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Secret of NIMS

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a core set of principles for the field of Emergency/Disaster Management. It was created to standardize practices and provide a means of proactively managing incidents of all sizes and hazards. NIMS is composed of the components Preparedness, Command and Management, Communication and Public Information, Resource Management, and Ongoing Maintenance which includes supporting technologies.

NIMS compliance is a requirement for government organizations at all levels seeking certain grant funding. It is not a requirement at the private business and individual level, with the exception of a few critical national infrastructure organizations. The secret of this system is that it is extremely flexible and can be used by any organization to streamline processes and used as a planning template. Each of the core components are directly compatable with common private business terms. Below are the descriptions.

Preparedness- This component refers to an organization creating emergency and continue of operations plans and training their people on these plans. The NIMS document directs this component to government organzations, however the underlying principle can also help an individual organization be better prepared and able to recover from a major disaster much faster. In the private sector world being out of operation means no revenue being generated and eventually be out of business. This not only hurts the business but the workers and owners as well.

Communications and Information Management- A key ingredient for every organzation is communication channels. This component refers to creating a communications plan. Communication plans outline communications methods the organization uses, such as cell phones. The plan will have a call list with names and phone numbers of the people in the office. The second part of information management is commonly called a marketing program in the private business sector and public information system in the public government sector. This component refers to how an organization will deliver infomation to the public.

Command and Management- All organizations have a management system. One part of this establishes common terms for incident management. The Incident Command System or ICS is used by most public organizations throughout the nation. All private organizations use the basic job descriptions for daily activities; they just have different names.

Incident Commander or Emergency Manager- the main decision maker of the private organization.

Logicstics Section Chief- the person in charge of finding and ordering needed supplies.

Operations Section Chief- commonly called operations managers in the private sector.

Planning Section Chief- the person responsible for assembling the incident action plan and in drafting all other organizational plans..

Finanace and Administration Section Chief- the person responsible for tracking expenses and working hours, including paying the workers. Purchasing for the organization and negotiating contracts are also key tasks for this sections.

The second part of the command and mangement component is the Mulit-Agency Coordination System (MACS). This system is composed of senior leaders from all sectors and organizations in an area. This the level where policies are made. The private business sector is represented by chambers of commerce in many cases or choose to represent their own organization. This is actually the most important part of effective large scale disaster recovery, as it involves everyone. One idea for local businesses is to organize their own type of coordination system and have an idea of things to do when a major disaster hits and disrupts regular activities.

Resource Management- this is the process of designing and maintaining a resource tracking sytem for all resources an organization has on a regular basis. Many organizations refer to this process as inventory or inventory tracking.

Ongoing Maintenance- this component recognizes that times change and so should plans, process, and other related things. An organization should review their plans and procedures on a regular basis and update as needed. The second part of this NIMS component is supporting technologies. In the private world it is commonly referred to as Enterprise Architecture. The main point of this practice is to use technology to support the core capabilities of the organization but not design the business around technology. Architecture and Governance magazine is a great resource for this topic.

The NIMS document can serve as a method of developing business plans by using the main components as an outline and then filling in organization specific items. Many times getting started on something is the hardest part of a project. Finding templates that have the initial parts outlined are great for the beginning of a new project, even if the entire thing was changed by the end at least we got started.

Tom McKnight

Emergency Management Specialist

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