National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Communications Unit Leader

COML decorative banner: photos depicting COML position.  COML Position Description:  The Communications Unit Leader (COML), under the direction of the Service Branch Director or Logistics Section Chief, is responsible for developing plans for the effective use of incident communications equipment and facilities; installing and testing communications equipment; supervising the Incident Communications Center; distributing communications equipment to incident personnel; and maintaining and repairing communications equipment.

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COML Incident Position Description

The Communications Unit Leader (COML) is responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining communications equipment on wildland fire incidents. The COML also provides data, telephone, and radio communications support for incident personnel. The COML supervises the Incident Communications Technician (COMT) and the Incident Communications Center Manager (INCM) and reports to the Logistics Section Chief (LSC) or the Service Branch Director (SVBD). The COML works in the Logistics functional area.
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Leadership Level 3, Leader of People (Develop Intent)

  • For additional information review Level 3 description, expected behaviors and knowledge, suggested development goals, and self-study opportunities.

Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment.
  • Travel to and check in at assignment.
  • Check in with incident supervisor and/or dispatch when arriving at the incident.
  • Review Incident Action Plan (IAP) and obtain briefing, objectives, and intent from supervisor.
  • Obtain briefing from previous shift/assignment position as necessary.

Build the Team

  • Assemble and validate readiness of assigned personnel and equipment.
  • Establish and communicate chain of command, reporting procedures, risk management processes, and radio frequency management.
  • Establish a common operating picture with supervisors and subordinates.
  • Participate in operational briefings as directed.
  • Brief assigned personnel.
  • Identify assigned resources and maintain accountability.

Supervise and Direct Work Assignments

  • Establish and communicate objectives, priorities, work assignments, and performance expectations.
  • Identify, analyze, and use relevant situational information to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situation awareness.
  • Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to assigned resources and supervisor.
  • Ensure incident objectives and performance standards are met.
  • Monitor performance and provide immediate and regular feedback to assigned personnel.

Perform Communications Unit Leader-Specific Duties

  • Request additional communications services (e.g., telephone, satcom, microwave) when necessary.
  • Order AM air-to-air and FM air-to-ground frequencies following proper procedures.
  • Establish Incident Communications Center (ICC) and provide guidance related to specific needs of the ICC.
  • Contact appropriate communications coordinator (NIFC Communications Duty Officer [CDO] or equivalent).
    • Provide contact information.
    • Determine frequencies and equipment assigned.
    • Identify other known incidents or conflicts.
  • Coordinate needs for incident communications for Air Operations, operational system coverage, and logistical section needs.
  • Coordinate with Medical Unit for medical evacuation plan.
  • Initiate and maintain accurate records of communications equipment.
  • Prepare Incident Radio Communications Plan (ICS 205):
    • Ensure plan is independent of local frequencies to prevent conflict.
    • Review IAP for correct frequencies.
    • Ensure ICS 205 is accurate, complete, and submitted to the Planning section for inclusion in the IAP.
  • Assist with the communications portion of the Incident-within-Incident (IWI) plan.
  • Design radio communications systems to meet incident needs.
  • Design telephone/data networks to meet incident needs.
  • Assign communications equipment to appropriate units and personnel.
  • Ensure installation of communications equipment.
  • Ensure demobilization of equipment.

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Communicate effectively using multichannel radios. Prepare and program radios for assignment. Use plain language and Incident Command System (ICS) terminology.
  • Follow established processes and chain of command for collecting, producing, and distributing information.
  • Ensure clear understanding of expectations and timely communication within and across ICS functional areas and chain of command.
  • Establish communications and exchange necessary briefings/information with the following:
    • Support resources
    • Adjacent resources
    • Supervisor
    • Other ICS functional areas
  • Conduct and/or participate in After Action Reviews (AAR).

Manage Risk

  • Apply the Risk Management Process as stated in the NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461:
    • Identify Hazards.
    • Assess Hazards.
    • Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions.
    • Implement Controls.
    • Supervise and Evaluate.
  • Utilize Safety Officers (SOF) to assist with risk management process and provide input into safety of operations.
  • Plan for medical emergencies. Ensure that assigned resources are prepared to execute the Medical Plan (ICS 206 WF). Ensure familiarity with medical responders, communication procedures, and transportation plan. Manage the medical emergency based on procedures stated in the IAP, Medical Incident Report, or other relevant guidelines.
  • Monitor personnel for signs and symptoms of fatigue, illness, or injury. Mitigate appropriately.
  • Account for location, health, safety, and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Submit accident/incident reports with pertinent forms (SAFECOM, SAFENET, agency-specific forms) through established chain of command.



  • Anticipate demobilization, identify excess resources, coordinate with Operations to prepare demobilization schedule, and communicate with supervisor.
  • Plan for demobilization. Brief assigned resources on demobilization procedures and responsibilities.
  • Prepare plan for demobilization of communication resources in conjunction with immediate supervisor.
  • Provide a list of total weight, number of pieces, total cubic feet, and destination of equipment being demobilized.
  • Brief assigned resources on demobilization procedures and responsibilities. Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures and work/rest driving standards are followed.
  • Return equipment and supplies to appropriate unit.
  • Complete demobilization checkout process before being released from the incident.
  • Upon demobilization, report status to home unit including reassignment or estimated time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.
  • During transfer of command:
    • Ensure continuity of operations.
    • Exchange critical safety information.
    • Communicate transfer of authority through established chain of command.


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