What is NIMS and ICS
Most of the information on this page comes from Dept of Homeland Security, and is copied verbatim.
The National Incident Management System establishes standardized incident management processes, protocols, and procedures that all responders -- Federal, state, tribal, and local -- will use to coordinate and conduct response actions. With responders using the same standardized procedures, they will all share a common focus, and will be able to place full emphasis on incident management when a homeland security incident occurs -- whether terrorism or natural disaster. In addition, national preparedness and readiness in responding to and recovering from an incident is enhanced since all of the Nation's emergency teams and authorities are using a common language and set of procedures.
Advantages of NIMS:
NIMS incorporates incident management best practices developed and proven by thousands of responders and authorities across America. These practices, coupled with consistency and national standardization, will now be carried forward throughout all incident management processes: exercises, qualification and certification, communications interoperability, doctrinal changes, training, and publications, public affairs, equipping, evaluating, and incident management. All of these measures unify the response community as never before.
NIMS was created and vetted by representatives across America including:
- Federal government,
- Cities, counties, and townships,
- Tribal officials,
- First responders.
Key features of NIMS:
- Incident Command System (ICS). NIMS establishes ICS as a standard incident management organization with five functional areas -- command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration -- for management of all major incidents. To ensure further coordination, and during incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or agencies, the principle of unified command has been universally incorporated into NIMS. This unified command not only coordinates the efforts of many jurisdictions, but provides for and assures joint decisions on objectives, strategies, plans, priorities, and public communications.
- Communications and Information Management. Standardized communications during an incident are essential and NIMS prescribes interoperable communications systems for both incident and information management. Responders and managers across all agencies and jurisdictions must have a common operating picture for a more efficient and effective incident response.
- Preparedness. Preparedness incorporates a range of measures, actions, and processes accomplished before an incident happens. NIMS preparedness measures including planning, training, exercises, qualification and certification, equipment acquisition and certification, and publication management. All of these serve to ensure that pre-incident actions are standardized and consistent with mutually-agreed doctrine. NIMS further places emphasis on mitigation activities to enhance preparedness. Mitigation includes public education and outreach, structural modifications to lessen the loss of life or destruction of property, code enforcement in support of zoning rules, land management, and building codes, and flood insurance and property buy-out for frequently flooded areas.
- Joint Information System (JIS). NIMS organizational measures enhance the public communication effort. The Joint Information System provides the public with timely and accurate incident information and unified public messages. This system employs Joint Information Centers (JIC) and brings incident communicators together during an incident to develop, coordinate, and deliver a unified message. This will ensure that Federal, state, and local levels of government are releasing the same information during an incident.
- NIMS Integration Center (NIC). To ensure that NIMS remains an accurate and effective management tool, the NIMS NIC will be established by the Secretary of Homeland Security to assess proposed changes to NIMS, capture, and evaluate lessons learned, and employ best practices. The NIC will provide strategic direction and oversight of the NIMS, supporting both routine maintenance and continuous refinement of the system and its components over the long term. The NIC will develop and facilitate national standards for NIMS education and training, first responder communications and equipment, typing of resources, qualification and credentialing of incident management and responder personnel, and standardization of equipment maintenance and resources. The NIC will continue to use the collaborative process of Federal, state, tribal, local, multi-discipline and private authorities to assess prospective changes and assure continuity and accuracy.
Now, what is the Incident Command System?
Various Definitions found online:
- ICS - Incident Command System. This system was designed to assist firefighters in doing their job. It provides direction for increasing the size and types of teams fighting fires to respond to the size and type of fire being suppressed. NOAA
- Incident Command System. A method of running an incident, that is scalable and expandable to handle anything from small to large events. Generally used in SAR. Foothill Search & Rescue, Alberta, Canada
- Incident Command System (ICS): The combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure with responsibility for the management of assigned resources to effectively accomplish stated objectives pertaining to an incident [see incident definition]. (National Fire Academy. The Incident Command System. NFA-ICS-SM. August 1989.) US Dept of Energy
Looking at the different descriptions of ICS that are on the Internet, it is easy to see how the program is put to use. The US Dept of Homeland Security released a Position Paper on ICS and the new National Incident Management System (NIMS) and it includes some significant background on, and history of, the Incident Command System and it's variations:
The History of Incident Command System
The concept of ICS was developed more than thirty years ago, in the aftermath of a devastating wildfire in California. During 13 days in 1970, 16 lives were lost, 700 structures were destroyed and over one-half million acres burned. The overall cost and loss associated with these fires totaled $18 million per day. Although all of the responding agencies cooperated to the best of their ability, numerous problems with communication and coordination hampered their effectiveness. As a result, the Congress mandated that the U.S. Forest Service design a system that would "make a quantum jump in the capabilities of Southern California wildland fire protection agencies to effectively coordinate interagency action and to allocate suppression resources in dynamic, multiple-fire situations."
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services; the Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara County Fire Departments; and the Los Angeles City Fire Department joined with the U.S. Forest Service to develop the system. This system became known as FIRESCOPE (FIrefighting RESources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies).
In 1973, the first "FIRESCOPE Technical Team" was established to guide the research and development design. Two major components came out of this work, the ICS and the Multi- Agency Coordination System (MACS). The FIRESCOPE ICS is primarily a command and control system delineating job responsibilities and organizational structure for the purpose of managing day-to-day operations for all types of emergency incidents.
By the mid-seventies, the FIRESCOPE agencies had formally agreed upon on ICS common terminology and procedures and conducted limited field-testing of ICS. By 1980, parts of ICS had been used successfully on several major wildland and urban fire incidents. It was formally adopted by the Los Angeles Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES), and endorsed by the State Board of Fire Services.
NIMS Information & Links
Incident Command (ICS) Forms
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Page Last Updated, 05/09/09
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