What is NIMS?
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a standardized approach to incident management developed by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The program was established in March 2004, in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive -5, issued by President George W. Bush.
According to DHS, NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from incidents, regardless of cause, size, location or complexity.
NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System. NIMS defines operational systems that guide how personnel work together during incidents2.
Why is NIMS important?
NIMS is important because it enhances unity of effort by providing a common approach for managing incidents. It enables organizations across the whole community to share resources and help one another in times of need. It also improves coordination and cooperation among different agencies and jurisdictions.
NIMS helps to:
- Maintain situational awareness and a common operating picture
- Establish interoperable communications
- Manage resources effectively and efficiently
- Support mutual aid and assistance agreements
- Implement flexible and scalable organizational structures
- Develop and maintain trained and qualified personnel
- Conduct planning, exercises and evaluations
- Incorporate lessons learned and best practices
Who are the stakeholders of NIMS?
The stakeholders of NIMS are all entities with incident related responsibilities. This includes:
- Federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments
- Nongovernmental organizations such as voluntary agencies, faith-based groups and private sector entities
- Individuals, families and communities
- Critical infrastructure owners and operators
- Emergency management agencies
- Public safety agencies such as law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services and public health
- Public works agencies such as transportation, water, power and sanitation
- Other functional disciplines such as education, agriculture, environmental protection and cultural resources
How do stakeholders implement NIMS?
Stakeholders implement NIMS by adopting its components and tools, following its guidance and standards, and participating in its training and exercises. Local, state, territorial and tribal nation jurisdictions are required to adopt NIMS in order to receive federal preparedness grants.
Some of the components and tools of NIMS are:
- National Qualification System: A system that defines minimum qualifications for incident personnel based on their position title, position description and performance measures.
- Resource Typing: A process that categorizes resources by their capability, size, kind or type.
- Mutual Aid: A voluntary agreement among organizations or jurisdictions to provide or receive assistance during an incident.
- Command and Control Systems: Systems that establish a chain of command, a span of control, an incident action plan and an incident management team for an incident. Examples are the Incident Command System (ICS) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
- National Incident Management System Third Edition: The latest version of the NIMS document that provides an overview of its components, concepts and principles.
Based on the information above, it is true that NIMS is applicable to all stakeholders with incident related responsibilities. NIMS provides a common framework for managing incidents of any type or scale across the whole community. By implementing NIMS, stakeholders can enhance their preparedness, response and recovery capabilities.