional areas of operation. Groups are composed of resources assembled to perform a special function not necessarily within a single geographic division. Groups are located between Branches and Resources in the Operations Section.

Hasty Search - A quick search of the area.

Helibase - The main location for parking, fueling, maintenance, and loading of helicopters operating in support of an incident. It is usually located at or near the incident base.

Helispot - Any designated location where a helicopter can safely take off and land. Some helispots may be used for loading of supplies, equipment, or personnel.

Helper - A trainer or very experienced person that inter-acts with the dog during training.

Incident - An occurrence either human caused or by natural phenomena, that requires action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or natural resources.

Incident Action Plan - Contains objectives reflecting the overall incident strategy and specific tactical actions and supporting information for the next operational period. The plan may be oral or written. When written, the plan may have a number of forms as attachments (traffic plans, maps, safety plan etc.).

Incident Base - Location at the incident where the primary logistics functions are coordinated and administered. The Incident Command Post may be collocated with the Base. There is only one Base per incident.

Incident Commander - The individual responsible for the management of all incident operations at the incident site.

Incident Command Post (ICP) - The location at which the primary command functions are executed. The ICP may be collocated with the incident base or other incident facilities.

Incident Command System (ICS) - A standardized on-scene emergency management concept specifically designed to allow it's user(s) to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.

Incident Management Team - The Incident Commander and appropriate Command and General Staff personnel assigned to an incident.

Incident Objectives - Statements of guidance and direction necessary for the selection of appropriate strategy(s) and the tactical direction of resources. Incident objectives are based on realistic expectations of what can be accomplished when all allocated resources have been effectively deployed. Incident objectives must be achievable and measurable, yet flexible enough to allow for strategic and tactical alternatives.

Indication - See "Alert"

Initial Action - The actions taken by resources which are the first to arrive at an incident.

Initial Response - Resources initially committed to an incident.


Jurisdiction - The range of authority. Public agencies have jurisdiction at an incident related to their legal responsibilities and authority for incident mitigation. Jurisdictional authority at an incident can be political/geographical (city, state, or federal boundary lines) or functional (police dept).


Leader - The ICS title for an individual responsible for a task force, strike team, or functional unit.

Liaison Officer - A member of the Command Staff responsible for coordinating with representatives from cooperating and assisting agencies.

Lofting - The reverse of fumigating. It results after sunset and the ground is cooling but the air aloft is still warm. Is typical of valleys in the late afternoon and elsewhere in the early evening. On calm evenings where this situation occurs, handlers should be working their dogs along ridges and higher slopes.

Logistics Section - The Section responsible for providing facilities, services, and materials for the incident.

Looping - Represents a high degree of convective turbulence. The air above cools at a higher rate than normal. Air at the surface rises rapidly, cools quickly, loops back down, heats up and rises again, this repeats over and over. The dispersion rate is rapid. When a loop reaches ground level, the dog will often alert by sniffing and looking skyward but won't be able to determine direction to the source. Noting such alerts on a map will often form a line of alerts pointing generally toward the source.

Life Safety - Refers to the joint consideration of both the life and physical well being of individuals.


Managers - Individuals within ICS organizational units that are assigned specific managerial responsibilities. (Camp Manager, Staging Area Manager)

Medical Unit - Functional unit within the Service Branch of the logistics Section responsible for the development of the Medical Emergency plan, and for providing emergency medical treatment of incident personnel.

Multi Agency Incident - An incident where one or more agencies assist a jurisdictional agency or agencies. May be single or unified command.

Mutual Aid Agreement - Written agreement between agencies and/or jurisdictions in which they agree to assist one another upon request, by furnishing personnel and equipment.


National Interagency Incident Management System (NIMS) - An NWCG-developed program consisting of five major subsystems which collectively provide a total systems approach to all-risk incident management. The subsystems are: The Incident Command System, Training, Qualifications and Certification, Supporting Technologies, and Publications Management.


Officer - The ICS title for the personnel responsible for the Command Staff positions of Safety, Liaison, and Information.

Operational Period - The period of time scheduled for execution of a given set of operation actions as specified in the Incident Action Plan. Operational Periods can be of various lengths, although usually not over 24 hours.

Operations Section - The Section responsible for all tactical operations at the incident. Includes Branches, Divisions and/or Groups, Task Forces, strike Teams, Single Resources, and Staging Areas.

Orienteering - A sport requiring the use of navigational skills using a topographical map and compass to navigate from point to point in rough or unfamiliar terrain.

Out-of-Service Resources - Resources assigned to an incident but are unable to respond for mechanical, rest, or personnel reasons.


Planning Section - Responsible for the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of tactical information related to the incident, and for the preparation and documentation of Incident Action Plans. The Section also maintains information on the current and forecasted situation, and the status of resources as assigned to the incident.

Positive Reinforcement - Adding something the dog likes causing the K9 to want to repeat the behavior. Strengthening the behavior by presenting a desirable consequence.

Procurement Unit - Functional unit within the Finance/Administration Section responsible for financial matters involving vendor contracts.

Proofing - The processor exposing the dog to different environments and distractions confirming the learned behavior.


Radio Cache - A supply of radios stored in a pre-determined location for assignment to incidents.

Reporting Locations - Those resources requested in addition to the initial response.

Reinforcer - Something that causes the behavior to be repeated like a food/toy reward.

Resources Unit - Functional unit within the Planning Section responsible for recording the status of resources committed to the incident. The Unit also evaluates resources committed to the incident, the impact that additional responding resources will have on the incident, and anticipated overhead capacities at an incident.

Reward - Food or toy used to tell the dog he has done a good job. It should be something the dog is CRAZY about!

Reward System - A systematic way of rewarding the dog. The dog performs a behavior to get something from the handler (food or toy).


Safety Officer - A member of the Command Staff responsible for monitoring and assessing safety hazards or unsafe situations, and for developing measures for ensuring personnel safety. The Safety Officer may have assistants.

Section - That organization level with responsibility for a major functional area of the incident, (ex. Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance/Administration.) The Section is organizationally between Branch and Incident Commander.

Sector - Term used in some applications to describe an organizational level similar to an ICS Division or Group. Sector is not a part of ICS terminology.

Segment - A geographical area in which a task force/strike team leader or supervisor of a single resource is assigned authority and responsibility for the coordination of resources and implementation of planted tactics. A segment may be a portion of a division or an area inside or outside the perimeter of an incident. Segments are identified with Arabic numbers.

Scent Cone - Scent particles are blown on air currents in a cone shaped pattern, narrow at the origin and wider at the base. The velocity of the air currents determines the shape and length of the scent cone.

Scent Pool - A collection of scent particles in an area that may not be where the origin of the scent is located. The particles may be trapped in a corner of a building, in a depression or otherwise defined area.

Service Branch - A Branch within the Logistics Section responsible for service activities at the incident. Includes the Communications, Medical, and Food Units.

Span of Control - The supervisory ratio from three-to-seven individuals, with five -to-one being established as optimum.

Staging Area - Staging Areas are locations set up at an incident where resources can be placed while awaiting a tactical assignment. Staging Areas are managed by the Operations Section.

Strike Team - Specified combinations of the same kind and type of resources, with common combinations and a leader.

Supervisor - The ICS title for individuals responsible for command of a Division or Group

Supply Unit - Functional unit within the Support Branch of the Logistics Section responsible for ordering equipment and supplies required for incident operations.

Support Branch - A Branch within the Logistics Section responsible for providing personnel, equipment, and supplies to support incident operations. Includes the Supply, Facilities, and Ground Support Units.

Support Resources - Non-tactical resources under the supervision of the Logistics, Planning, Finance/Administration Sections, or the Command Staff.


Tactical Direction - Direction given by the Operations Section Chief which includes the tactics appropriate for the selected strategy, the selection and assignment of resources, tactics implementation, and performance monitoring for each operational period.

Target - An object that one aims at or an object that the handler directs the dog toward.

Task Force - A combination of single resources assembled for a particular tactical need, with common communications and a leader.

Technical Specialists - Personnel with special skills that can be used anywhere within the ICS organization.

Tracking - The dog follows the scented path that a human makes by walking or running and located the human or articles touched by that human.

Trailing Dog - Used by law enforcement and Search and Rescue to find a human. The dog is trained to follow a specific scent that may not be exactly where the human walked but the scent particles are collected on depressions, rock and grass and brush along the way.

Turbulance - (vertical air movement) Can be caused by deflection of the surface winds by mechanical barriers such as terrain features, vegetation, buildings, etc, or by convection caused by local climate.


Unified Command - In ICS, Unified Command is a unified team effort which allows all agencies with responsibility for the incident, either geographical or functional, to manage an incident by establishing a common set of incident objectives and strategies. This is accomplished without losing or abdicating agency authority, responsibility, or accountably.

Unit - The organizational element having functional responsibility for a specific incident planning, logistics, or finance/administration activity.

Unity of Command - The concept by which each person within an organization reports to one and only one designated person.

US&R - Urban Search and Rescue

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