Home > Emergency Management, iPad, Technology > How I Use My iPad for Incident Management

How I Use My iPad for Incident Management

As many of you know, I am an avid iPad user. It has revolutionized my incident management process. It is really an all-in-one incident management toolkit. Here is a quick walk through of how I might use my iPad on an incident scene.

I arrive at the incident scene, throw on my vest, and grab my iPad and install the Bad Elf GPS. I open Documents to Go and load my incident report form. I familiarize myself with the incident by being briefed by the current IC (believe it or not, emergency management does always need to be in command of an incident). I begin filling out my incident report on the iPad.
Incident Report

I will also grab the coordinates and create a quick location map using the Bad Elf GPS and an offline navigation app (right now I am using Topo Maps).

Incident Map

This is certainly not high-powered GIS capability, but it is a way to get a quick map of the scene. You can add additional pins to the map to denote additional information if necessary.

Should the event grow in complexity, I have the entire set of ICS forms that I can use to set up and document a formal command structure. This allows me a great deal of flexibility in managing both small and large scale incidents. And I’ve failed to mention the obvious access to Email and to documentation on the Internet. With access to cellular data from my phone or a mobile hotspot, I have an entire library of information at my fingertips. And I can file my incident report or send detailed sit-reps right from the scene.

There is no doubt that the iPad is a revolutionary incident management tool. I’m not planning to pick up the iPad 2, though the front and rear-facing cameras would add even more versatility to this tool. And yes, this post was drafted completely with my iPad :)

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  1. Robert
    April 6, 2011 at 19:17 | #1


    I am interested in getting the set of ICS forms to go to my Ipad in an editable version. It seems like you have this figured out. I am headed to Japan over the next couple weeks to help a recently formed NGO set up there structure. I feel that this will be a extremely valuable tool for me to have. Please let me know what works for you and where to find the complete set of ICS forms to use, also how you go about editing them.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Wes
    April 6, 2011 at 19:51 | #2

    Note: I sent this response to Robert via email, but I thought I would post here in case someone else has the same questions.

    Figured out might be stretching it, but I can tell you what I use and how I use it. In order to use it with the iPad, you’ll need an office suite. I personally use Documents to Go Premium ($16.99 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id317107309?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D6), but you might also try Numbers as well. I like Documents to Go and the forms work, you just lose a bit of the advanced functionality like macros. Documents to Go also connects with Dropbox, a free cloud-based service that syncs your files among computers and iPads. This makes sharing the files between users easy. Documents to Go will locally cache about 10 dropbox documents at a time when you are connected to the internet. You can make changes to files and save them locally without an internet connection and they will sync the next time you have wi-fi (or will constantly stay synced if you have a continuous wi-fi or 3G connection). This allows me to sync files back to a PC without needing iTunes.

    I have never used this system to manage an event over one operational period in length, but I expect it will work fine. Here’s my workflow process:

    1)Save ICS FormsWorkbook.xls to Dropbox on a desktop (or open via email on iPad and save to Dropbox).

    2)Open Documents to Go and cache the .xls file on the iPad by opening it.

    3)Make changes to the forms on the iPad.

    4)Save changes back to Dropbox. As long as both machines have an internet connection, the changes should sync almost instantly between multiple machines. If the iPad is not connected to the internet, the changes will be cached locally until the iPad has a connection to sync.

    5)You can print forms from the iPad using Airprint or another printing app or the file can be opened and printed from any PC with Dropbox installed (or through a web browser accessing Dropbox.com).

  3. Tony
    August 24, 2011 at 18:47 | #3

    You could use Cirrus by Archon Apps. With it, you can have a custom form, add images, video, audio and email or save to the cloud.


  4. (Ms.) Pokey Harris, Director of Emergency Management
    November 20, 2011 at 01:02 | #4

    Wes – would you be willing to share your incident report? Would it be possible to schedule a time to speak by phone about how you are using your iPad for EM?

    Thank you,

    Pokey Harris
    Washington County, VA

    • Wes
      January 10, 2012 at 18:10 | #5

      Hi Pokey:

      I’m not sure if you got my email, but your comment got lost in an overzealous spam filter. Yes, I would be happy to speak with you. Please contact me at wesleye.delk(at)ky.gov if you are still interested.

      • Pokey Harris
        January 26, 2012 at 03:41 | #6

        Hey Wes. I did get your e-mail and thanks for the reply. We are knee deep in alligators with budget prep!!! As well, I am finishing my last semester of my MPA program. SO, things are a little crazy right now. I do plan to catch up with you. Ironically, I did a tad of research this past weekend about Docs to Go. You just helped me make up my mind to purchase. Thanks again and I will be in touch!!!


  5. Adam Delta
    January 25, 2012 at 15:40 | #7

    Has anyone used Cirrus by Archon Appsfor custom ipad forms?

  6. July 13, 2012 at 12:04 | #8

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your post. I like to write a little comment to support you.

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