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NIMS Frequently Asked Questions

For questions about NIMS, ICS, or necessary classes and certificates, please see the question links below:

Top 5 FAQs

Q: I still have not received my training certificate for a course that I took on the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Web site. What should I do?

A: If you have inquiries regarding certificates or EMI online courses, please contact the Emergency Management Institute's Independent Study Office at: (301) 447-1200 or e-mail them at:

Q: Who should take NIMS and ICS training?

A: Everyone involved in emergency management (to include emergency operation center personnel in support of the field), regardless of discipline or level of government, should take the NIMS baseline curriculum courses (Independent Study-700 and ICS-100). Incident command occurs in the field; therefore, the NIC recommends that only individuals with a command and general staff role take advanced ICS courses. Fulfilling the training associated with this plan helps emergency management organizations, departments and agencies to develop preparedness capabilities for effective and efficient incident management. As a result, trained emergency responders are available as mutual aid to support incident management in other jurisdictions, if requested. The NIMS Training Program should sustain a personnel qualification system that is coordinated, maintained and meets the needs of the emergency management community.

Q: Which courses are recommended for elected and appointed officials?

A: Elected and appointed officials should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities for successful emergency management and incident response. To that end, it is vital that elected and appointed officials understand and receive NIMS training. Therefore, FEMA recommends the following training for senior elected and appointed officials:

  • G-402 Incident Command System (ICS) Overview for Executives/Senior Officials
  • G-191 Incident Command System/Emergency Operations Center Interface
  • Additional training based on jurisdiction risk and/or specific interest

Q: What qualifications does an instructor need to meet in order to deliver the NIMS and ICS courses?

A: The NIC develops and regularly reviews the courses that are considered part of the NIMS core curriculum according to professionally-recognized instructional standards that include adherence to established adult learning models. The NIC collaborates with course managers to define instructor qualifications and the number of required instructors per course. However, this does not prevent any stakeholder from prescribing stricter instructor qualifications. To assist in course instruction, FEMA publishes subject matter guidelines and instruction requirements for specific courses.
Course instructors have a responsibility to deliver course materials and activities according to the minimum standards identified in the NIMS curriculum instructor guides and/or course summaries.

Q.  What is the National Incident Management System (NIMS)?

A:  NIMS is a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that is applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines. It is intended to:

  • Be applicable across a full spectrum of potential incidents, hazards and impacts, regardless of size, location or complexity.
  • Improve coordination and cooperation between public and private entities in a variety of incident management activities.
  • Provide a common standard for overall incident management.

General Questions

Q.  What is the National Incident Management System (NIMS)?

A:  NIMS is a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that is applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines. It is intended to:

  • Be applicable across a full spectrum of potential incidents, hazards and impacts, regardless of size, location or complexity.
  • Improve coordination and cooperation between public and private entities in a variety of incident management activities.
  • Provide a common standard for overall incident management.

Q.  Why do we need NIMS?

A:  NIMS provides a consistent nationwide framework and approach to enable government at all levels (federal, state, tribal and local), the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from and mitigate the effects of incidents regardless of the incident’s cause, size, location or complexity. 

Consistent application of NIMS lays the groundwork for efficient and effective responses, from a single agency fire response to a multiagency, multijurisdictional natural disaster or terrorism response.  Entities that have integrated NIMS into their planning and incident management structure can arrive at an incident with little notice and still understand the procedures and protocols governing the response, as well as the expectations for equipment and personnel.  NIMS provides commonality in preparedness and response efforts that allow diverse entities to readily integrate and, if necessary, establish unified command during an incident.

Q.  What are the components of NIMS?

A:  NIMS components link together and work in unison to form a comprehensive incident management system.  NIMS components include:  

  • Preparedness
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Resource Management
  • Command and Management
  • Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Q.  To whom does NIMS apply?

A:  NIMS is applicable to state, tribal and local governments, private sector organizations, critical infrastructure owners and operators, nongovernmental organizations and other organizations with an active role in emergency management and incident response.  Elected and appointed officials, who are responsible for jurisdictional policy decisions, must also have a clear understanding of their emergency management roles and responsibilities to better serve their constituency.

Q.  How does NIMS relate to the National Response Framework (NRF)?

A:  The NIMS and NRF are companion documents and are designed to improve the nation’s incident management and response capabilities.  While NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents regardless of size, scope or cause, the NRF provides the structure and mechanisms for national level policy of incident response.  Together, the NIMS and the NRF integrate the capabilities and resources of various governmental jurisdictions, incident management and emergency response disciplines, non-governmental organizations, and the private-sector into a cohesive, coordinated and seamless national framework for domestic incident response. 

Q.  How does NIMS relate to local incident command?

A:  A basic premise of NIMS is that all incidents begin and end locally.  NIMS does not take command away from state and local authorities.  NIMS simply provides the framework to enhance the ability of responders, including the private sector and NGOs, to work together more effectively.   The federal government supports state and local authorities when their resources are overwhelmed or anticipated to be overwhelmed. Federal departments and agencies respect the sovereignty and responsibilities of local, tribal, and state governments while rendering assistance.  The intention of the federal government in these situations is not to command the response, but rather to support the affected local, tribal, and/or state governments.

Q.  What is the role of elected and appointed officials during an incident?

A:  Elected and appointed officials are responsible for ensuring the public safety and welfare of the people of that jurisdiction.  Specifically, these officials provide strategic guidance and resources during preparedness, response and recovery efforts.  Elected or appointed officials must have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities for successful emergency management and response.  At times, these roles may require providing direction and guidance to constituents during an incident but their day-to-day activities do not focus on emergency management and response.  Their awareness of NIMS is critical to ensuring cooperative response efforts and minimizing the incident impacts.

Q.  What role does preparedness have in NIMS?

A:  Preparedness is essential for effective incident and emergency management and involves engaging in a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and taking corrective action to achieve and maintain readiness to respond to emergencies.  As such, the NIMS Preparedness Component serves as a baseline concept that links all the NIMS components.  Preparedness spans jurisdictions, governments, agencies and organizations.  Though individuals certainly play a critical role in preparedness and are expected to prepare themselves and their families for all types of potential incidents, they are not directly included in NIMS preparedness.  NIMS primarily discusses the preparedness role for governments, organizations geared specifically toward preparedness, elected and appointed officials, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. 

Q.  What is a Common Operating Picture?

A:  A Common Operating Picture (COP) offers a standard overview of an incident, thereby providing incident information that enables the Incident Commander/Unified Command and any supporting agencies and organizations to make effective, consistent and timely decisions. Compiling data from multiple sources and disseminating the collaborative information COP ensures that all responding entities have the same understanding and awareness of incident status and information when conducting operations.

Q.  What is Interoperability?

A:  Interoperability allows emergency management/response personnel and their affiliated organizations to communicate within and across agencies and jurisdictions via voice, data or video-on-demand, in real-time, when needed, and when authorized - this includes equipment and the ability to communicate. If entities have physical communications systems that are able to directly communicate, those systems are considered to be interoperable. This can be a function of the actual system or the frequency on which the system operates.

Q.  What is Resource Management?

A:  Resource management involves the coordination, oversight, and processes necessary to provide timely and appropriate resources during an incident.  Utilization of the standardized resource management concepts such as the typing, inventorying, ordering and tracking of resources will facilitate their dispatch, deployment and recovery before, during and after an incident.

Q.  What is Command and Management?

A:  The Command and Management component within NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized incident management structure.  To institutionalize these activities within a formal structure, command and management includes three fundamental elements: the Incident Command System (ICS), Multiagency Coordination Systems (MACS) and Public Information. These fundamental elements provide standardization through consistent terminology and established organizational structures.  

Q.  Why is ICS needed?

A:  When an incident requires response from multiple local emergency management and response agencies, effective cross-jurisdictional coordination using common processes and systems is critical. The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a flexible, yet standardized core mechanism for coordinated and collaborative incident management, whether for incidents where additional resources are required or are provided from different organizations within a single jurisdiction or outside the jurisdiction or for complex incidents with national implications.

Q.  What is ICS Designed To Do?

A:  The ICS is a widely applicable management system designed to enable effective, efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure. ICS is a fundamental form of management established in a standard format, with the purpose of enabling incident managers to identify the key concerns associated with the incident—often under urgent conditions—without sacrificing attention to any component of the command system.  It represents organizational "best practices" and, as an element of the Command and Management Component of NIMS, has become the standard for emergency management across the country.  Designers of the system recognized early that ICS must be interdisciplinary and organizationally flexible to meet the following management challenges:

  • Meet the needs of incidents of any kind or size.
  • Allow personnel from a variety of agencies to meld rapidly into a common management structure.
  • Provide logistical and administrative support to operational staff.
  • Be cost effective by avoiding duplication of efforts.

ICS consists of procedures for controlling personnel, facilities, equipment and communications. It is a system designed to be used or applied from the time an incident occurs until the requirement for management and operations no longer exists.



Last Updated: 
06/22/2017 - 07:22