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:

Key features of NIMS:

Now, what is the Incident Command System?

Various Definitions found online:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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

This page will be added to from time to time. If you have any additional information that should be included, please contact the webmaster.

Page Last Updated, 05/09/09

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