The United States National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a federally standardized approach to the creation of a management structure to respond to emergency incidents. It has been developed by the Homeland Security Department in 2004 and is an evolving and growing process…
It consolidates communications, logistics, and planning under a central command center. NIMS is designed to operate at the local incident level as well as handle large-scale emergency situations such as natural disasters and acts of terrorism.
The NIMS is broad and sweeping in its definitions and goals that encompass training, certification, public information systems, and funding. This paper will discuss the benefits of the current NIMS document as presented and outline the underlying weaknesses of the overall management approach.
An overriding benefit of NIMS is that it spells out a chain of command for an emergency incident response. It sets standardization for the chain of command and the management structure. This can help reduce the uncertainty that exists in an emergency situation as well as minimize the competing interests that agencies may have and eliminate the conflict for control of resources.
A lesson learned from hurricane Katrina was the necessity, as well as the vulnerability, of the public communications network. During a large-scale disaster, many networks will be inoperable resulting in working systems becoming overloaded. In the case of a multiple agency response, there will be problems of network frequency and format compatibility. The NIMS has attempted to address this critical issue.
The NIMS provides for a Communications Unit whose responsib...
The centralized logistics and supply component of NIMS provides for a unified management of all the necessary logistics that are involved in the emergency response. A single source for all supplies will make the supply channels more clear and that should result in reducing response times. They can also establish staging areas and satellite locations as needed to supply outlying victims and response personnel. This approach to material supply has an advantage over the random distribution of food, fuel, and supplies that would exist on a local or regional level.
The establishment of a Joint Information Center (JIC) will aid in creating a central information repository. As the information is routed through a central location, it can be assimilated and can help get a better picture and evaluation of a large-scale disaster. Information can be rapidly checked for credibility and disseminated to the interested parties. The JIC can eliminate the breakdown in the public warning system and aid in the assessment of ongoing threats.
One of the vulnerabilities of the NIMS structure is its reliance on bureaucratic systems to operate in an ever-changing environment. This organizational model has several drawbacks in its present form. The need to follow rigid guidelines and chain of command does not lend itself to the efficient management of an unfolding event such as a natural disaster. Smaller teams and control units may be able to react quicker to the evolving events during a hurricane than the highly defined structure of the NIMS.
There may also be local resistance to the NIMS from self-interested agencies, volunteers, and community groups. While these groups may be able to serve as an adjunct to the NIMS, there is the ...
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