NIMS Frequently Asked Questions

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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@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: I've tried logging on NIMSCAST and my password doesn't work. What can I do?

A: If you have received a temporary password, you will need to log into your account within 24 hours and change your password. If it has been more than 24 hours since you received your password, you can have a new password e-mailed to you by clicking on the "lost or forgotten password" option on the NIMSCAST login page. Remember, new passwords must be at least eight characters long and must contain at least one of each of the following: lowercase character (a-z); uppercase character (A-Z); special character (!, @, #, $, %, etc ...); and a digit (0-9). Be sure to input your password exactly - it is case sensitive.


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.

Q.  How does an EOC relate to MACS?

A:  MACS is designed to facilitate the process of multiagency coordination, which allows all levels of government and all disciplines to work together more efficiently and effectively.  Multiagency coordination can and does occur on a regular basis whenever personnel from different agencies interact in such activities as preparedness, prevention, response, recovery and mitigation. More specifically, the primary function of MACS is to coordinate activities above the field level and to prioritize the incident demands for critical or competing resources, thereby assisting the coordination of the operations in the field.  MACS consists of a combination of elements: personnel, procedures, protocols, business practices and communications integrated into a common system.

Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are one of several system elements included within the Multiagency Coordination System(MACS).  EOCs are intended to facilitate MACS functions, and may provide support to Area Command, Incident Command or Unified Command when resource needs exceed local capabilities.

Q.  What is the relationship between an Incident Command Post and an EOC/MAC Group?

A:  The Incident Command Post is a physical location that administers the on-scene incident command and the other major incident management functions.  An EOC is a physical location that is located separately from the on-scene Incident Command Post and supports the on-scene response by providing external coordination and securing of additional resources.  A MAC Group does not have any direct incident command involvement and will often be located some distance from the incident site(s).  EOC/MAC Groups do not command the on-scene level of the incident, but rather supports the Incident Command Post’s command and management efforts.

Q.  What is the difference between Area Command and MACS?

A:  Area Command is an organization that oversees the management of multiple incidents handled individually by separate incident command organizations or to oversee the management of a very large or evolving incident engaging multiple incident management teams. Area Command should not be confused with the functions performed by MACS as Area Command oversees management coordination of the incident(s), while a MACS element (such as a communications/dispatch center, EOC, or MAC Group) coordinates support.

Q.  What does Public Information, within NIMS, include?

A:  Public Information consists of the processes, procedures and systems to communicate timely, accurate and accessible information on the incident’s cause, size and current situation to the public, responders and additional stakeholders (both directly and indirectly affected). Public information must be coordinated and integrated across jurisdictions and organizations involved in the incident to include, federal, state, triba, and local governments, private sector entities and NGOs.  In order to facilitate that process, public information includes three major systems/components - Public Information Officers (PIOs), the Joint Information System (JIS) and the Joint Information Center (JIC). 


Preparedness

Q: NIMS promotes the use of state and local mutual aid to help local jurisdictions better handle large-scale disasters. Where can I find information on how to write a mutual aid agreement?

A: The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), in coordination with DHS/FEMA and a cross-section of emergency responders, has developed a tool to assist state and local governments in the preparation of model legislation designed to streamline the sharing of assistance and resources between communities during a disaster. The model is available for download at www.emacweb.org. Additionally, many states, such as North Carolina, have developed statewide mutual aid systems. We are also working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) on developing better firefighting mutual aid systems with states to make filling EMAC requests faster (Intrastate Mutual Aid Systems), as well as developing a national firefighting coordination system (Emergency Management Committee). Information on these can be found on the IAFC Web site.

Q: How does the NIC view its role in the management of mutual aid resources?  Is there potential for conflict between the NIC and EMAC?

A: The NIC does not manage resources - the NIC facilitates resource management by providing resource typing definitions for nationally important resources. All the work we have been engaged with is in support of EMAC and for the purpose of making EMAC more efficient.


Communications and Information Management

Q: What is the National Emergency Communications Plan?

A: National studies, assessments, and after-action reports from September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and other natural and manmade disasters in the last decade have underscored the critical need for improved emergency communications nationwide. These documents show that the lack of emergency communications interoperability across disciplines and jurisdictions hinders situational awareness, command and control, and the overall management of response and recovery efforts.

In 2006, Congress enacted provisions under the Fiscal Year 2007 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) to develop a National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) to provide a roadmap to improve the Nation’s emergency communications capabilities. The NECP is a strategic plan that sets goals and identifies key national priorities to enhance governance, planning, technology, training and exercises, and disaster communications capabilities. The NECP provides recommendations, including milestones, to help emergency response providers and relevant government officials make measurable improvements in emergency communications over the next 3 years.

Q: What does NIMS mean for Information Technology (IT) managers?

A: IT managers can play an important support role in the implementation of NIMS. NIMS is our Nation's incident management system. NIMS integrates best emergency management practices, procedures, and systems utilized by emergency management professionals across the Nation into a national framework for incident response. Information technology can provide important supporting capabilities essential to implementing and continuously refining NIMS.

Information technology systems must be able to work together and should not interfere with one another when multiple jurisdictions, organizations, and functions come together to respond to an incident. Effective emergency management and incident response activities rely on flexible communications and information systems that provide a common operating picture to emergency management/response personnel and their affiliated organizations. Systems should support the following Communications and Information Management concepts and principles: interoperability; reliability, scalability, and portability; and resiliency and redundancy of any system and its components.

Q: What steps are important for IT managers to establish information systems?

A: It is important that IT managers work with department heads, local emergency management, and State emergency management to determine technology support requirements prior to an event. IT managers should reach out to emergency management personnel in the community to formulate information technology requirements. Such requirements could include:

  • Establishing information systems to inform, coordinate, and execute operational decisions and requests during an incident.
  • Establishing information systems to support the establishment of a common operating picture during an incident.
  • Establishing information management policies prior to an event to integrate information needs during an event into a common operating picture.
  • Establishing information systems that tie together all command, tactical, and support units involved in incident management. This system must enable all entities to share critical information.

Mutual Aid Agreements and Assistance Agreements

Q: NIMS promotes the use of state and local mutual aid to help local jurisdictions better handle large-scale disasters. Where can I find information on how to write a mutual aid agreement?

A: The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), in coordination with DHS/FEMA and a cross-section of emergency responders, has developed a tool to assist state and local governments in the preparation of model legislation designed to streamline the sharing of assistance and resources between communities during a disaster. The model is available for download at www.emacweb.org. Additionally, many states, such as North Carolina, have developed statewide mutual aid systems. We are also working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) on developing better firefighting mutual aid systems with states to make filling EMAC requests faster (Intrastate Mutual Aid Systems), as well as developing a national firefighting coordination system (Emergency Management Committee). Information on these can be found on the IAFC Web site.

Q: How do we better partner in the development of mutual aid resources built to a national standard?

A: The NIC is working with other elements of the National Preparedness Directorate and the Grants Management Directorate of FEMA on resource typing/credentialing for the resources identified in the Target Capabilities List. The NIC also is working with Citizen Corps, the Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT), and the National Humane Society to develop additional national-level resource typing.

The NIC developed a policy on resource typing to define what resources require a national definition. This policy is contained in NIMS Guide 0001, National Resource Typing Criteria, dated March 27, 2008. The policy allows state, regional, and local efforts to type resources that are important locally and regionally but do not need a national consensus definition.

Q: How does this mutual aid developmental effort fit into the overall strategic plan? Do we have a clear vision of what we want to build, how many of each package is needed and where all of these resources should be strategically located?

A: The role of the NIC is establishment of interoperability of resources through consensus definition for teams and equipment, and knowledge, skills and abilities for individuals and members of teams. The NIC is collaborating with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate in the development of a data model for resource management that can be incorporated into any system selected by states, to ensure the information will be interoperable when interjurisdictional mutual aid is needed. The data model will also incorporate existing technology standards, such as EDXL and the National Information Exchange Model, to further the interoperability of all resource management systems.

The determination of how many of any given resource are needed in each community is not a function of NIMS, but is a function of the FEMA Grants and Assistance Program and their work on the National Preparedness Goal (HSPD-8). While the Grants Management Directorate and National Preparedness Directorate determine needed resources, the NIC ensures consistent definition of resources so they can be ordered and will arrive fully able to perform the function requested for.

Q: How does the NIC view its role in the management of mutual aid resources?  Is there potential for conflict between the NIC and EMAC?

A: The NIC does not manage resources - the NIC facilitates resource management by providing resource typing definitions for nationally important resources. All the work we have been engaged with is in support of EMAC and for the purpose of making EMAC more efficient.


Resource Typing

Q: What is resource typing?

A: Resource typing is the categorization and description of resources mapped to the core capabilities that are commonly requested, deployed and used in incidents. The NIC continues to develop and update resource types. Resource typing definitions serve as common language for use by the whole community in ensuring they request and receive the appropriate resources during an emergency or disaster. Ordering resources that have been typed using these definitions makes the resource request and dispatch process more accurate and efficient. Since 2006, state, local, tribal, and territorial, jurisdictions have been required to inventory resources in accordance with NIMS implementation objectives.

Q: What is the purpose of resource typing?

A: Resource typing enhances emergency preparedness and readiness by the whole community through a system that allows jurisdictions to augment their capabilities during an incident. Standard resource typing definitions help to inventory their resources, estimate capabilities, request and deploy the resources they need through the use of common terminology. Resource types allow emergency management personnel to identify, locate, request, order and track outside resources quickly and effectively and facilitate the movement of these resources to the jurisdiction that needs them.

Q: Is resource typing part of NIMS?

A: Yes. Resource typing is an important part of resource management, which is one of the five components of the National Incident Management System. The typing of resources to conform to the NIMS Resource Typing Definitions is one of the NIMS implementation objectives. 


Resource Typing Library Tool

Q: What is RTLT?

A: The Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT) is an online catalogue of national resource typing definitions and job titles/position qualifications. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Integration Center (NIC) provides the RTLT to support the implementation of the National Preparedness System. Nationally typed resources support a common language for the mobilization of resources (equipment, teams, units, and personnel) prior to, during, and after major incidents. Resource users at all levels use these definitions to identify and inventory resources for capability estimation, planning, and for mobilization during mutual aid efforts. Definitions and job titles/position qualifications are easily searchable and discoverable through the RTLT.

Q: Is there a cost to RTLT?

A: RTLT is a free online tool developed by FEMA.

Q: Do I need a password to access RTLT?

A: No username or password is required. RTLT is publicly accessible online at https://rtlt.ptaccenter.org

Q: Can the information in RTLT be downloaded?

A: Data from RTLT can be downloaded in PDF format or directly used by third party software applications using the available Web Services application programming interface (API). A Web Services API is included with RTLT in order for third-party systems to receive data from RTLT. If you manage or develop a third-party system and would like to utilize the RTLT Web Services API, please contact the RTLT Help Desk for more information.

Q: How is the information in the RTLT categorized?

A: The RTLT is divided into two categories:

  • Resource Typing Definitions for equipment, teams, and units
  • Job Titles and Position Descriptions 

Q: What are Resource Typing Definitions for equipment, teams, and units?

A: Resource Typing Definitions are provided for equipment, teams, and units and are used to categorize, by capability, the resources requested, deployed, and used in incidents. Measurable standards identifying resource capabilities and performance levels serve as the basis for this categorization.

Q: What are Job Titles and Position Qualifications?

A: Job Titles and Position Qualifications are used in the inventorying and credentialing of personnel. Credentialing is essential to emergency responders and Whole Community partners in that it ensures and validates the identity and attributes (e.g., affiliations, skills, or privileges) of individuals or members of response teams through standards.

Q: How does one search within RTLT?

A: The RTLT has an easy-to-find and easy-to-use search box in the upper right-hand side of the screen.Simply type in a keyword associated with the resource for which you are trying to find information and click through the list of provided possibilities.

Resource Typing Definitions and Job Titles and Position Qualifications may be searched by the following: Name, ID, Status, Discipline, and Primary/Secondary Core Capability.

Q: What are the benefits of RTLT?

A: Nationally typed resources provide substantial value to response efforts by:

  • Supporting a common language for the mobilization of resources (equipment, teams, units, and personnel) prior to, during, and after major incidents
  • Providing resources to users at all levels that use these definitions to identify and inventory resources for capability estimation, planning, and for mobilization during mutual aid efforts 
  • Representing the minimum criteria for the associated category
  • Helping to ensure that response partners have a consistent understanding of what a given resource is and what it can do

Q: Where can I learn more about these tools and resources?


Incident Resource Inventory System

Q: What is IRIS?

A: The Incident Resource Inventory System (IRIS) is a distributed software tool, designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that allows users to identify and inventory their resources for mutual aid operations based on mission requirements and each resource’s capabilities, availability and response time, and share information with other agencies.

Q: Is there a cost to use RTLT?

A: IRIS is a no cost distributed software tool made available by FEMA.

Q: Do I need a password to download IRIS?

A: IRIS is distributable software which is publicly available for download online at https://www.ptaccenter.org/iris.

Q: Do I need a password to access IRIS?

A: Once IRIS is installed locally, a username and password are required for each user to access their system; user accounts are managed by a local systems administrator.

Q: Does IRIS use NIMS resource typing definitions and job titles/position qualifications?

A: Yes, IRIS uses NIMS resource typing definitions that are available in the Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT). When you log into IRIS, you will be notified if there are updated definitions available to download. With a few easy clicks, IRIS users are provided with immediate access to new and updated national resource definitions.

Q: Where does my data go after I enter it?

A: IRIS stores data locally on the user's computer or on a local server if configured during installation. It should be noted that IRIS is not a database centrally managed by FEMA. Users and their respective agencies are responsible for their own data.

Q: Who has acces to my IRIS data?

A: Accessibility is determined entirely by the jurisdiction installing IRIS. IRIS stores data locally on the user's computer or on a local server if configured during installation. IRIS is designed to be scalable to a jurisdiction’s needs and can run on a single laptop or scale to function as a publicly accessible enterprise system. The accessibility of an installation of IRIS is controlled by the jurisdiction installing the system. It should be noted that IRIS is not a database centrally managed by FEMA. Users and their respective agencies are responsible for their own data. External users, including the IRIS Help Desk, do not have access to manage or restore IRIS data and cannot perform administrative functions, including resetting user accounts and passwords.

Q: How can I prevent Data loss?

A: Data loss can be prevented by performing regular system backups. The system backup tool is located under the Administration tab in IRIS. When uninstalling, IRIS deletes all data entered. If data is to be saved, please use the Backup feature before uninstalling. For help with backing up your data, see the IRIS User Guide.

Q: Do I need to upgrade to IRIS 5.0 if I am using 4.1?

A: Users of IRIS 4.1 are highly encouraged to upgrade to IRIS 5.0. To assist users in migrating their data to the new version, an IRIS Data Migration tool is provided at https://www.ptaccenter.org/iris. Once users have upgraded to IRIS 5.0, IRIS will automatically notify them of any new versions of IRIS. When you log into IRIS 5.0, the first page presented to you is the IRIS Home page. If a new version of IRIS is available for download you will see a New Version Available link. The link takes you to a page to view the new version number with a description of the new version, and provides a link to download the newest version available.

Q: What are the benefits of IRIS?

A: Nationally typed resources provide substantial value to response efforts by:

  • Assisting communities in inventorying, typing and estimating capabilities of resources in accordance with NIMS concepts/principles
  • Providing quick access to resources to support emergency operations
  • Improving the nation’s capability to identify and acquire a typed resource
  • IRIS is built upon open standards to ensure its interoperability with other emergency management software

Q: Where can I learn more about these tools and resources?


Resource Credentialing

Q: The NIMS document mentions a credentialing system tied to training and certification standards. Is there a national credentialing system in place that we need to follow?

A: The development of a nationwide credentialing system is a fundamental component of NIMS. However, this system is fundamental doctrine and business rules and is not a single information technology system. A national credentialing system can document minimum professional qualifications, certifications, training and education requirements that define baseline criteria expected of emergency response professionals and volunteers for deployment as mutual aid to disasters. While such a system is meant to verify the identity and qualifications of emergency responders, it does not provide automatic access to an incident site. The credentialing system can help prevent unauthorized (i.e., self-dispatched or unqualified personnel) access to an incident site. To support this credentialing initiative, the National Integration Center (NIC) uses working groups to identify positions that should be credentialed and the minimum qualification, certification, training and education requirements for each position. The groups represent the following disciplines:

  • Incident Management
  • Emergency Medical Services 
  • Fire Fighting and Hazardous Materials Response 
  • Law Enforcement  
  • Public Health/Medical
  • Public Works 
  • Search & Rescue 
  • Animal Control/Veterinary
  • Mass Care

In addition to these NIC discipline groups, the NIC is working with other organizations to assist their development of credentialing for their disciplines, such as the APCO/NENA Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) and the Citizen Corps initiative for credentialing volunteers.

Although the NIC has identified subject-matter experts for its working groups, the center requests notification of all existing credentialing efforts, regardless of discipline. The NIC welcomes your participation into our stakeholder review group. As a stakeholder, you will receive updates concerning the working group process and be able to review and provide feedback on the draft products that are developed. If you are interested in participating as a stakeholder, please send an e-mail to: FEMA-NIMS@dhs.gov.

Q: What is a credential?

A: The terms “credentialed” and “credentialing” mean having provided or providing, respectively, documentation that identifies personnel and authenticates and verifies the qualifications of such personnel by ensuring that such personnel possess a minimum common level of training, experience, physical and medical fitness and capability appropriate for a particular position.

Q: NIMS Credentialing Guidelines: Who does it apply to?

A: By law, 6 U.S.C. § 320, NIMS Credentialing Guidelines are mandatory for each federal department and agency with responsibilities under the National Response Framework to ensure incident management personnel, emergency response providers, other personnel (including temporary personnel) and resources likely needed to respond to a natural disaster, act of terrorism or other manmade disaster are credentialed. 
They are voluntary and highly encouraged for ederal legislative and judicial branches, state, local, tribal, private sector partners and non-governmental organizations. 

Q: Are non-federal agencies required to comply with the federal information processing standards?

A: Non-federal entities are not required to comply with the Federal Information Processing Standards 201 (FIPS-201), an open technical standard used by federal officials for uniform credentialing and access control.  However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) strongly encourages them to do so, in order to leverage the federal investment in the FIPS-201 infrastructure and facilitate interoperability for personnel deployed outside their home jurisdiction.

Q: How do I get more information on the FIPS-201 standards for non-federal entities?

A: The following website provides information on the FIPS-201 standard.
www.cio.gov/documents_details.cfm/uid/1F4376A0-2170-9AD7-F2D502311E4D26E9/structure/Information%20Technology/category/HSPD-12

Q: Why did FEMA publish these guidelines?

A: The FEMA Administrator is responsible for ensuring the development and implementation of credentialing of emergency response providers, as specified by Title IV (Section 408) of Public Law 110-53 (6 U.S.C. § 320).  Section 320 also calls on the Administrator to “provide standards” and “detailed written guidance.”  In addition, Public Law 110-53 (6 U.S.C. § 320) requires the FEMA Administrator to provide expertise and technical assistance.

Q: What if I am an emergency responder deployed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)?

A: Any person credentialed and authorized for deployment through EMAC meets the requirements as specified in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Guideline for the Credentialing of Personnel. 

Q: What alternatives are there for non-federal entities?

A: State, local, and tribal jurisdictions and private sector entities are encouraged to use the Federal Chief Information Officer’s Personal Identification Verification Interoperable (PIV-I) guidance to develop credentials similar to the Federal Government’s PIV-I cards to promote consistency.  For more information please refer to the following site: csrc.nist.gov/.

Q: Are credentials interoperable?

A: To support issues of “trust” between public and private-sector issued identity credentials, the federal government has published PIV-I.  The guidance advocates a set of minimum technical and process requirements to support uniform acceptance and trust of non-federally issued identity cards or documents.  If followed, the PIV-I guidance provides a supporting framework for technical interoperability with the nearly 10 million federally credentialed uniformed and civilian employees and contractors.  It supports enhanced integration and reduced costs in day-to-day operations as well as during response and incident management.

To achieve an interoperable and consistent national system, state, local and tribal governments and private sector entities are encouraged, to the maximum degree possible, to follow the Federal standard FIPS 201/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and General Services Administration approved PIV-I.  When this is not possible, non PIV-I organizations are asked to issue identification that matches, as closely as possible, the format of PIV-I cards.

Q: Where else can I find information on credentialing?

A: NIMS guidance on credentialing, NIMS Guide 0002 (National Credentialing Definition and Criteria www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nims/ng_0002.pdf) and this guideline refer to the identification and qualification information.  NIMS guidance on credentialing does not confer the authority or privilege to practice any profession.  The receiving department, agency or jurisdiction responsible for access control can extend privilege or authorization to response personnel if they have not been deployed through EMAC.

Q: Is there a representative I can speak to about these guidelines if I still have questions?

A: Each FEMA Region has a NIMS Coordinator that may be contacted at each region per the following link: www.fema.gov/coordinators


Incident Command System

Q: In order to meet NIMS compliance, does it matter which brand of ICS is used (i.e., NIIMS, FIRESCOPE, NWCG)?

A: To be NIMS compliant, you need to use the Incident Command System (ICS) structure described in the current version of NIMS. The foundation for ICS principles embedded in NIMS is derived from the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS), Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE), and National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).

Q: Our 911 center, which receives and dispatches emergency and nonemergency calls, has told us that we may not use 10-codes at all. I gather we must use plain language when using NIMS ICS. Is that correct?

A: Yes. When engaged in a multiagency/multijurisdictional incident using ICS, plain language is required. The value of using 10-codes for simplicity and speed is lost when members of the response team are unaware of their meanings, as may occur in a multiagency/multijurisdiction response event. As 10-codes used in one jurisdiction or agency are not the same as those used in another, it is important that responders and incident managers use common terminology to prevent misunderstanding in an emergency situation. While plain language is not required for internal operations, it is encouraged over 10-codes to promote familiarity within operational procedures used in emergencies.

NIMS Alert: NIMS and Use of Plain Language [12/06] (PDF 26KB, TXT 3KB)


Multiagency Coordination Systems

Q: Can you provide additional guidance regarding NIMS and the Emergency Operations Center?

A: NIMS characterizes Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) as an element of a Multiagency Coordination System. EOCs do not have to be organized around ICS. The NIMS states in the Command and Management chapter that "EOCs may be organized by major discipline (e.g., fire, law enforcement or emergency medical services); by emergency support function (e.g., transportation, communications, public works and engineering or resource support); by jurisdiction (e.g., city, county or region); or, more likely, by some combination thereof. Incident Command Posts need reliable communication links to EOCs to ensure effective and efficient incident management. EOCs may be staffed by personnel representing multiple jurisdictions and functional disciplines and a wide variety of resources. For example, a local EOC established in response to a bioterrorism incident would likely include a mix of law enforcement, emergency management, public health and medical personnel (local, state or federal public health officials and possibly representatives of health care facilities, emergency medical services, etc.). The physical size, staffing and equipping of an EOC will depend on the size of the jurisdiction, resources available and anticipated incident management workload. EOCs may be organized and staffed in a variety of ways. Regardless of its specific organizational structure, an EOC should include the following core functions: coordination, communications, resource allocation and tracking and information collection, analysis and dissemination.”

Q: In addition to Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), which subordinate documents must also be NIMS compliant?

A: Any plan, procedure, field guide or standard operating procedure (SOP) must support the state, territory, tribal or local EOP and NIMS. SOPs that are not NIMS compliant will only serve to undermine the EOP's compliance with NIMS. While no schedule is proposed for EOP elements, they should be reviewed and revised for NIMS compliance as soon as it is practicable to do so.


Public Information

Q: What is a Joint Information System?

A: A Joint Information System (JIS) provides the mechanism to organize, integrate and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible and consistent messaging across multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. A JIS includes the plans, protocols, procedures and structures used to provide public information. Federal, state, tribal, territorial, regional or local Public Information Officers and established Joint Information Centers (JICs) are critical supporting elements of the JIS.

Q: What is a Joint Information Center?

A:  A Joint Information Center (JIC) is a central location that facilitates operation of the Joint Information System. The JIC is a location where personnel with public information responsibilities perform critical emergency information functions, crisis communications and public affairs functions. JICs may be established at various levels of government or at incident sites, or can be components of Multiagency Coordination Systems. A single JIC location is preferable, but the system is flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate virtual or multiple JIC locations, as required.


NIMS Compliance

Q: I still do not understand what NIMS is. Could you explain to me what benefit our small fire department will gain from using NIMS?

A: While most emergency situations are handled locally, when there's a major incident help may be needed from other jurisdictions, the state and the federal government. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) provides a consistent nationwide template to enable federal, state, tribal and local governments, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations to work together effectively and efficiently to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size or complexity, including acts of catastrophic terrorism. NIMS benefits include a unified approach to incident management; standard command and management structures and emphasis on preparedness, mutual aid, and resource management. The bottom line is that every community in America is a potential recipient of mutual aid and having a common incident management system allows the arriving mutual aid to be seamlessly integrated into your operations.

Q: What does it mean for state, territorial, tribal, and local governments to implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS)?

A: In order to implement NIMS, state, territorial, tribal and local governments must follow the compliance activities for the current fiscal year. The current NIMS Implementation Compliance Objectives can be found here. Requirements will be added/updated based on lessons learned during disasters, exercises and other events.

Q: In order to meet NIMS compliance, does it matter which brand of ICS is used (i.e. NIIMS, FIRESCOPE, NWCG)?

A: Yes. NIMS compliance is based on the Incident Command System (ICS) structure described in the current version of NIMS. The foundation for ICS principles embedded in NIMS is derived from the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS), Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE), and National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).  

Q: If a jurisdiction is compliant with the NIIMS (National Interagency Incident Management System), does this mean that we're compliant with NIMS?

A: No. Compliance with NIIMS does not constitute compliance with NIMS. NIIMS, adopted by several federal, state and local agencies in 1982, served as the basis for today's National Incident Management System. Although there are many similarities between NIIMS and NIMS; there are some key differences. NIIMS was designed to meet the challenges of wildland fire. NIMS was designed to address all-hazards challenges. In addition, NIMS possesses an increased emphasis on prevention and preparedness measures.

The principles and concepts of NIMS ICS are the same as the NIIMS ICS, with the exception of the means in which the Intelligence/Investigations function is handled. Under NIMS ICS, the Incident Commander has flexibility in where to assign the Intelligence/Investigations function (e.g., Command Staff or Operations).

Q: Our 911 center, which receives and dispatches emergency and nonemergency calls, has told us that we may not use 10-codes at all. I gather we must use plain language when using NIMS ICS. Is that correct?

A: Yes. When engaged in a multiagency/multijurisdictional incident using ICS, plain language is required. The value of using 10-codes for simplicity and speed is lost when members of the response team are unaware of their meanings, as may occur in a multiagency/multijurisdiction response event. As 10-codes used in one jurisdiction or agency are not the same as those used in another, it is important that responders and incident managers use common terminology to prevent misunderstanding in an emergency situation. While plain language is not required for internal operations, it is encouraged over 10-codes to promote familiarity within operational procedures used in emergencies.

NIMS Alert: NIMS and Use of Plain Language [12/06] (PDF 26KB, TXT 3KB)

Q: What is the relationship between NIMS, the NRF, and COOP?

  • The National Incident Management System (NIMS) provides a consistent framework for incident management at all jurisdictional levels regardless of the cause, size or complexity of the incident. Building upon the Incident Command System (ICS), NIMS provides the nation's first responders and authorities with the same foundation for incident management for terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other emergencies.
  • The National Response Framework (NRF) is an all-discipline, all-hazards plan for the management of domestic incidents. Using the template established by NIMS, the NRF provides the structure and mechanisms to coordinate and integrate incident management activities and emergency support functions across federal, state, tribal and local government entities, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.
  • Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning is simply a "good business practice"—part of the fundamental mission of agencies as responsible and reliable public institutions. Today's changing threat environment and the potential for no-notice emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, technological emergencies and military or terrorist attack-related incidents, have increased the need for COOP capabilities and plans that enable agencies to continue their essential functions across a broad spectrum of emergencies. This, coupled with the potential for terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction, has emphasized the importance of COOP programs that ensure continuity of essential government functions across the federal executive branch.

    To provide oversight and coordination of this effort, Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 67 established the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency for federal executive branch COOP. This authority was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2003, and then delegated to the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (FEMA). FEMA's Office of National Security Coordination has been designated as DHS's lead agent for the federal executive branch COOP program. Included in this responsibility is the requirement to formulate guidance and establish common standards for agencies to use in developing viable, executable COOP plans, facilitate interagency coordination as appropriate and oversee and assess the status of COOP capabilities of federal executive branch agencies. Additionally, each federal executive branch agency is responsible for appointing a senior federal government executive as an emergency coordinator to serve as program manager and agency point of contact for coordinating agency COOP activities, to include planning, programming and budgeting for a viable and executable COOP program.

NIMS Training

Q: What is the NIMS Training Program?

A: The National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training Program defines the national NIMS training program as it relates to the NIMS components of Preparedness, Communications and Information Management, Resource Management and Command and Management. It specifies the National Integration Center (NIC) and stakeholder responsibilities and activities for developing, maintaining and sustaining NIMS training. The NIMS Training Program outlines responsibilities and activities that are consistent with the National Training Program, as mandated by the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. This program integrates with FEMA training offered through the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and United States Fire Administration (USFA). 

Q: Who should read the NIMS Training Program?

A: The NIMS Training Program is intended for emergency management officials and administrators responsible for budgets, planning,and procurement, who require guidance on the development and provision of NIMS training. The NIMS Training Program informs federal, state, tribal and local policy-makers, elected and appointed officials, government emergency management agencies and trainers (i.e. state, tribal and local NIMS Coordinators); managers overseeing those in mission-critical positions and organizations and professional development, human resource managers setting and overseeing personnel policies and personnel with responsibility to develop NIMS-related guidance or training, credentialing or personnel qualifications information.

Q: If I follow the guidance within the NIMS Training Program will I be compliant with NIMS?

A: No, the implementation of NIMS consists of much more than just completing the training courses.  It also includes the adoption and use of the Incident Command System (ICS), a plain language requirement, the inventorying and typing of resources and more.   Your organization should coordinate its NIMS implementation efforts with the local and state emergency management agencies.

Q: Can my jurisdiction require that I complete more training beyond what is recommended in the NIMS Training Program?

A: Yes, your organization will also have to adhere to any additional NIMS requirements that are passed down through local governing bodies.  Some jurisdictions and organizations may take the initiative to train their personnel beyond the scope of the current training recommendations.

Q: Is the NIMS Training Program just for firefighters and law enforcement officers?

A: No, the training is intended for all personnel who are directly involved in emergency management and response.  This includes all emergency services related disciplines such as EMS, hospitals, public health, fire service, law enforcement, public works/utilities, skilled support personnel and other emergency management response, support and volunteer personnel.  This training is intended to aid people who don't usually work together or even know each other to seamlessly respond to and recover from a disaster either natural or man-made.

Q: Has the NIMS coursework contained in the NIMS Training Program changed from those that were in the Five-Year NIMS Training Program?

A: Yes.  The categories for each level of training have been simplified from those that were in the Five-Year NIMS Training Plan.  Training recommendations are now based upon the level of an incident's complexity (Complexity Guide found on pages 16-17 of the NIMS Training Program) that a person may become involved in, from Type 1 to Type 5.  Organizations should consider the complexity of incidents that their jurisdictions are most likely to face and tailor the NIMS training for their personnel to meet those needs. 

Last Updated: 
02/18/2014 - 10:22