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The National Incident Management System (NIMS) & Incident Command System (ICS)


On February 28, 2003, the President issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)5, Management of Domestic Incidents, which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS). This system provides a consistent nationwide template to enable Federal,

State, local, and tribal governments and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations to work together effectively and efficiently to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity, including acts of catastrophic terrorism.

HSPD-5 requires all Federal departments and agencies to adopt the NIMS and to use it in their individual domestic incident management and emergency prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation programs and activities, as well as in support of all actions taken to assist State, local, or tribal entities. The directive also requires Federal departments and agencies to make adoption of the NIMS by State and local organizations a condition for Federal preparedness assistance (through grants, contracts, and other activities) beginning in FY 2005. Jurisdictional compliance with certain aspects of the NIMS will be possible in the short term, such as adopting the basic tenets of the Incident Command System (ICS).

ICS is the model tool for command, control, and coordination of a response and provides a means to coordinate the efforts of individual agencies as they work toward the common goal of stabilizing the incident and protecting life, property, and the environment. ICS uses principles that have been proven to improve efficiency and effectiveness in a business setting and applies the principles to emergency response.

Why do you need to know about ICS? We live in a complex world in which responding to emergencies, from single-car accidents to large-scale disasters, often requires cooperation among several agencies. In an emergency, you may be called upon to help with the response. Given the current movement toward using an ICS structure for emergency response, it is likely, therefore, that you will function in an ICS environment.

ICS has been proven effective for responding to all types of incidents, including:

  • Bioterrorism events
  • Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incidents
  • Planned events (celebrations, parades, concerts, official visits, etc.)
  • Response to natural hazards
  • Single and multi-agency law enforcement incidents
  • Lack of comprehensive resource management strategy
  • Fires
  • Incidents involving multiple casualties
  • Multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency incidents
  • Air, rail, water, or ground transportation accidents
  • Wide-area search and rescue missions

In an emergency, we will all be working for different supervisors, and different locations. You will probably never be asked to be the "Incident Commander". However, it is important that you know that there is an organized, tested, command structure in place to manage the event.








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