National Incident Management System (NIMS)

In response to an emergency incident, multiple departments frequently need to coordinate their collective efforts. This often involves internal and external departments and/or jurisdictions. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is designed to provide a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents. The intent is to ensure that a collaborative management approach can be applied in response to incidents that require multiple jurisdictions, a combination of specialties or disciplines, several levels of government, non-government organizations and the private sector.

NIMS is implemented as a municipality-wide program and would probably include multiple departments within each jurisdiction, as well as agreements with adjacent jurisdictions. NIMS is intended to integrate best practices into a comprehensive, standardized framework that is flexible enough to be applicable across the full spectrum of potential incidents, regardless of cause, size, location or complexity. NIMS allows everyone to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents.

NIMS is not to be construed as just another unfunded mandate from the Federal government. It is not a requirement for everyone. Federal departments and agencies must implement the program, and while other non-government entities and local governments are not required to implement it, they are encouraged to do so. Developing and adopting a program in accordance with NIMS qualifies State, tribal, and local organizations for Federal preparedness assistance through grants, contracts and other activities.

It also provides a guideline to follow in accordance with the Federal government’s incident management program, which agencies can use when developing their own program. NIMS achieves this through the integration of best practices and by providing mechanisms for further development and refinement of supporting national standards, guidelines, protocols, systems and technologies. It is intended to be dynamic, to allow each local government to choose the means that best support their needs. The goal of NIMS is for everyone to understand their roles and resources, and to be prepared should an incident occur. It is not a manual or resource to turn to once an event has already occurred.

The National Response Framework (NRF) is a guide to how the Nation conducts all-hazards response and builds upon the NIMS coordinating structure to align key roles and responsibilities Nationwide. The program is designed to be managed at the local level, with local jurisdictions retaining command, control and authority over response activities in their jurisdiction.

To help agencies better understand NIMS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has updated its course offerings. The course entitled IS-700.a, NIMS An Introduction is recommended for all who are interested in or required to respond during an unforeseen incident. This no-cost, web-based interactive course describes the intent of NIMS, key concepts and principles underlying NIMS, the purpose of the various NIMS components, and the purpose of the National Integration Center. The course does not require any previous training or knowledge. It is an independent study program that takes approximately three hours to complete, and can be taken at any time.

This and many other related course offerings are available on the FEMA training website.

Other training

FEMA Independent Study Program (ISP)

Additional Resource

FEMA, Emergency Management Institute, IS-700.a, NIMS an Introduction, November 2010.

Fall 2010

CLRP Library logo

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License icon

This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.