The plan determines the actions taken. The actions determine the outcome. It’s about that simple. Incident Action Plans are extremely important; they are specific plans, they aren’t the same as Emergency Response Plans or Preparedness Plans or Evacuation Plans and its worth looking at why to understand what makes IAP’s unique.
An Evacuation Plan (or Fire Plan or similar) is a specific task checklist so when you know what you want to do (evacuate a hotel for example) you follow the steps to get it done. It’s a checklist. Not a plan.
An Emergency Response Plan, or phrases similar to it, is a plan you draw up ahead of time, when no incidents are occurring. You look at the issue in a general way, looking at key principles. You decide what you need in place and how things generally will run – but there are no specifics because you can’t ahead of time predict what incident will hit, so you can’t decide exactly what you will do. You can decide who will be tasked with responding to an incident, what their role will be, what responsibilities they will have, how team members will work together and so on. And you can decide what resources you will keep and what skills you need and where those pieces of equipment are kept; you can have a resource list and phone numbers so you know who you can contact and how to do that. But you can’t get more specific than that.
An Incident Action Plan is a one off. Its written only for that incident occurring in that place on that day at that time. It comes after enough information has been gathered to get good situational awareness.
It defines exactly who will be involved and what they will do and the timeline in which they need to do it. It is then used to monitor the incident and ensure it stays “on plan”.
Incident Action Plans define everything, they are the “everything” of incident response. And they will be used afterwards to judge the decisions taken, they stand as a record of who decided what and why.
They are very important. As such we strongly advise clients not to create them entirely alone unless they really understand what they are doing and truly understand the risks and liability associated with the role. One of the most important things we do for our clients is to take on the responsibility for these plans.