CHAPTER SUMMARY A critical incident is any event or situation that causes or has the potential to cause harm, serious bodily injury or death, property damage, legal involvement, and media activity. Such situations may range from relatively low-scale local operations such as locating missing children, dignitary protection (including high-profile arrested suspects), domestic hostage taking, and traffic incidents to multijurisdictional major deployment of emergency personnel such as terrorist attacks and weather-related catastrophes. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended that all police agencies use the Incident Command System (ICS) model for responding to any critical incident regardless of size and scope. The ICS model is flexible enough to be used in a wide variety of critical incident responses and allows
for the use of common terminology, effective inter-and intra-agency communications, and accountability. One important feature of critical incident management is the debriefing process. Debriefing allows for mistakes to be identified and corrected for future critical incident deployments, and to identify and treat stress problems that may surface with emergency responders. One area of critical incident deployment that receives the most media attention is the use of SWAT or tactical teams. The National Tactical Officers Association has established guidelines for local law enforcement agencies to use when considering creation of a tactical team. These guidelines point to the need for proper planning, written policies and procedures, and the judicial use of force in critical incident responses.