Resource Center

article / February 7, 2023

What is an incident management system?

The common adage of Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong, will go wrong – is especially true for security. It’s challenging to plan for every conceivable situation, so security officers rely on an incident management system that helps them quickly respond to unforeseen events and minimize risk. This article will highlight the basics of incident management and provide a framework to help you get started.

What Is an Incident Management System?

An incident management system is a series of protocols that take effect during an incident, defined for our purposes as a problem, emergency, or other unexpected situation that affects the normal operations of a business. It provides a structured method to coordinate personnel, equipment, communications and even entire facilities when the moment is uncertain. In doing so, organizations can respond to an incident more effectively, reduce its impact and restore normal services as quickly as possible.

As you might imagine, the incident management definition can vary widely between companies – a security officer working in a corporate building will face different incidents compared to one in a hospital. The primary goal, however, is standardizing protocols so responders know their responsibilities for the duration of an incident and how to communicate essential information to the proper parties.

In the United States, FEMA’s National Incident Management System acts as the baseline for coordinating incident responses on a national scale between government agencies and private companies. Other institutions may have their own internal policies when dealing with incidents within a specific industry or region.

An essential part of any incident management system is building out the technical systems required to respond quickly and effectively, and to gather the information you need to improve your next intervention. Axon’s Enterprise Security solutionsare built to support and enable each stage of incident management, from initial observation to management and de-escalation to data processing. Talk to an Axon professional about how our tech stack can improve your organization’s security today.

What Incident Management Is Not

Before we dig into specific processes, it can also be helpful to consider what incident management does not address. First, an incident is not necessarily an emergency — it is a disruption to normal operations. Depending on the facility in question, that could mean a cyberattack or a bird flying into a camera. Incidents are resolved based on priority, but even minor events are resolved, logged, and analyzed to identify any long-term risks.

Incident management overlaps with problem and change management but is a distinct field. Problem management is the technique of analyzing potential problems that may occur and creating safeguards to mitigate their impact. Change management refers to preparing for an organizational change to implement it as smoothly as possible. These distinctions are vital because incident management is about resolving an event in the moment and addressing systemic causes when appropriate.

Who Uses Incident Management Systems?

Broadly speaking, every organization should have some sort of incident management system in place. It ensures that responders know how to deal with an unexpected situation and provides a reporting mechanism that cultivates transparency and accountability. Incident responders, support personnel, communication departments, and other partners coordinating resources outside an organization’s scope should all be familiar with the tenets of their particular incident management system.

What Are the Components of an Incident Management System?

While the specifics of an incident management system will vary by organization, most tend to be reasonably similar in terms of process:


The first step occurs when someone realizes an incident is taking place. This can happen when a security officer identifies an unusual technical error or unauthorized access, for example, or if the public notifies security about a problem. In any case, the informed parties will communicate initial details to a centralized authority so it can mobilize an appropriate response.


The organization must categorize the incident so it can mobilize its resources effectively. In most cases, the incident management system will include standardized terms that reflect the situation and overall risk. This step allows everyone in the organization to quickly understand the nature of the incident — such as whether it is a physical altercation or cyberattack — and respond accordingly. 


Responders will assess the incident and determine what immediate actions need to occur. They will evaluate risk, identify root causes, and recommend possible solutions. If possible, responders can begin to resolve the incident at this point. Otherwise, they will report the details to relevant parties for further support.


Once the incident is fully understood, an individual or team equipped to resolve it will step in. Depending on the nature of the event, this might be as simple as replacing equipment or implementing a multi-stage solution. In either case, responders will fully document the incident and their response while evaluating the resolution’s effectiveness.

Monitoring and Assessment

When the incident is resolved, it’s vital to prevent it from recurring and causing further disruption. This step might include carefully monitoring the incident’s root causes or conducting an in-depth analysis to inform change management procedures.

Modernize Your Incident Management System With Axon

Outside of implementing and ensuring an organization-wide understanding of these processes, the most effective way to resolve an incident is by ensuring responders and dispatchers have the training and tools they need to manage issues both routine and emergent. Our products at Axon help security organizations accomplish just that, including Axon Respond, which connects a full fleet of devices that provide real-time situational awareness as incidents unfold. For more information on improving your organization’s incident response, contact Axon today.