NIMS Preparedness and Resource Management

One of the core components of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is Resource Management. Preparedness is another. The other principal components are: Communications and Information Management; Command and Management; and On-Going Management and Maintenance. Because both Resource Management and Preparedness affect and are affected by the other NIMS components the question is sometimes asked, “Which comes first?” The answer is, “They both do.”

Preparedness includes, among other things, the compilation of a comprehensive resource inventory that encompasses not only resource capabilities but also the availability of those resources. Preparedness planning will identify where resources can be obtained and the procedures necessary for their acquisition in a number of different situations. Situational planning, as well as pre-incident planning, provides the incident commander (or event manager) with the opportunity both to identify where initial as well as supporting resources can be acquired and the steps needed to make those resources part of an ongoing effort.

Planning (as a function of Preparedness) also provides emergency-management organizations and officials – on both the requesting and receiving ends of the system – with the procedures that must be followed in requesting, deploying, tracking, and returning resources. These procedures are typically stated in SOP (standard operating procedures) language. Of particular importance is the fact that preparedness planning should cover the measures needed to identify the capabilities of all resources that may be requested (or offered in a mutual-aid situation). These are, in fact, the basic elements of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) program.

From Policy to Planning to Tactical Operations

Under NIMS, command and management – i.e., Incident Command – cover the effective utilization of resources. In order to use resources most effectively, the managers of an event or incident must know the capabilities of all of their resources and assign those resources judiciously. For most local and many regional incidents, the incident commander probably would have at least some familiarity with the capabilities of the resources at his or her disposal. However, for “expanding” or “major” incidents that require the importation of resources from more distant or unfamiliar sources, standard processes for resource management – “resource typing,” for example – will help significantly in identifying, requesting, and assigning such resources.

For practical purposes this means that, when logistics-section personnel meet with planning-section personnel before or during an incident-command Tactics Meeting to identify the resources already on hand vs. those that will be needed for various situations, it is very important that the personnel from both sections have a common understanding of the resources discussed, and their capabilities. In addition, the logistics section of an incident management team (IMT) must know how to identify and request resources likely to be needed but are not necessarily on hand. NIMS decision makers are now developing national standards both for resource typing and for credentialing. Detailed information on the progress and products of this national “typing” initiative will be available later from the Incident Management Systems Integration Division (IMSID) at the National Integration Center (NIC). (The web link for this information is http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/index.shtm.)

There also are a number of diverse initiatives underway to enhance Resource-Management capabilities. Many of these initiatives will be “works-in-progress” for some time to come, but it should be remembered that, prior to promulgation of the initial NIMS policy guidelines, rules to ensure the continuity and cohesion of large-scale, or national, efforts for comprehensive resource identification, classification, and typing were almost non-existent. Prior to the promulgation of NIMS, in fact, most if not all of these efforts were independent, autonomous, and usually unknown outside of the individual disciplines involved. For that and other reasons, the ability to coordinate wide-ranging resource needs, and/or the acquisition of the resources identified, was inhibited by the barriers between disciplines that had existed for many years.

As previously noted, however, significant progress has been made since the NIMS policy guidelines were instituted in 2004. Although much remains to be done before the nation enjoys the benefits of a truly comprehensive resource inventory and management system, significant progress has in fact been made. To cite but one example: the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has had in place for almost 40 years a national resource typing system for wildfire resources. The standards used by the NWCG to determine the “kinds” and “types” of firefighting resources required provided the basis, in fact, for developing a similar national fire-response resource database as well as the typing standards postulated for the organization and operations of Incident Management Teams (IMTs). There are other “intra-disciplinary” resource-management systems that also are being used as building blocks for what is expected to be a truly comprehensive overall resource-management system.

Signs of Progress and the CDC/NACCHO NPHPSP

Eventually, many if not all of the initiatives already implemented, or currently being developed, probably will be incorporated into the NIMS organizational framework either directly or by reference. For example, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) administers the “Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices” (MUTCD). That manual is the product of a collaboration between the FHA and the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (and its more than 200 voluntary members). The stated goal of the MUTCD is to provide guidance related to “signs, signals, markings or other devices used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic placed on, over, or adjacent to a street, highway, pedestrian facility, or bikeway by authority of a public agency having jurisdiction.” Today, it is readily apparent to anyone traveling from state to state on public highways that traffic signage has become much more consistent throughout the entire country and is more readily understandable as well. The MUTCD is a relatively unheralded effort to standardize resource management for highway traffic control. In other words, the intent is to promote both safety and efficiency in traffic management and in that context it is worth emphasizing that safety and efficiency are among the cornerstone goals postulated for the NIMS.

A recent and logical extension of the MUTCD has been the use of standardized temporary traffic-control devices both to ensure motorist comprehension and to improve compliance with safety measures during highway emergencies. Numerous states and regional emergency-preparedness organizations have been and are incorporating the MUTCD guidelines into regional and state emergency-management protocols. In Virginia, for example, the Hampton Roads Highway Incident Management (HRHIM) consortium – an ad hoc organization of police, fire, EMS, emergency management, and transportation officials – has adopted the MUTCD as its “golden standard” for integrating transportation-department responses with other emergency disciplines with jurisdiction over various aspects of highway incidents in the Hampton Roads area. A number of other jurisdictions also have incorporated the MUTCD guidelines into their own planning, preparedness, and response initiatives. (Additional information about the MUTCD is available at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov.)

Another example, at the national level, of a successful standardization initiative is the joint effort between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to develop and promulgate information about the National Public Health Performance Standards Program (NPHPSP). In 2002 the CDC developed its own guidelines for “Bioterrorism & Emergency Readiness: Competencies for All Public Health Workers.” Since then, the CDC and NACCHO have coordinated their efforts to promote core competencies for all public health workers. Certain parts of this initiative had been adopted in April 2001, but after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 they became obviously higher priorities, and received much greater attention from the CDC and NACCHO.

The CDC/NACCHO efforts were reflected in the NIMS Core Competencies Standards for Public Health Teams published earlier this year, and further promulgated by numerous state public-health agencies. (Further information on the CDC and NACCHO programs is available at www.cdc.gov and www.naccho.org, respectively. The NIMS resource typing guidelines can be viewed at http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/rm/credentialing.shtm; also available at that site are the core competencies and resource-typing standards currently compiled by the Department of Homeland Security for other emergency-response disciplines.)

Parallel to these efforts, the NIC has developed draft “NIMS Standards for Credentialing and Typing of Personnel,” which was published in May of this year. The overview of that publication is both positive and emphatic: “[T]he standard will help ensure that, when called upon for mutual aid, emergency response officials from multiple jurisdictions and sectors will have interoperable processes and technology. This will enable emergency response officials to spend less time processing and being processed and more time responding to the incident.”

Once again, it is abundantly clear, resource management – identification, classification, typing, and inventorying – is an integral component of emergency preparedness and a prerequisite to overall operational success in future emergencies. In short, Preparedness and Resource Management work side-by-side in the NIMS continuum – not independently, but along with Communications and Information Management; Command and Management; and On-going Management and Maintenance. The next challenge for state and local emergency responders will be to incorporate the standards and processes postulated for NIMS Preparedness and Resource Management into their own efforts to enhance similar capabilities at the local, state, and tribal levels of government.

Stephen Grainer

Stephen Grainer is the chief of IMS programs for the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP). He has served in Virginia fire and emergency services and emergency management coordination programs since 1972 – in assignments ranging from firefighter to chief officer. He also has been a curriculum developer, content evaluator, and instructor, and currently is developing and managing the VDFP programs needed to enable emergency responders and others to meet the National Incident Management System compliance requirements established by the federal government. From 2010 to 2012, he served as president of the All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association.

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