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    Alain Troitter Alain Troitter
    Feb 05 6 min read

    Common Incident Terminology


    Operations, customer support, engineers and most groups use inconsistent language. This is a serious problem. Imagine NASA doing that with astronauts or a navy with ships talking to each other, but not using the same terms. Something very bad will happen. In our space of incident management, we use words like broke, failed, outage, doesn’t work, dead…all describing the same condition. Inconsistent language use impedes communication and has caused the wrong action and erroneous messaging to clients.

    Poorly written and spoken communications is a liability in any industry. Low quality communications will lower the quality of work and will diminish customer satisfaction.

    The solution is defining a formal vocabular defining common terminology. You will improve operations and customer service by using a common terminology. Define common terminology that allows diverse incident management and support organizations to communicate togethe. U.S. FEMA Incident Command System promotes a common vocabulary to facilitate understanding among all parties engaged in an incident. I’ve done this for the incident management team, but no other teams have adopted it.


    During an incident

    •  Communications should use common terms.
    • Organizations should avoid radio codes, agency-specific codes, acronyms, or jargon. Usage of these types of codes may cause confusion or possibly compromise life safety due to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

    There are many areas that benefit from common terminology. For example, this section standardizes terminology that describes the client experience. Use the same term, and only one term, for a given condition. This consistency is the language magic that will spike your communication effectiveness.


    Virtual War Room


    Client Experience

    In this category, we define terms describing what the client sees, and experiences. The terms to use are:

    Term Description Internal Use External Use
    Normal Normal behavior and operations Yes Yes
    Unavailable No response Yes Yes
    Intermittently Unavailable No response intermittently Yes Yes
    Degraded Slow or acting abnormally Yes Yes
    Intermittently Degraded Slow or acting abnormally intermittently Yes Yes
    Error Client sees error Yes No
    Intermittent Error Client sees error intermittently Yes No
    Data Problem Data is wrong, unexpected or missing No Yes
    Display problem Data is correct, but hard to read or looks odd Yes No
    Feature problem One feature is failing, say, a report Yes Yes



    A special thanks to Alain Trottier, guest writer, for sharing his thoughts today. You can find him here:




    Critical Incident Management major incident management CyberSecurity Incident Response Automating Critical Incident Management

    Critical Incident Management major incident management CyberSecurity Incident Response Automating Critical Incident Management