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NIMS and Corporate Emergency Management

Posted on Thu, Apr 04, 2013

Preparedness facilitates efficient and effective emergency response. Companies must engage in a continuous cycle of planning, training, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to achieve and maintain readiness to respond to emergencies. But when an emergency is beyond the scope of a facility’s capability or employee training, a unified incident management approach enables multiple entities to coordinate under one accepted management system. The goal, and typical result of National Incident Management System (NIMS), is a coordinated, faster, and more effective response.

Nine years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initialized NIMS to provide a comprehensive and consistent national approach to all-hazard incident management at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, “Management of Domestic Incidents” required NIMS be implemented as a condition of federal preparedness assistance to states, territories, local jurisdictions and tribal entities. Over the years, additions and changes have been made, yet the basic function, scope, and principles of the document remain unchanged.

Corporate entities operate critical infrastructures across the U.S. Effective and consistent NIMS integration by these companies can result in a strengthened national capability to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from any type of incident. As disasters continue to unfold, applying lessons learned to corporate emergency management practices in conjunction with federal, states, territories, local jurisdictions and tribal entities ensure a greater cohesive response and protection of critical infrastructures. According to FEMA, private companies should adopt the following 12 core concepts to support a coordinated NIMS implementation effort.

1. Adopt NIMS:  Work with company/facility leadership, stakeholders, and incident management and response teams to adopt NIMS.

2. Identify Points of Contact: Share up-to-date corporate contact information with local response authorities.

3. Use the Incident Command System (ICS):  All internal company emergency response teams, (such as a fire brigades), and external response organizations should manage incidents and pre-planned events using ICS organizational structures, doctrine, and procedures.  ICS implementation must include the consistent application of Incident Action Planning and Common Communications Plans. 

4. Support an integrated multiagency coordination: The Unified Command and the Liaison Officer may be able to provide the needed multiagency coordination at the scene. However, as an incident grows in size and complexity, off-site support and coordination may be required. Pre planning coordination efforts among the different emergency management entities offers the opportunity for a more cohesive response.

5. Establish a public information system:  During an incident, gather, verify, coordinate, and disseminate information both internally and externally.

6. Revise Plans: Response plans and standard operating procedures should incorporate NIMS components, principles and policies, to include planning, training, response, exercises, equipment, evaluation, and corrective actions.

7. Promote Mutual Aid: Establish a memorandum of understanding/memorandum of agreement with the government agencies and other private sector organizations to share resources and personnel.  

8. Maintain NIMS Training: Company emergency preparedness personnel, as well as any emergency responders or teams (fire brigade/EMS), can adopt NIMS training programs.  

9. Coordinated Exercises:  Conduct both small and large-scale onsite exercises, as well as participate in State, regional, tribal, and/or local NIMS-based exercises.

10. Inventory Response Assets:  An inventory of internal and external response assets should be conducted in conjunction with identified threats and risks. These assets should be inclusive enough to counteract any potential incident.  Share the inventory and availability with local emergency management authority.

11. Coordinate Mutual Aid Requests:  Exercise your response asset inventory during exercises and training opportunities.

12. Use Common Language and Communication Platforms: Apply standardized and consistent terminology, including the establishment common communications technology and practices. These platforms and practices should be shared within the company, other private sector partners, and local emergency response groups.

Note: Non-governmental organizations and private sector entities entitled to receive Federal preparedness funding or grants are required to coordinate NIMS implementation with their respective State Administrative Agency in order to be eligible for funding.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

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Tags: Emergency Management, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program, National Preparedness