NIMS Frequently Asked Questions
About the NIMS Integration Center
The organization of the NIMS Integration Center reflects its critical focus on functions necessary for the nationwide implementation of the NIMS by incident managers and responders at all levels – federal, state, local and tribal. Its job is to manage and maintain the NIMS and to oversee the development of tools and resources that will help incident managers use the NIMS system to respond effectively to events, no matter what the size or scope.
Following are descriptions of the Center’s functional organization along with questions and answers that we believe NIMS network participants are likely to want information about at this point in the process. We invite you to ask the NIC questions you would like answered by writing to us at NIMS-INTEGRATION-CENTER@DHS.GOV.
Standards And Resources
This part of the NIMS Integration Center will focus on the development of a national system of guidelines, protocols and standards for the implementation of the NIMS system. For example, NIMS requires the qualification and certification of incident response personnel. This requires national standards for qualifying and certifying personnel and will ensure that agencies and organizations involved in incident response will be able to request and deploy personnel with the knowledge, skills and experience to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Question: Can you please discuss in detail the kinds of national standards the NIC will help develop?
Answer: The NIC will facilitate the development of national standards needed in a range of areas to increase the effectiveness of incident response operations. For example, it will facilitate the development of national standards to ensure interoperability of equipment and communications and the certification of emergency response and incident management personnel. This means it will work on the development of standardized criteria for the qualification, training and certification of response personnel. It will promote compatibility among NIMS national level standards and those developed by other public, private and professional groups. And it will facilitate the development of a system of typed and categorized resources, to include equipment, teams and personnel.
Question: Do NIMS standards currently exist?
Answer: Standards are currently being developed specifically for NIMS by the NIC, however, there currently exist several standards for incident command or incident management systems, and these are being reviewed for consideration by the NIC. As NIMS standards are developed they will be posted on the NIC Web page and jurisdictions will be notified through information bulletins.
Question: Isn’t FEMA already working on a National Mutual Aid and Resource Management System?
Answer: Yes. This FEMA initiative supports the NIMS and is part of the Center’s Standards and Resources effort. The system’s work team, the National Resource Management Working Group, has been working on a national protocol for typing response resources. An initial 60 resources have been typed and can be found on the FEMA.GOV Web site at http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/rm/ma.shtm. The system will assist all federal, state and local jurisdictions locate, request and order resources through mutual aid agreements when local capabilities are overwhelmed.
Question: We currently use the ICS for our incident response operations. How will our current ICS system relate to the NIMS?
Answer: The NIMS utilizes ICS as a standard incident management organization for the management of all major incidents. These functional areas include command, operations, planning, logistics and finance/administration. Additionally, the principle of unified command has been incorporated into NIMS to ensure further coordination for incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or agencies. This unified command component not only coordinates the efforts of many jurisdictions, but also provides for and assures joint decision on objectives, strategies, plans, priorities and public communications.
Question: What constitutes "full NIMS implementation" or "full NIMS compliance" in FY2007, starting 10/1/06? We've seen that phrase used in NIMS documents, but we can't find a specific description of what it means. Is it just completion of the activities begun in FY2005, or is it something more than that? What is "full NIMS implementation" is supposed to look like at the state, local and tribal government levels?
Answer: Specific NIMS requirements for "full NIMS compliance" to be completed during FY 2006 have not yet been released. Everything that is required for FY 2005 compliance activities is outlined on the NIMS page on the FEMA.GOV Web site, in a summary document that is derived from the Secretary's letter to the governors, and the letter itself. http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/index.shtm
Question: What does "institutionalizing the use of ICS" mean?
Answer: To "institutionalize the use of ICS" means that government officials, incident managers and emergency response organizations at all jurisdictional levels adopt the Incident Command System and launch activities [in FY 2005] that will result in the use of the Incident Command System for all incident response operations. Actions to institutionalize the use of ICS take place at two levels - policy and organizational/operational.
At the policy level, institutionalizing the ICS means government officials, i.e., governors, mayors, county and city managers, tribal leaders and others:
Adopt through the ICS through executive order, proclamation or legislation as the jurisdiction's official incident response system; and
Direct that incident managers and response organizations in their jurisdictions train, exercise and use the ICS in their response operations.
At the organizational/operational level, evidence that incident managers and emergency response organizations are institutionalizing the ICS would include the following:
ICS is being integrated into functional and system-wide emergency operations policies, plans and procedures;
ICS training is planned or under way for responders, supervisors and command level officers; and
Responders at all levels are participating in and/or coordinating ICS-oriented exercises that involve responders from multi-disciplines and jurisdictions.
While it is not expected that all these activities would be completed in FY 2005, it is expected that where possible they will be and that, at a minimum, planning for such activities would be initiated and actions taken to put them into practice.
Question: The document on the NIMS Web page titled "NIMS Compliance Activities to be Achieved during FY2005" is a very helpful summary. So too is the document titled "NIMS Terms and definitions: Institutionalizing the use of ICS." It appears, though, that the "Institutionalizing ICS" explanation broadens the FY2005 NIMS compliance requirements for tribes and local governments, by passing down to them some of the 10 compliance actions that previously were required only of states. If true, was that an intentional change?
Answer: What the feds are looking for in institutionalizing the ICS - the "institutionalizing the ICS" explanation posted on the NIMS Homepage does not broaden FY 2005 NIMS compliance requirements for tribes and local governments. The section pertaining to tribal and local governments refers to three actions that would indicate that ICS is being instituted:
1. ICS is being integrated into functional and system-wide emergency operations policies, plans and procedures;
2. ICS training is planned or under way for responders, supervisors and command level officers;
3. Responders at all levels are participating in and/or coordinating ICS-oriented exercises that involve responders from multi-disciplines and jurisdictions.
The statement goes on to say that it is not expected that these actions would be completed in FY 2005, but that planning would be initiated and some action taken to start the process of institutionalizing ICS.
Question: Are school districts required to be NIMS compliant? Has there been any clarification as to the need for public school district personnel to take any NIMS courses?
Answer: Since school districts are an integral part of local government, their use of NIMS should be achieved in close coordination with other components of the local government. School districts are not traditional response organizations and more typically are recipients of first responder services provided by fire and rescue, emergency medical and law enforcement agencies. This traditional relationship should be acknowledged in achieving NIMS compliance within an integrated local government plan for NIMS compliance. School district participation in local government's NIMS preparedness program is essential to ensure that first responder services are delivered to schools in a timely and effective manner. It would be useful for staff and teachers to take the IS-700 NIMS introductory course, but not required by the NIMS Integration Center.
Question: What is the relationship between NIMS, the NRP and COOP?
Answer: Continuity of Operations (COOP) missions, plans and guidance are not directly affected by the National Incident Management System and the National Response System, although some essential functions within COOP plans may be impacted. Although it is not required, agencies may want to update their COOP plans to incorporate NIMS and NRP- related operations terms and position titles. COOP refers to activities of government departments and agencies and their sub-components to ensure that essential functions are carried out in times of emergencies and disasters. While federal agencies are required to do so, state and local entities may want to put plans into place to establish alternate operational sites during emergencies.
Question: Are public universities, colleges and community colleges required to comply with the NIMS requirements? What about colleges that don't have a police agency but may provide shelters through their local county emergency management office. In this case would a college need to be NIMS compliant?
Answer: If a college has a police department, that police department would need to be NIMS compliant. Also the college's POC that would be working within the Incident Command System and coordinating the college's role in an emergency response should receive some level of NIMS and ICS training.
Question: I still do not understand what NIMS is. Could you explain to me what benefit our small fire department will gain from using NIMS?
Answer: The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was developed to provide a system that would help emergency managers and responders from different jurisdictions and disciplines work together more effectively to handle emergencies and disasters. Most incidents are handled on a daily basis by a single, local jurisdiction at the local level, often by fire personnel, EMS and law enforcement. But even for incidents that are relatively limited in scope, coordination and cooperation among the responding organizations makes for a more effective response.
When the NIMS is adopted and used nationwide it will form a standardized, unified framework for incident management within which government and private entities at all levels can work together effectively. The NIMS provides a set of standardized organizational structures such as the Incident Command System and standardized processes, procedures and systems. These processes and procedures are designed to improve interoperability among jurisdictions and disciplines in various areas -- command and management, resource management, training, communications.
Question: The NIMS document mentions a credentialing system tied to training and certification standards. Is there a national credentialing system in place that we need to follow?
Answer: The creation of a nationwide credentialing system is a fundamental component of the National Incident Management System (http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/index.shtm) and the National Mutual Aid and Resource Management initiative. This system will recognize both availability and capability, including qualifications, certifications and accreditations of response personnel. This will further reinforce current state-to-state relationships in existing mutual aid systems. Establishing a national credentialing system will incorporate existing governmental and non-governmental standards of all disciplines into a "national standard." This will allow the nation to adopt a uniform credentialing system that facilitates immediate and routine identification and dispatch of the appropriate and qualified personnel resources to any incident. The credentialing initiative will focus initially on the following disciplines—Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, Firefighting and Hazardous Materials Response, Law Enforcement, Health Care, Public Health, Public Works, and Search and Rescue. The Center also is working to identify existing credentialing efforts and stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels. If you have additional questions or are interested in participating in the initiative, contact the NIMS Integration Center at NIMS-Integration-Center@DHS.gov.
The development of a nationwide credentialing system is a fundamental component of NIMS. The NIMS Integration Center has launched an effort to develop a National Emergency Responder Credentialing System that will provide incident commanders and supporting multi-agency coordination systems with the means to verify, quickly and accurately, the identity and qualifications of emergency personnel responding to an incident. A national credentialing system can document minimum professional qualifications, certifications, training and education requirements that define baseline criteria expected of emergency response professionals and volunteers. While such a system is meant to verify the identity and qualifications of emergency responders, it does not provide automatic access to an incident site. The NIMS Integration Center's credentialing system can help prevent unauthorized, i.e., self-dispatched or unqualified personnel, access to an incident site. To support this credentialing initiative, the Center will use working groups to identify positions that should be credentialed and the minimum qualification, certification, training and education requirements for each position. The groups will represent the following disciplines:
• Incident Management
• Emergency Medical Services
• Firefighting and Hazardous Materials Response
• Law Enforcement
• Health Care
• Public Health
• Public Works
• Search & Rescue
Although the NIMS Integration Center recently concluded the process of identifying subject matter experts for its working groups, we still would like to learn of all existing credentialing efforts, regardless of discipline, and welcome your participation into our stakeholder review group. As a stakeholder, you will receive updates concerning the working group process and be able to review and provide feedback on the draft products that are developed. If you are interested in participating as a stakeholder, please contact the NIC via phone at 202.646.3850 or send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
Training And Exercises
The Training and Exercises Branch will develop a national program for NIMS education and awareness, including specific instruction on the purpose and content of the document and NIMS in general. It will facilitate the definition of general training requirements and national-level training standards as well as course curricula associated with the NIMS. It will facilitate the development of national standards, guidelines and protocols for incident management training and exercises, including consideration of existing exercise and training programs at all jurisdictional levels.
Question: Why must my organization conduct National Incident Management System (NIMS) training and exercises?
Answer: HSPD–5 requires federal departments and agencies to make adoption of NIMS by state and local organizations a condition for federal preparedness assistance by FY 2005. Organizations and personnel at all governmental levels and in the private sector must be trained to improve all-hazard incident management capability. These organizations and personnel must also participate in realistic exercises to improve integration and interoperability.
Question: How will the NIMS Integration Center (NIC) assist jurisdictions in meeting NIMS training and exercise needs?
Answer: The NIMS Integration Center will:
Facilitate the development of and the dissemination of national standards, guidelines and protocols for incident management training;
Facilitate the use of modeling and simulation in training and exercise programs;
Define general training requirements and approved training courses for all NIMS users, including instructor qualifications and course completion documentation; and
Review and approve, with the assistance of key stakeholders, discipline-specific training requirements and courses.
Question: What role does the NIC have in determining emergency response personnel NIMS qualification and certification?
Answer: Under NIMS, preparedness is based on national standards for qualification and certification of emergency response personnel. Managed by the NIC, standards will help ensure that the participating agencies’ and organizations’ field personnel possess the minimum knowledge, skills and experience necessary to perform activities safely and effectively.
Question: Will NIMS training be one of the NIMS-related standards?
Answer: Yes. The standards will include training, experience, credentialing, currency and physical and medical fitness. Personnel who are certified to support interstate incidents will be required to meet national qualification and certification standards.
Question: What NIMS training is currently available to jurisdictions?
Answer: The Emergency Management Institute (A DHS/FEMA component) has developed a Web-based course that is entitled, "The National Incident Management System" an Introduction. The course is available free of charge to U.S. residents via the FEMA training website http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/is700.asp.
The course describes the purpose, principles, key components and benefits of NIMS. Also included in the course are on-line “Planning Activity” tools that help the user to measure how compliant his/her organization is with NIMS.
Question: What information does the National Incident Management System, an Introduction course provide?
Answer: After completing the course, participants will be able to:
Describe the key concepts and principles underlying NIMS;
Identify the benefits of using ICS as the national incident management model;
Describe when it is appropriate to institute an Area Command;
Describe when it is appropriate to institute a Multiagency Coordination System;
Describe the benefits of using a Joint Information system (JIS) for public information;
Identify the ways in which NIMS affects preparedness;
Describe how NIMS affects how resources are managed;
Describe the advantages of common communication and information management systems;
Explain how NIMS influences technology and technology systems; and
Describe the purpose of the NIMS Integration Center.
Question: Who should take the IS-700 NIMS, An Introduction course?
Answer: Last September when the Secretary of Homeland Security sent a letter to the nation’s governors, he outlined a series of steps that must be taken and actions that should be taken in FY 2005 to become compliant with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Specifically the letter said that state, territorial, tribal and local level jurisdictions should support NIMS implementation by completing the NIMS awareness course National Incident Management System, An Introduction - IS 700. This independent study course explains the purpose, principles, key components and benefits of NIMS.
The Secretary clearly intended to provide discretion to state, territorial, tribal and local governments in deciding which and what level emergency personnel should take the course. As further guidance, the NIMS Integration Center encourages all emergency personnel with a direct role in emergency preparedness, incident management or response take the NIMS course by Oct. 1, 2005. It is offered free-of-charge through the Emergency Management Institute at http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/crslist.asp.
The NIMS Integration Center suggests that the following take the course in FY'05:
Executive Level – Political and government leaders, agency and organization administrators and department heads; personnel that fill ICS roles as Unified Commanders, Incident Commanders, Command Staff, General Staff in either Area Command or single incidents; senior level Multi-Agency Coordination System personnel; senior emergency managers; and Emergency Operations Center Command or General Staff.
Managerial Level – Agency and organization management between the executive level and first level supervision; personnel who fill ICS roles as Branch Directors, Division/Group Supervisors, Unit Leaders, technical specialists, strike team and task force leaders, single resource leaders and field supervisors; midlevel Multi-Agency Coordination System personnel;
EOC Section Chiefs, Branch Directors, Unit Leaders;
and other emergency management/response personnel who require a higher level of ICS/NIMS Training.
Responder Level – Emergency response providers and disaster workers, entry level to managerial level including Emergency Medical Service personnel;
firefighters; medical personnel; police officers; public health personnel;
public works/utility personnel; and other emergency management response personnel.
The NIMS introductory course very likely will be a requirement in FY'06 for state, territorial, tribal and local personnel who have emergency assignments at any level of government. Full NIMS compliance is required by Oct. 1, 2006, (FY 2007).
The NIMS Integration Center: March 4, 2005
Question: Is current Incident Command System (ICS) training applicable to NIMS?
Answer: The NIMS recognizes the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) ICS training as a model for course curricula and materials applicable to the NIMS:
ICS-100, Introduction to ICS
ICS-200, Basic ICS
ICS-300, Intermediate ICS
ICS-400, Advanced ICS
The USFA’s National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute both follow this model in their ICS training curricula. At the local level, agencies may contact the fire department for information and training on ICS.
Question: Since receiving hospital personnel are not listed in the Training Development Guidance document recently released, we have the following questions regarding NIMS training requirements for hospital personnel:
1) Do hospital personnel who have been previously trained in HEICS need to be re-trained in NIMS in order for a receiving hospital to be NIMS compliant?
2) Would refresher training including NIMS / HEICS IV updates (when released) be sufficient for achieving compliance?
3) If these issues have not been previously considered, we suggest a training curriculum similar to ICS-402 specifically adapted to hospital and other healthcare personnel who will not be onsite at the incident but who will be receiving patients from the other ICS trained and coordinated responders.
Answer: Currently there is a group working on revising HEICS and it is our understanding that they are focusing on making HEICS NIMS compliant. In the meantime, hospital personnel should familiarize themselves with the NIMS by completing the NIMS awareness training. IS-700 NIMS, An Introduction is available online at http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/is/is700.asp. Additionally, it would be a good idea for them to take the ICS Introduction course, IS-100, from the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) at http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/is/is100.asp. IS-200, ICS Basic also is available through EMI.
Question: IS-700: Do responders already ICS trained have to take it?
Answer: Personnel who have already had ICS training should also take the NIMS awareness course. It will help them understand the NIMS, its principles and underlying components. IS-700 is basically an introduction to the NIMS. It's true that the course also focuses on ICS basics, however the course places ICS within the context of NIMS.
It is up to to the states to determine who in their jurisdictions should have the training, but we are urging that all emergency response/emergency management personnel take the introductory NIMS training. It is provided free of charge through the Emergency Management Institute Virtual Campus, at http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/IS/is700.asp. It is an independent online study course that takes about three hours to complete.
Question: Our Fire Department currently has SOPs in place for incident command. All 174 members have completed the IS 700 and the NFA ICS course. However, we utilize vocabulary differently in our policies (Fire Command – Sectors, etc.) rather than specific terminology that is described in NIMS. In order to meet compliance, does it matter which ICS that is used (NIIMS, Firescope, Fire Command (Brunnacini), etc.)?
Answer: The NIMS ICS is based on NIIMs ICS, Firescope and NWCG ICS, which are therefore NIMS compliant, for now. However, all ICS curriculums are currently being revised to more accurately reflect the NIMS, including Firescope, NWCG and ICS as taught by the National Fire Academy. Fire Ground Command is not NIMS compliant.
Question: In the NIMS Implementation Plan Template that is posted on your Web page, the term "employees" is used in reference to staff training. We have a question concerning unpaid volunteers and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. Should they be included in the projected training?
Answer: We strongly recommend that volunteers and CERT team members receive NIMS and ICS training. They are part of the emergency response community.
Question: Do all elected officials in city or county government need to take NIMS training?
Answer: The NIMS Integration Center recommends that state, local and tribal political and government leaders, agency and organization administrators and department heads all take IS-700 NIMS, An Introduction. This independent study course explains the purpose, principles, key components and benefits of NIMS. It also briefly covers ICS, which is of particular benefit for those who are less familiar with it.
The Center encourages also all emergency personnel with a direct role in emergency preparedness, incident management or response take the NIMS course. It is offered free-of-charge through the Emergency Management Institute at http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/crslist.asp.
Question: Do private industrial emergency response teams -- those involved in off-site incident response -- need to take IS-700?
Answer: Private industrial emergency response teams should take IS-700. They will most likely be working with local emergency response agencies when it comes to large emergency incidents. The NIMS Integration Center recommends that all emergency responders, public and private, be ICS and NIMS trained, including IS-700.
Evaluation And Compliance
This part of the NIC will develop the assessment criteria for the various components of the NIMS, as well as compliance requirements and compliance timelines for federal, state, local and tribal entities regarding NIMS standards and guidelines. It will establish and maintain a repository and clearinghouse for reports and lessons learned from actual incidents, training and exercises, as well as for best practices, model structures and model processes for NIMS-related functions.
Question: How long do jurisdictions have to adopt NIMS?
Answer: Adoption of NIMS will progress in stages. Each stage will be referenced against standards; training criteria associated with the functions or tasks; the availability of training programs and technical assistance, and the provision of evaluation methods that jurisdictions may use to review and assess their programs against NIMS requirements. Implementing the NIMS is a dynamic process and maintenance will be required on an ongoing basis, not a single action program.
Question: Is adoption of NIMS a requirement for receipt of grant funds?
Answer: As mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5, beginning in FY 2005, adoption of NIMS will be a condition for the receipt of federal preparedness funds, including grants, contracts and other activities.
Question: How will jurisdictions be measured, evaluated and assessed in FY 2004?
Answer: In the short term, jurisdictions will be considered to be in compliance the NIMS by adopting the Incident Command System and NIMS principles and policies. Other aspects of the NIMS will require additional development and refinement to enable compliance at a future date.
Question: How will compliance be measured against NIMS evaluation criteria?
Answer: Compliance protocols, standards and guidelines for determining whether jurisdictions are compliant are currently under development. NIC customers will be notified and these materials are completed and posted on the NIMS Integration Center Web page.
Question: How will jurisdictions be measured against NIMS during the period 2005 to 2009?
Answer: The NIC will be developing additional NIMS compliance guidance as time progresses and jurisdictions will be provided resources to help them through the NIMS compliance process. The NIMS should be seen as a living document that will require continuous maintenance by the jurisdictions implementing it.
National Incident Management System Compliance Assurance Support Tool (NIMSCAST)
We mentioned complete the NIMSCAST to establish a baseline; this is our way to comply with the requirement “in order to receive FY 2006 preparedness funding, applicants will need to certify as part of their FY 2006 grant applications that they have met the FY 2005 NIMS requirements.”
Question: What is the NIMSCAST?
Answer: NIMSCAST stands for National Incident Management System Capability Assessment Support Tool. The NIMSCAST is a web-based self-assessment tool designed to aid state, local, and tribal organizations and jurisdictions in determining their capabilities and compliance against the requirements established in the recently released National Incident Management System (NIMS)
The NIMSCAST is designed for incident and resource managers as a comprehensive self-assessment support tool. It helps users assess the current level of their jurisdiction or organization's incident preparedness against the requirements outlined in the NIMS. Using the NIMSCAST to identify weaknesses in incident preparedness will help incident and resource managers become compliant with NIMS by FY 2006, as required by the NIMS.
As a self-assessment support tool, the NIMSCAST not only aids users to become compliant with the NIMS, but also supports incident and resource managers seeking to enhance and maximize the effectiveness of their incident preparedness as a central point for identifying and acquiring resources. For more information see, https://www.fema.gov/nimcast/index.jsp.
Question: What does the NIMSCAST do?
Answer: The NIMSCAST is designed for incident and resource managers as a comprehensive self-assessment support tool. The NIMSCAST allows users to assess the current status/level of their respective jurisdiction's or organization's incident preparedness against the requirements outlined in the NIMS. Using the NIMSCAST as a method of identifying weaknesses in incident preparedness will assist incident and resource managers to become compliant with NIMS by FY 2006, as required by the NIMS. As a self-assessment support tool, the NIMSCAST not only aids users to become compliant with the NIMS, but also supports incident and resource managers seeking to enhance and maximize the effectiveness of their incident preparedness as a central point for identifying and acquiring resources.
Question: How is the NIMSCAST assembled?
Answer: The NIMSCAST is based on the requirements found in the NIMS document. All questions are in a "Yes/No" format. Each chapter of NIMS is broken down by sections that include compliance requirements. The language found in NIMS that outlines the requirement(s) accompanies each question in the NIMSCAST. Some questions include information providing help or clarification for answering the particular question.