National Incident Management System

Most emergency management in the United States is done at the local and state level. The Department of Homeland Security has attempted to standardize equipment, organizational structures, and terminology to create better response and preparedness to large and small-scale disasters across the country. The National Incident Management System is a collection of principles and methods that can be utilized by local, state, federal emergency managers as well as the private sector and NGOs. NIMS aims to better improve the nation's response to emergencies. Its goal is a better system that can more efficiently allocate resources in the event of a disaster and facilitate cooperation among diverse entities and agencies. Large-scale disasters in the past in the U.S. suffered from a lack of solid coordination and authority, as well as different entities utilizing different lingo when communication which led to confusion. NIMS attempts to solve these issues. To that end, FEMA developed the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. 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 is:

  • A comprehensive, nationwide, systematic approach to incident management, including the command and coordination of incidents, resource management, and information management
  • A set of concepts and principles for all threats, hazards, and events across all mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, Recovery)
  • Scalable, flexible, and adaptable; used for all incidents, from day-to-day to large-scale
  • Standard resource management procedures that enable coordination among different jurisdictions or organizations
  • Essential principles for communications and information management

NIMS defines operational systems including the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures, Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups), and Joint Information Systems (JIS) that guide how personnel works together during incidents. NIMS applies to all incidents, from traffic accidents to major disasters.

The NIMS document was first published in 2004. It has been revised twice, in December 2008 and October 2017, based on lessons learned, best practices, and changes in national policy. The 2017 version of NIMS is the most current version.

The core training for NIMS consists of:

  • IS-100.c, An Introduction to the Incident Command System, ICS 100: This course introduces the Incident Command System (ICS) and provides the foundation for higher level ICS training. The course describes the history, features and principles, and organizational structure of the Incident Command System. It also explains the relationship between ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • IS-700.b, An Introduction to the National Incident Management System: This course provides an overview of NIMS. NIMS defines the comprehensive approach guiding the whole community - all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector - to work together seamlessly to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the effects of incidents. The course provides learners with a basic understanding of NIMS concepts, principles, and components.

More information on the NIMS training curriculum can be found in the NIMS Training Program document.

The 2017 NIMS document and all NIMS supporting guides and tools can be found here:

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