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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: Independent.Study@fema.dhs.gov.

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 guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems, and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System. NIMS is:

  • A comprehensive, nationwide, systematic approach to incident management, including the command and coordination of incidents, resource management, and information management
  • A set of concepts and principles for all threats, hazards, and events across all mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, Recovery)
  • Scalable, flexible, and adaptable; used for all incidents, from day-to-day to large-scale
  • Standard resource management procedures that enable coordination among different jurisdictions or organizations
  • Essential principles for communications and information management

NIMS defines operational systems, including the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures, and Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups) that guide how personnel work together during incidents. NIMS applies to all incidents, from traffic accidents to major disasters.

NIMS Refresh

Q. Why was the National Incident Management System  (NIMS) refreshed?

A: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works to improve the nation’s ability to manage incidents, events and emergencies.  To that end, FEMA reviewed and refreshed NIMS.  The updated document reiterates concepts and principles of the 2004 and 2008 versions, while incorporating lessons learned from exercises and real-world incidents, best practices, and changes in national policy, including updates to the National Preparedness System.

Q. Were key NIMS Components changed?

A: The 2008 NIMS contained five Components: Preparedness, Communications and Information Management, Resources Management, Management and Coordination, and Ongoing Management and Maintenance.  The refreshed NIMS is organized into four elements Fundamentals and Concepts, Resource Management, Command and Coordination, and Communication and Information Management.

Q. Why did FEMA remove the Preparedness Component?

A: Since the 2008 version of NIMS, the National Preparedness Goal and National Preparedness System description have been released.  These documents describe the nation’s approach to preparedness in much more detail than was in 2004 and 2008 versions of NIMS, and make the NIMS component redundant.  The core capabilities under FEMA’s five mission areas – Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery –help us prepare for disasters and emergencies, and achieve the goal of being a secure and resilient nation.

Q. Who was involved in the NIMS revision process?

A: This revision, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA’s) National Integration Center (NIC), incorporated stakeholder input throughout the process in the form of working groups, targeted outreach and interviews, plus a National Engagement Period.  Participating stakeholders represented a broad spectrum of emergency management and incident response disciplines.

In April and May 2016, FEMA sponsored a 30-day National Engagement Period, in which stakeholders submitted comments and provided feedback on the draft NIMS. FEMA convened several multi-disciplinary panels, focus groups, and targeted stakeholder reviews to adjudicate those comments and ensure that the document reflects the collective expertise and experience of the whole community.

Q. What is Command and Coordination?

A: Command and Coordination within NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized incident management structure.  Command and Coordination includes four fundamental structures: the Incident Command System (ICS), the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups), and the Joint Information System (JIS).  These provide standardization through consistent terminology and established organizational structures.

Q. What were the general updates and changes to the NIMS document?

A: The refreshed NIMS:

  • Reiterates concepts and principles of the 2004 and 2008 versions of NIMS;
  • Reflects and incorporates policy updates and lessons learned from exercises and real-world incidents;
  • Reflects progress in resource typing and mutual aid and builds a foundation for the development of a national qualification system;
  • Clarifies that NIMS is more than just the Incident Command System (ICS) and that it applies to all stakeholders with roles in incident management across all five mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery);
  • Describes common functions and terminology for staff in Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), while remaining flexible to allow for differing missions, authorities, and resources of EOCs nationwide;
  • Explains the relationship among ICS, EOC, and senior leaders/policy groups; and
  • Enhances guidance on information management processes to improve data collection plans, social media integration, and the use of geographic information systems (GIS).

Q. What changes have been made to the Incident Command System (ICS)?

A: The refreshed NIMS does not contain changes to the Incident Command System (ICS), but adjusts the language in some areas to better reflect current practices. “Manageable span of control” guidance provides flexibility and allows for factors such as supervisory experience and nature of work supervised. This aligns with how ICS has been taught for years, but had not been explicitly stated in the doctrine. The term “resource team” included as an alternative to “strike team” acknowledges that there might be situations when an aggressive-sounding term like “strike team” would be inadvisable. The draft includes updated meeting names and descriptions for the ICS Planning Process, to better align with how the planning process is implemented by stakeholders.

Incident Commanders maintain the flexibility to locate the intelligence/investigations function in multiple places in the ICS organization structure.

Additionally, the refreshed NIMS includes potential Command Advisors that the Incident Commander can appoint to Command Staff, such as Science and Technology Advisor, Legal Advisor, and Access and Functional Needs Advisor.

Q. What are Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Groups and how do they differ from Multi-Agency Coordination Systems (MACS)?

A: MAC Groups are part of the off-site incident management structure of NIMS. MAC Groups act as a policy-level body during incidents, supporting resource prioritization and allocation, and enabling decision making among elected and appointed officials and those responsible for managing the incident (e.g.,the Incident Commander). MAC Groups typically consist of agency administrators, executives, or their designees. Organizations at any level may establish a MAC Group (e.g.,local, state, tribal, or federal) or within any discipline (e.g., emergency management, public health, critical infrastructure, or private sector).

The refreshed NIMS clarifies that multiagency coordination happens at all levels of incident management, and provides guidance for each level: the incident level through Incident Command/Unified Command, the operations/coordination level through the Emergency Operations Center, and at the policy/executive level through MAC Groups.

MACS is an overarching term for the NIMS Command and Coordination systems: Incident Command System, Emergency Operations Centers, MAC Groups/policy groups, and Joint Information Systems.

 


General Questions

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

A: NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems, and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System. NIMS is:

  • A comprehensive, nationwide, systematic approach to incident management, including the command and coordination of incidents, resource management, and information management
  • A set of concepts and principles for all threats, hazards, and events across all mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, Recovery)
  • Scalable, flexible, and adaptable; used for all incidents, from day-to-day to large-scale
  • Standard resource management procedures that enable coordination among different jurisdictions or organizations
  • Essential principles for communications and information management

NIMS defines operational systems, including the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures, and Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups) that guide how personnel work together during incidents. NIMS applies to all incidents, from traffic accidents to major disasters.

Q.  Why do we need NIMS?

A:  Communities across the Nation experience a diverse set of threats, hazards, and events. The size, frequency, complexity, and scope of these incidents vary, but all involve a range of personnel and organizations to coordinate efforts to save lives, stabilize the incident, and protect property and the environment. Every day, jurisdictions and organizations work together to share resources, integrate tactics, and act collaboratively. Whether these organizations are nearby or are supporting each other from across the country, their success depends on a common, interoperable approach to sharing resources, coordinating and managing incidents, and communicating information. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) defines this comprehensive approach. 

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:  

  • Fundamentals and Concepts
  • Resource Management
  • Command and Coordination
    • Incident Command System (ICS)
    • Emergency Operations Centers (EOC)
    • Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups)
    • Joint Information Systems
  • Communications and Information Management

Q.  To whom does NIMS apply?

A:  NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems, and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System.

 The jurisdictions and organizations involved in managing incidents vary in their authorities, management structures, communication capabilities and protocols, and many other factors. NIMS provides a common framework to integrate these diverse capabilities and achieve common goals. The guidance contained in this document incorporates solutions developed over decades of experience by incident personnel across the Nation.

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 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: NIMS resource management guidance enables many organizational elements to collaborate and coordinate to systematically manage resources—personnel, teams, facilities, equipment and supplies. Most jurisdictions or organizations cannot own and maintain all the resources necessary to address all potential threats and hazards. Therefore, effective resource management includes leveraging each jurisdiction’s resources, engaging private sector resources, involving volunteer organizations, and encouraging further development of mutual aid agreements.

This component includes three sections:

  • Resource Management Preparedness,
  • Resource Management During an Incident
  • Mutual Aid

Q.  What is Command and Coordination?

A:  The Command and Coordination component of NIMS describes the systems, principles, and structures that provide a standard, national framework for incident management. Regardless of the size, complexity, or scope of the incident, effective command and coordination helps save lives and stabilize the situation. Incident command and coordination consists of four areas of responsiblity:

  • Tactical activities to apply resources on scene;
  • Incident support, typically conducted at Emergency Operation Centers (EOC), through operational and strategic coordination, resource aquisition, and information gathering, analysis, and sharing;
  • Policy guidance and senior-level decision making; and
  • Outreach and communication with the media and public to keep them informed about the incident.

Q.  What is the Incident Command System (ICS) designed to do?

A: The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of on-scene incident management, providing a common hierarchy within which personnel from multiple organizations can be effective.

ICS is the combination of procedures, personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of on-scene resources during incidents. It is used for all kinds of incidents and is applicable to small, as well as large and complex, incidents, including planned events.

 Using ICS for every incident helps hone and maintain skills needed to coordinate efforts effectively. ICS is used by all levels of government as well as by many NGOs and private sector organizations. ICS applies across disciplines and enables incident managers from different organizations to work together seamlessly. This system includes five major functional areas, staffed as needed, for a given incident: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration.

Q.  What is an Emergency Operations Center (EOC)?

A:  Jurisdictions and organizations across the Nation use EOCs as important elements in their emergency management programs. EOCs are locations where staff from multiple agencies typically come together to address imminent threats and hazards and to provide coordinated support to incident command, on-scene personnel, and/or other EOCs. EOCs may be fixed locations, temporary facilities, or virtual structures with staff participating remotely.

The purpose, authorities, and composition of the teams that staff EOCs vary widely, but generally, the teams consolidate and exchange information, support decision making, coordinate resources, and communicate with personnel on scene and at other EOCs. EOC personnel may support staff at an ICP, field personnel not affiliated with an ICP (e.g., personnel conducting debris removal or managing a shelter), or staff in another EOC (e.g., staff in a state EOC communicating with staff in a local EOC).

Q. What is a Multiagency Coordination Group (MAC Group)?

A: MAC Groups, sometimes called policy groups, are part of the off-site incident management structure of NIMS. MAC Groups consist of representatives from stakeholder agencies or organizations. They are established and organized to make cooperative multiagency decisions. MAC Groups act as policy-level bodies during incidents, supporting resource prioritization and allocation, and enabling decision making among elected and appointed officials and those responsible for managing the incident (e.g., the Incident Commander). In some instances, EOC staff also carry out this activity.

MAC Groups typically consist of agency administrators, executives, or their designees. Organizations at any level (e.g., local, state, tribal, or Federal) or within any discipline (e.g., emergency management, public health, critical infrastructure, or private sector) may establish a MAC Group. In some jurisdictions, local law or policy may require a MAC Group to authorize additional resources and/or provide guidance to EOC staff and/or incident command.


 

Last Updated: 
07/05/2018 - 16:44