State and local organizations will have until the end of fiscal year 2006 to implement the National Incident Management System – a one-year extension on the’s previously announced target, according to the acting director of the NIMS Integration Center.
The NIMS is the foundation of the National Response Plan, the cornerstone of the DHS effort to integrate and unify response to emergencies across federal, state, local and public and private organizations.
But federal funding will be conditioned on “full compliance” with the NIMS starting in FY 2007, and state and local organizations will need to at least “institutionalize” the ICS portion of NIMS and take basic NIMS awareness courses this fiscal year to qualify for federal grants in FY 2006, according to Gil Jamieson, acting director of the NIMS Integration Center.
“What we are saying to state and local governments is that, for the first time, all of the funding that is flowing out to the state and local governments is going to be conditioned on their complying with the NIMS beginning in fiscal year 2007,” said Jamieson.
Appointed by Secretary Tom Ridge last fall, Jamieson is in charge of overseeing NIMS implementation and the maintenance and development of NIMS-related standards, guidelines and support to all incident management and responder organizations. For the purposes of federal grants, the NIC validates compliance with the NIMS and the National Response Plan standards.
The NIMS involves many components: ICS, personnel credentialing, interoperable communications and formalized interstate and intrastate mutual aid agreements, to name just a few.
Testifying on NIMS before Congress for the International Association of Fire Chief’s last September, Chief Michael Freeman of Los Angeles noted that the NIMS includes 518 specific requirements and called the DHS plan to require implementation by the end of FY 2005 a “Herculean and perhaps unreasonable task.” Thesuggested a phased-in approach.
“There was general agreement that Chief Freeman, representing the fire service, made some very valid points in his testimony,” said IAFC Government Relations Director Alan Caldwell, “and they’ve taken into consideration what we have suggested and have acted on it, to their credit.”
Jamieson is optimistic that NIMS implementation is being embraced by the fire service. Fire provided the NIMS’ backbone: it's ICS system, a part of fire service operations for decades. He said he hopes fire service executives will serve as “mentors” to the other disciplines where ICS has not been a part of their culture: medicine, health, law enforcement, public works, humanitarian aid groups and others that the NIMS integrates in its top-to-bottom plan for improving management of resources at major emergencies.
“The fire service is in a unique position and is leading the way towards national NIMS implementation,” said Jamieson.
It’s already beginning to happen, he said. Fire department executives in departments of all sizes -– career, combination and volunteer -– are bringing the broad spectrum of organizations that take part in emergencies in their communities together under the NIMS.
Of course, NIMS is an extensive plan, and Jamieson realizes there are some fire officials out there who may not have read the doctrine cover-to-cover. “But the fire service, by and large, has embraced ICS and the NIMS for quite some time,” he said. “It’s at the backbone of their operation and command strategies, so we very much see them as, quite frankly, the center of gravity in terms of the national implementation effort.”
As for the mechanism the NIC will use to validate compliance with NIMS, Jamieson said state and local organizations will be required to “self-certify” their compliance by the end of FY 2006 to qualify for federal grants. As opposed to taking on a strong enforcement role, he said, the NIC will offer guidance and technical assistance to the state and local communities to help them get to where they need to be.
The NIC and the IAFC are working on helping to establish intra-state mutual aid agreements. “We’re in pretty good shape with the interstate mutual-aid agreements that we’ve gotten, with 50 states now participating in that,” he said. The IAFC is helping the NIC to establish a template for intrastate mutual aid agreements.
“I’m very excited about our continued relationship as we roll out the NIMS,” Jamieson said. “But also from a practical standpoint, there are some project-specific things that we’re doing with the IAFC that I think are really going to bear fruit.”
Another key issue to watch will be how the NIC rolls out training. Distance learning and classroom training through the National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute will be stepped up. But the NIMS is developing a national standard curriculum for NIMS, Jamieson said, that will be used as a measuring stick for all NIMS training -- including federal, state, local and vendor-provided training.
“We’re trying to bring all the federal training providers under the tent and establish this national standard curriculum, which we’re real excited about,” Jamieson said, “because there are some questions out there about ‘If I take this training from XYZ vendor, is that going to count? The curriculum will help on that and some of the guidelines that we have underway will help local firehouses evaluate some of the training that vendors are clearly going to be pushing at them.”
Even though the fire service is ahead of other sectors on the NIMS learning curve, Caldwell concedes complete implementation of the NIMS by the end of 2006 will be “quite a leap.” Fire officials have a lot of work ahead of them. “But you’ve got to set hard targets, and you’ve got to set targets that are a little ambitious, because if you don’t make it at least a little ambitious, people will go back to sleep again.”
For more details:
NIMS Compliance Activities to be Achieved in FY 2005
NIC Director: Fire is NIMS 'Center of Gravity' (Transcript of Interview Jan. 18, 2005)
National Incident Management System Integration Center Web site