As part of the response to the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initialized the National Incident Management System (NIMS) in February 2003. The comprehensive system provides a consistent approach to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any domestic incident regardless of the cause, size or complexity.
“NIMS is a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector in working together seamlessly and managing incidents involving all threats and hazards—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—in order to reduce loss of life, loss of property, and harm to the environment.” - FEMA
Over the years, additions and changes have been implemented, yet the basic function, scope, and principles remain unchanged. Effective and consistent NIMS integration among the private sector can also result in a strengthened preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities, minimizing the duration and effects of incidents. In order to integrate NIMS into private sector companies, FEMA suggest the following 12 core concepts.
- Communicate intention: Local fire and rescue, law enforcement, hospitals and healthcare systems, transportation systems, public works, voluntary agencies, private industry and any other entity that may be responding to an incident should be informed that your company/facility will be adopting NIMS.
- Identify Points of Contact: Ensure you have up-to-date contact information for local response authorities and the facility/company personnel.
- Support an integrated multiagency coordination: Pre planning coordination efforts among the different emergency management entities offers the opportunity for a more cohesive response. 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.
- Establish a public information system: During an incident, gather, verify, coordinate, and disseminate information both internally and externally as directed by the communication plan or public relations designee.
- 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.
- Promote Mutual Aid: Establish a memorandum of understanding/agreement with the government agencies and other private sector organizations to share resources and personnel.
- Maintain NIMS Training: Company emergency preparedness personnel, as well as any emergency responders or teams (fire brigade/EMS), should adopt NIMS training programs.
- Coordinated Exercises: Conduct both small and large-scale onsite exercises with internal and external responders. The facility/company should also participate in State, regional, tribal, and/or local NIMS-based exercises when possible.
- 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. The availability of inventory should be shared with local emergency management authorities.
- Coordinate Mutual Aid Requests: Exercise your response asset inventory during exercises and training opportunities.
- 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.
- Implement the Incident Command System (ICS): ICS is the recognized, standardized, organizational structure designed to enable an integrated response, despite its complexity, response demands, or jurisdictional boundaries. The application the Incident Command System (ICS) is critical to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the organization. By instituting these best practices into a site-specific response structure, a company is more likely to effectively manage and mitigate the consequences of an emergency.
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.