In 2003, the federal government unveiled its National Incident Management System. NIMS is a comprehensive, national approach to how federal, state, territorial, tribal and local responders react and respond during an emergency. The six components of NIMS are command and management, preparedness, resource management, communications and information management, supporting technologies and ongoing management and maintenance.
Command and Management
The command and management component of NIMS creates a framework for how to effectively respond during an emergency. It involves three key areas -- how to set up and staff an incident command system, how and when to coordinate response activities with other agencies, and how and when to make information available to the public. This component of NIMS is likely its most visible, as its other components cover preparing for how to best respond during an emergency. The other components of NIMS, while integral on their own, feed into how well an agency takes control of and responds during an emergency.
The preparedness component of NIMS spells out the ways that emergency management and response personnel can prepare for responding to and managing emergencies. To comply with NIMS standards, agencies have to implement an ongoing preparedness program that helps them remain ready to respond during an emergency. To prepare, NIMS recommends that the program cover several key areas, such as planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and taking correct action.
Agencies need to not only make sure they have the resources in place to respond during an emergency, such as necessary personnel and equipment, but also that they know how to best allocate resources depending on the emergency. Standardizing how agencies manage resources before, during and after an emergency creates a unified approach to emergency response activities. Resource management can include several components, such as making sure key personnel have necessary certifications and training, like knowing how to conduct CPR. Resource management also includes logging the resources the agency has at its disposal as well as the resources available from other agencies in the area.
Communications and Information Management
NIMS standardizes how the federal government and other agencies collect and share information. NIMS stresses the importance of a common operating picture, or COP. A COP makes sure that everyone has the same information as soon as possible, so that they can make informed decisions when responding during an emergency. It also stresses the importance of interoperability, which requires agencies to be equipped to communicate using voice, data or video-on-demand functions and in real time when necessary.
NIMS outlines the technologies that an agency should have in place and be prepared to use. Along with standardizing voice- and data-communication systems, supporting technologies include information management systems, data display systems and any specialized technologies that support operations and management during an emergency.
Ongoing Management and Maintenance
The Department of Homeland Security, though the National Integration Center, or NIC, makes sure that agencies remain up to date on changes to NIMS policies and procedures and that they have training programs in place for personnel. It also makes sure that first-responders and other agencies adopt NIMS standards. For example, NIC makes available training programs that agencies and first-responders can use when preparing for emergency-response activities. It also oversees NIMS-related publications and labeling conventions.
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