It’s so often that I hear people proclaim in response to a problem that NIMS will fix it. I’ve written in the past that many organizations reference the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) in their plans, as they should, but it’s often a reference with no substance. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes; and the details of implementation are necessary to ensure that difficulties can be overcome.
The premise is simple… NIMS is a doctrine, only as valuable as the paper you print it on. So fundamentally, NIMS has no value – unless it is implemented. This human factor is the biggest hurdle organizations and jurisdictions must face, yet so many are lulled into a false sense of security because they cite it in their plans and they’ve taken some ICS courses. I encourage every organization to review the NIMS doctrine and give your organization an honest assessment of how you are actually following it. It’s bound to be pretty eye opening for many.
We also have to keep in mind that NIMS isn’t just for your own organization. While there are plenty of great practices in NIMS for your own organization, the greatest value in it is for multi-agency responses. These don’t have to be to the extent of Hurricane Katrina or a massive wildfire, either. Multi-agency responses occur in most jurisdictions every day – even what we regard as some of the most simple or routine incidents require multiple agencies to respond. While the actions and responsibilities of these agencies are fairly rote and well-practiced, a slight increase in complexity can cause significant changes.
Consider that different agencies, even those within the same discipline have some different ways of doing things. These can be simply in the mechanics of what they do, or they can be driven by procedures, equipment, or personality. Some of this may be in writing, some may not. Where this matters is in tactics. NIMS won’t solve differences in tactical application or ensuring interoperability. Only preparedness can accomplish that. Before an incident occurs, we need to be having regular conversations with other agencies within our jurisdiction and outside of it. How often do you exercise with your mutual aid partners? I mean really exercise with them… It’s great that you all arrive to the exercise site and set up your own stuff, but how about mixing and matching equipment? What will work? What won’t? How will it impact tactical application? These are some of the most meaningful lessons learned.
Bottom line – don’t try to pencil-whip NIMS as the solution to your problems. It’s meaningless unless it’s actually put into action – and the way to proactively do that is through preparedness efforts. Work together through POETE activities – Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercises. Once you put the concepts of NIMS into action, then it will work for you!
How has your organization implemented NIMS concepts?
© 2017 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP