The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a standardized approach to incident management developed by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The program was established in March 2004, in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive -5, issued by President George W. Bush.
What is NIMS?
NIMS provides a common framework for managing incidents of any size, scope, or complexity, regardless of the cause, location, or jurisdiction involved. NIMS enables all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents.
NIMS consists of six components:
- Resource Management: The coordination and oversight of resources (personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, etc.) before, during, and after an incident.
- Command and Coordination: The establishment of a common structure and process for directing and controlling incident operations.
- Communications and Information Management: The collection, analysis, dissemination, and use of incident-related information among stakeholders.
- Joint Information System: The integration of public information activities across jurisdictions and organizations to ensure consistent and coordinated messages to the public.
- Training: The development and delivery of courses and exercises to enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of incident personnel.
- Publication Management: The development, maintenance, and distribution of NIMS guidance documents and tools.
Who are the Stakeholders?
Stakeholders are individuals or organizations that have a role or interest in incident management. They include:
- Emergency Management: The coordination of resources and activities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters.
- Public Safety: The protection of life and property through law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, hazardous materials response, search and rescue, etc.
- Public Health: The prevention of disease and injury, promotion of healthy behaviors, and provision of health care services.
- Public Works: The construction, maintenance, and operation of infrastructure systems such as roads, bridges, water supply, sewerage, etc.
- Private Sector: The businesses and industries that provide goods and services to the public or support incident management operations.
- Non-Governmental Organizations: The voluntary associations that provide humanitarian assistance, advocacy, or other services to the public or incident management operations.
- Community-Based Organizations: The local groups that represent the interests and needs of specific populations or neighborhoods.
- Tribal Nations: The sovereign entities that have a government-to-government relationship with the federal government and may have jurisdiction over lands or resources affected by an incident.
Why is NIMS Applicable to All Stakeholders?
NIMS is applicable to all stakeholders because it:
- Enhances interoperability: NIMS enables stakeholders to communicate and coordinate effectively across organizational boundaries using common terminology, protocols, systems, and processes.
- Promotes scalability: NIMS allows stakeholders to adapt their incident management structures and resources to match the size and complexity of any incident.
- Facilitates resource sharing: NIMS provides a standardized method for identifying, requesting, tracking, and allocating resources among stakeholders during an incident.
- Supports mutual aid: NIMS establishes a framework for establishing agreements and arrangements among stakeholders to provide or receive assistance during an incident.
- Improves preparedness: NIMS guides stakeholders to conduct planning, training, exercising, and evaluation activities to enhance their readiness for incidents.
How can Stakeholders Implement NIMS?
Stakeholders can implement NIMS by:
- Adopting NIMS principles and policies: Stakeholders should align their incident management policies and procedures with NIMS guidance documents issued by the National Integration Center (NIC), a FEMA entity that oversees NIMS development and maintenance.
- Participating in NIMS training: Stakeholders should ensure that their personnel complete the appropriate NIMS courses based on their roles and responsibilities in incident management.
- Using NIMS tools: Stakeholders should use the tools provided by the NIC to support NIMS implementation, such as the Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT), which defines the capabilities of various types of resources; the National Qualification System (NQS), which establishes the minimum qualifications for incident personnel; and the Incident Command System (ICS) forms.
- Engaging in NIMS feedback and improvement: Stakeholders should provide input on NIMS guidance documents and tools through public comment periods or other mechanisms; report on their NIMS implementation progress through annual surveys or other means; and identify best practices and lessons learned from their incident management experiences.
NIMS is applicable to all stakeholders with incident related responsibilities because it provides a common framework for managing incidents of any size, scope, or complexity. By adopting NIMS principles and policies, participating in NIMS training, using NIMS tools, and engaging in NIMS feedback and improvement, stakeholders can enhance their interoperability, scalability, resource sharing, mutual aid, and preparedness for incidents. NIMS is not a rigid or prescriptive system, but rather a flexible and adaptable one that can be tailored to the needs and capabilities of each stakeholder and each incident2.