[cifnmedia] NIMS Info............a must read

  • From: "Randall W. Ruble" <randallruble@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Randy" <randallruble@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Mar 2004 18:37:59 -0600


NIMS: The Last Word on Incident Command?

 Pat West, Senior Editor

Online Exclusive, Mar 5 2004 

Will the fire service, which has used and fiercely debated incident command
for 20 years, get on board with the National Incident Command System DHS
Secretary Ridge approved Monday? If you want any federal dollars starting in
FY 2005, you must. Find out what else you need to know about NIMS in this
interview with Chief John Buckman, a member of the panel that helped DHS
develop it.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Monday approved the
National <http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NIMS-90-web.pdf>
Incident Management System, the nation's first standardized incident
management plan for federal, state and local lines of government to respond
to all types of emergencies. 

Chief John M. Buckman of German Township (Ind.), representing the
International Association of Fire Chiefs, helped shape NIMS as a member of
the DHS State, Tribal and Local Advisory Group. The chief of German Township
Volunteer Fire & Rescue for 27 years and past president of the IAFC, Buckman
knows well the challenges of today's fire chiefs. The State, Tribal and
Local Advisory Group also assisted with the development of the Interim
National Response Plan approved by Ridge last October and is working with
DHS to develop the final National Response Plan, expected to be complete
this summer. Buckman offered these thoughts on NIMS in a FIRE CHIEF
interview Wednesday.

What's the most important thing for fire service officials to know about the
National Incident Management System?

The NIMS document that we have is not really new to the fire service. The
fire service has been fighting over incident command for 20 years. Some
support the FireScope system, others the Fire Command system, and others the
National Fire Academy system. What we've said now with the NIMS document is
that it's not just a fire service issue. We're expanding (incident
management) to include all the agencies involved in response to emergencies
- beyond police, EMS and fire -- to include all the government agencies that
will respond to a disaster as well as some private organizations. This now
includes such agencies as the Department of Transportation; Fish, Game and
Wildlife; public utilities, etc. What NIMS does is give everyone a template
to organize their response to assist in an emergency. Even agencies
responding to events that don't involve the fire service, like the EPA in an
environmental disaster, will also be organized in the same way. For the
first time in history we have a common and consistent template that we'll
begin implementing all across this country.   

Do you think devotees of the various versions of incident command will fall
in line under NIMS? 

I think it will be a struggle for some of those groups to fully adopt and
adapt to the NIMS program, but it's important that we come together and that
we drop what may be our best interests and do what's best for this country,
which is to adopt one incident management system that has consistent
organizational structure, terminology, typing of resources and credentials.
The NIMS document that we have before us today is the first step in trying
to bring consistency to the management of emergency incidents - from
everyday, routine incidents to the most complex disasters.

As I said before, the concepts of the Incident Command System in NIMS and
other procedures should be very familiar to the fire service. We've been
using the standard positions of Command, Operations, Logistics,
Finance/Administration and Planning for years. They've been taught at the
National Emergency Training Center for over 10 years; they've been used in
the wildfire community for more than 20 years. Even fire departments that
use the Fireground Command System should be able to easily adapt their local
command structure to the National Incident Management System. 

So NIMS is very similar to the incident command systems used by most fire

That's correct. It's significantly the same. NIMS will become the model not
just for the fire department, but for everyone. The way it is today, we have
agencies that respond to assist police and fire departments that don't have
a command structure to operate in emergency systems. In their everyday
business, it may take days or weeks to make a decision. When we're dealing
with an emergency in which lives are at stake and property is being
threatened, we have to make decisions in minutes and agencies need a command
structure to accomplish that. 
Is there anything significantly new that fire service incident commanders
and officials need to learn in the NIMS document?

Oh, yes. There is a significant new position in NIMS called the Principal
Federal Official..  The Principal Federal Official will be the coordinating
authority for the federal government. So if you get on scene and you need
anything from the federal government, the PFO has the ultimate authority;
he's the person who can make it happen. If you need resources, whether it be
the FBI, the CIA, the military, the ATF, the Fire Administration, whatever
those resources are, this person can either make it happen or will tell you
it can't happen. 
Now, according to my read of the document, this is not just a matter of ICS.
It appears NIMS compliance at some point is going to require
interoperability of voice communications and data systems. Is that correct? 

Well, that could be correct in a dream world. But that area will be explored
very slowly and very softly, because if the federal government were to
demand interoperability at the state and local level, it would have to be
willing to pay for it. And so far nobody has been willing to pay to reduce
the interoperability challenges that state and local governments have. 

What you are going to see is that the federal government is going to insist
that if you want money from it for disaster preparation, mitigation or
prevention, that you will have in place at the state, local and tribal level
the implementation of the NIMS project. 

And that's going to be required in FY 2005. Correct?


Is that going to include FIRE Grants and First Responder Grants? 

The best we know, yes, it will include all of that.

Does NIMS include training opportunities? 

We don't know. We have asked about that. But there is going to have to be
training. The federal government can't demand that state, tribal and local
governments do things without providing funding. I should say past practices
have been that when the federal government demands something of state,
tribal and local governments, it provides the funding to those governmental
agencies to implement the federal wants..Some implementation will have to
begin in FY 2005, which begins in October 2004. 

But the fire service is not going to have a problem with this. We already
use unified command. We already use the incident command system, being the
positions of Command, Operations, Logistics, Planning and
Finance/Administration. We may sometimes call those boxes something
different, but I believe that it's time we recognize consistency in
organizing and managing an event is a critical aspect. Whether it's in rural
America or urban America, there has to be some consistency.  

So this is something that fire chiefs are just going to have to know and to
keep up with.

Right. They're going to have to know, they're going to have modify their
existing policies or they're going to have to develop new policies that
bring them into compliance IF they want the federal government's money. I
believe whether they want federal money or not, it's in the best interest of
all firefighters that we use a consistent incident command/management system
throughout America.

They have to know the system anyway in case a major incident occurs in their
area so they can work with everybody (federal resources), and if you don't
know NIMS, you're going to be.

Lost! You won't know how to integrate yourself, your firefighters or your
department into an emergency incident. This is another step in the
discipline process of making firefighters accountable. Having an incident
management incident system in place at the state, tribal and local level
will prevent firefighters from freelancing -- whether it's on a house fire,
a tornado, earthquake or terrorist event . It will prevent firefighters who
self dispatch themselves from getting on the scene and going to work without
coordination through local incident commanders. This is a first step. It's
not the end; it's a first step. 
Should they be getting familiar with this to use it every day? 

Absolutely. We all use it every day anyway. One of the things about incident
command is you do not create positions unless you have something to manage.
When you respond to an automobile accident with one patient, you have an
incident commander who is responsible for logistics, planning, finance and
operations. If you went to an incident in which you had a school bus flipped
over and you had 40 kids in that bus, you would then have an incident
commander, an operations chief (who would then have subdirectories under him
or her to help do extrication, patient triage and removal and then
transportation); the logistics officer will be the one who is going to get
you the ambulances; the planning officer -- if you need a planning officer
-- will be the one that's going to plan what we're going to do after hour
four and how we're going to sustain this incident. And the
finance/administration officer is the one who's going to track all this
stuff so you can bill the appropriate agency or persons. 

Absolutely, this is used every day from a car accident to a house fire to a
high rise fire to a hazardous materials event. Again, it allows you the
flexibility to modularize and build your incident management system based on
the management needs of the incident.   

So this system should be familiar to everyone who knows ICS, but they may
need to learn some new terms? 

Right. That may be. What their local practices may refer to something as -
that's not saying they can't still refer to it as that, but when they invite
other agencies, they need to refer to it as the "common name." The fire
service has got to get past what I would consider to be the little things,
such as, "Do we call them 'sectors' or 'divisions'?" Let's look at the big
picture, and say, "We need to agree to have a consistent incident management
system." And that's what we have tried to do with this project 

We know that the NIMS is a living breathing document. The IAFC is very
interested in the second phase of the continued development of this
document, what the NIMS Integration Center will be, how it will be staffed
and what input the fire service will have in the future of the next NIMS

And when will that be implemented? October 2004?

We don't really know. We don't know when the Integration Center members are
going to be appointed. If you look in the document, it says this Integration
Center will look at disasters, see what worked, what didn't work and what
changes need to be made to the NIMS document. Will they make changes
monthly? I hope not. Will they make changes annually? I would think at the
most that's what we ought to be doing, unless there's some glaring error

But one of the things that I think makes this document strong is that there
were practitioners sitting at the table to develop it. When this document
was first written, it was written as if the federal government was going to
respond to an automobile accident and take care of it, when the fact is, all
emergencies are local. They start with local people and they end with local
people. You may invite a whole lot of other people in the middle, but they
start and end locally. But what we were able to do is we were able to take a
document that was written from the federal perspective and influence it into
what I believe is now a national perspective.

The federal government has a role. If it's a terrorism event, the federal
government has a larger role than if it's a house fire. Because if it's a
terrorist event in which the sovereignty of this country is threatened, then
the federal government has a duty and obligation under the constitution to
respond, assist, investigate, charge, try and convict the people involved in
that terrorist activity. Whereas, if it's a hazmat event that's impacting a
large amount of people, resources are strained at the local level; resources
at the state level are strained; the federal government has a role there,
except that that is not a national response level, because it is there in a
support role. Even in a terrorist event, it's in a support role, but it has
a higher level of involvement because of the threat to our nation's

For more information: 

National <http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NIMS-90-web.pdf>
Incident Management System (complete document released March 1, 2004) 

Department of <http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=3259>  Homeland
Secretary Tom Ridge Approves National Incident Management System (DHS Press
DHS Fact Sheet on <http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=3258>  NIMS 



Randall W. Ruble

624 North Dutton 

Pittsfield, IL 62363


FAX  303-736-7079  


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