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FEMA Publishes NIMS 3.0 | Part 2

FEMA Publishes NIMS 3.0 | Part 2

Note: This is Part 1 of A 3-Part Series. Read Part1 Here...

Eighteen months after the National Incident Management System (NIMS) 1.0 was published, it imploded, just like the levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. And we should have seen it coming. After all, NIMS 1.0 was drafted under duress, at a time when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was an empty shell, having been shucked by a political ideology that it was an unnecessary agency.

Of course, NIMS 1.0 fractured. It had to be rushed out during one of the most chaotic times in our Nation's history. And:

  • It was version 1.0, which always has some bugs
  • It was written on the fast track in in the wake of the 9/11 attacks
  • It was a presidential mandate under Homeland Security Presidential Directive #5 (HSPD-5), and no one like mandates
  • It was drafted under the authority granted to a brand spanking new DHS, an agency with a compass focussed on preventing and protecting against terrorism on U.S soil, not emergency management
  • It was pushed out nationally to a first responder community that was pretty comfortable with their local Incident Command Systems (ICS) and wasn't real keen on changing 
  • There were only eighteen months between publication and the day Hurricane Katrina tore into the Gulf Coast, leaving little time to implement the system through training programs and inclusion in exercises

So you stay, “dude, we get it! Enough about the environment that NIMS 1.0 was drafted in. What about the actual document? What was wrong with NIMS 1.0, and can we get to NIMS 3.0?” Thanks for asking, dude. The problem was that everyone believed NIMS 1.0 was an ICS. "Huh!" Stay with me here...

Before NIMS, nearly every fire department, police department, and EMS agency operated under some form of ICS during ‘on-scene’ response operations. Yes, ‘on-scene,' response operations. That’s important to understand. You see, maybe there's a difference between ICS and an Incident 'Management' System (IMS)? Maybe NIMS was never intended to be an ICS? Maybe the fact that those tasked with teaching NIMS to the masses– namely firefighters and emergency managers that used to be firefighters– only knew ICS as a vertical command and control system for on-scene operations? The Nation is not vertical.

ICS vs. IMS

Per the dudes at Wikipedia, "ICS was initially developed to address problems of inter-agency responses to wildfires in California and Arizona but is now a 'component' of the National Incident Management System (NIMS)" Yes, a 'component.' And they cite the California Office of Emergency Services, dudes that know a little something about ICS. Huh! A 'component.'

So why was NIMS 1.0 a 'mandate' with a strong focus on 'command'? Why has the phrase NIMS compliance thrown around like a threat? Heck, the authors were so enthralled with incident command that they never defined the term "incident management," despite the fact it was half the name. Forgive them father, for they know not what they've done.

Definition Evolution

NIMS 1.0 NIMS 2.0 NIMS 3.0
Incident Command System Incident Command System Incident Command System
        "A standardized on-scene emergency management construct specifically designed to provide for the adoption of an integrated organizational structure that reflects the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. ICS is the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents. It is used for all kinds of emergencies and is applicable to small as well as large and complex incidents..."         "A standardized on-scene emergency management construct specifically designed to provide an integrated organizational structure that reflects the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. ICS is the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents. It is used for all kinds of emergencies and is applicable to small as well as large and complex incidents..."         "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."
Incident Management Incident Management Incident Management
       "No Definition"        "The broad spectrum of activities and organizations providing effective and efficient operations, coordination, and support applied at all levels of government, utilizing both governmental and nongovernmental resources to plan for, respond to, and recover from an incident, regardless of cause, size, or complexity."         "The collection, organization, and control over the structure, processing, and delivery of information from one or more sources and distribution to one or more audiences who have a stake in that information."

Per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an incident management system is  “the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents.” Now, that's a pretty good definition. It feels like it could apply to any organization, public or private.

You see, all disasters and major events have some commonalities: they require people, processes, and stuff (supplies and equipment) to manage them. And the people need a place (facility) to operate within and more stuff (equipment) to move other stuff. Incident management does not mean one is leading an engine company to put the wet stuff on the red stuff, or a team of nurses in the response to a shelter to triage and treat citizens disconnected from their home health nurse.

NIMS 1.0 NIMS 2.0 NIMS 3.0
NIMS NIMS NIMS
        "A system mandated by HSPD-5 that provides a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, local, and tribal governments; the private-sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity. To provide for interoperability and compatibility among Federal, State, local, and tribal capabilities, the NIMS includes a core set of concepts, principles, and terminology. HSPD-5 identifies these as the ICS; multi-agency coordination systems; training; identification and management of resources (including systems for classifying types of resources); qualification and certification; and the collection, tracking, and reporting of incident information and incident resources."        "A set of principles that provides a systematic, proactive approach guiding government agencies at all levels, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life or property and harm to the environment."         "A systematic, proactive approach to guide all levels of government, NGOs, and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the effects of 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 provides a consistent foundation for dealing with all incidents, ranging from daily occurrences to incidents requiring a coordinated Federal response."

So, what I'm getting at is that, intended or not, NIMS 1.0 felt all about incident 'command' rather than incident 'management.' And that theme bled over into NIMS 2.0, albeit a bit softer. The problem with the strong, vertical command focus is that it fails to speak to the private sector.

As a preparedness dude from a major American retailer– one we need open immediately following a disaster– once told me, "I don't give a damn about NIMS. Clear the roads, get the power on, and get the !@c% out of our way." Ouch! Those were humbling words for the State preparedness bureaucrat I was.

NIMS 1.0 Cover Image

I'm pretty sure the point he was making is that his company thrives or fails based on revenues, whether there's a disaster or not. His company, like all private corporations, has all the incentive they need to get their doors open, and that's very good news for emergency managers.

Stakeholder Zone of Interest

Organizations across the public and private sector have different priorities, financial considerations, and legal liability concerns. You just can't equate the interests of the private sector with those of the public sector; you cannot assume NIMS applies to private entities, including the 800-pound gorilla– healthcare.

Uhhh... yes. Ninety-two percent of the providers responsible for caring for the medical needs of the ill and injured don't live in the world of the National Response Framework (NRF) and NIMS. Healthcare providers are focused on patient safety and quality of care 24/7/365, whether there's a disaster or not. Their very survival is dependent on it because it determines if they get paid and how much. And for emergency managers and public health directors (ESF-8 Lead), this is great news in response, but not so much in preparedness.

When it comes to preparedness, it's really tough to get healthcare executives to pay attention. In response, their all ears.

So, to blab at healthcare dudes about NIMS compliance will resonate on a very low frequency. Just explain, "we'll get the roads cleared, the power restored, and get the !@c% out of your way." And when they ask about the buses, helicopters, and ambulances they'd need in the case of evacuation, softly explain you will place their request for resources (RFR) in the queue, and educate them on how the NRF and NIMS work.

And that's where the spirit of collaboration is birthed– through the regional healthcare coalition. "You play with me in preparedness and I've got your back in response– and when the surveyors show up."

As my colleague Craig Camidge puts it in our healthcare coalition development workshops, "the healthcare coalition serves as the interpreter between emergency management professionals and healthcare leadership." Healthcare coalition leadership must be bilingual– they must be able to speak 'healthcare' and 'emergency management.'

And this is where NIMS 1.0, and to a certain extent NIMS 2.0, went astray. The authors failed to recognize that there are many Emergency Operations Centers, also known as Emergency Management Centers (EMC), that serve the interest of organizations across the public and private sectors. And each of these EMCs has immense authority within their organizations– the very organizations that the emergency managers need open to the public for a speedy recovery.

And it's where NIMS 3.0 gets it right. Did I mention that NIMS 3.0 is the first version not drafted under duress? Oh, and that it's the first version signed by the FEMA Director, not just the Homeland Security Secretary? Yes, Really!

Stay tuned for part 3...

 
Karl Schmitt, MPA

Karl Schmitt, MPA


Karl is the Passionate Founder & CEO of bParati. He is on a mission to build a national network of effective, sustainable healthcare coalitions. More...

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