National Incident Management and Command Systems

Disaster response and security management are complex processes that require a combination and coordination of various elements of the government, first response, financial considerations, personnel management, and inclusion of the private sector, among other aspects. Information technology such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) was created to standardize, improve, and protecting the management of security and response procedures at all levels of government. At the state level, NIMS and ICS can be utilized for the benefit of Homeland Security procedures, which would ensure the continuing operation of the government and effective multi-agency response to any adverse emergency event.

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NIMS is a standardized framework created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a system for managing disaster responses of any scale and involving all relevant elements ranging from equipment, organization, and terminology in the immediate effort, to improving government responses to emergencies and their outcomes. The system applies to all relevant stakeholders, including all levels of government and their respective emergency managers, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. NIMS offers a comprehensive and systematic approach to incident management, unifying principles, common communication, and command coordination to ensure collaboration and effective responses to incidents of any scale (FEMA, 2019).

State-level security procedures significantly benefit from NIMS for a variety of reasons. First, it retains commonality and standardization with other federal-level agencies. This ensures a higher level of quality, accountability, and effectiveness. In terms of security activities, NIMS contributes to information sharing among state and federal information entities by ensuring that technological systems are compatible. This makes possible access to such databases as the Regional Intelligence Sharing Systems, High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Investigative Support Centers, and Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Information sharing tools and portals are also available, particularly the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN). The Homeland Security Department gains the benefits of group organization to enhance its security through using entities such as the Investigative Operations Group, Intelligence Group, and Investigative Support Group that operate across state and territorial boundaries (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2013).


The ICS is a specialized subcategory of NIMS that is focused on creating a management system for domestic incident management and combining facilities, equipment, personnel, and procedures. It is meant to efficiently facilitate activities in the five primary functional areas of command, planning, operations, logistics, and intelligence. It is a management system focused on the incident at hand, often under urgent conditions, and distributes resources to all components of the command system (FEMA, 2018). The ICS greatly improves DHS procedures at the state level and in collaboration with federal agencies. First, it provides standards for command and control, including a common hierarchy among agencies and concrete aspects of emergency response. Second, it provides an efficient management framework to achieve any given emergency objective, ranging from active shooters to a natural disaster. It improves the flexibility of organization and distribution of resources in the manner most efficient for the solution of a problem. Through the establishment of a span of control, responsibilities are managed and shared to avoid overload. Finally, the ICS has secure and structured action plans in place for all types of emergencies or procedural protocols during response activities.


The commonality and standardization of NIMS and ICS offer several advantages. First, there is a significant enhancement to organizational and technological interoperability, which eliminates various barriers due to inconsistent chains of command or incompatibility of systems that would exist otherwise. This allows for better and standard communication and information management concerning common doctrines, principles, and terminology. It guarantees an effective and smoother response during any large-scale events that require multi-agency collaboration. In addition, the systems provide a scalable and highly flexible framework of operations and guidelines that can be universally applied to any emergency scenario to achieve a structured response. Furthermore, NIMS institutionalizes emergency management and incident response parameters that ensure preparedness for any given hazard for agencies at all levels of government (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

The biggest advantage to the NIMS/ICS framework and systems is consistency, as they ensure structure, stability, and effectiveness in emergencies, which are inherently chaotic. Agencies, governments, and even the private sector can use NIMS to communicate, coordinate responses, and submit any concerns at any time or any level. In turn, this greatly improves recovery time and costs, while minimizing disruptions to operations and critical public services. All aspects of common communication, including terminology, concepts, and danger levels, as well as information management such as storage and sharing, are contributors to the advantages the NIMS/ICS system holds over previous iterations of disaster response.

Resource Management

Resources and their distribution are vital during an emergency response, as these resources, ranging from human capital to equipment and aid, are limited during adverse events. The efficiency and standardization offered by the NIMS/ICS systems contribute greatly to the management of resources by offering agencies capabilities for coordination and oversight. Equipment, supporting systems, and their distribution can be managed, enabling the Emergency Control Center to maintain order and control as well as ensuring the effective response and resource focus on critical areas that disaster management may entail. NIMS provides capabilities for collecting data and describing, recording, requesting, and maintain all resources before and during the emergency response. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, the enhanced communication allows for quicker exchange, allocation, and mobilization of resources among agencies. This removes barriers to access and assistance requests, which may be vital in an emergency response when time is of the essence.

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ICS was specifically created to optimize resource management by establishing standardized mechanisms to systematically manage all types of resources such as equipment, supplies, emergency teams, supporting staff, and available facilities. ICS integrates the resources and combines them with available personnel and relevant procedures and communications that are in effect under a unified organizational structure. As a management tool, ICS is extremely effective since it can direct components of the NIMS and meet the demands of states and government agencies arising from any type of emergency, resulting in a highly efficient domestic incident and resource management (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2019).

Multi-Agency Coordination

The standardization and common response structure offered by NIMS are vital to multi-agency response operations. The NIMS/ICS emergency response systems were created with the idea that resources would have to be coordinated among agencies in case of major events to ensure effective collaboration across organizations and jurisdictions through the use of standard practices. According to guidelines, an Emergency Operations Center is commonly activated where agencies utilize NIMS and collaborate to provide coordinated responses on-site. There are various levels of priority and organization in terms of the role agencies play in emergencies. Using NIMS, many federal agencies can collaborate with and lead their state-level equivalents to ensure objectives are fulfilled (Hambridge, Howitt, & Giles, 2017). Thus, agencies at all levels of government are strongly encouraged to adopt NIMS for smoother communication and response procedures.

In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that would require the NCCIC as part of the DHS to work on a unified system that would detect and mitigate threats and vulnerabilities to industrial control systems. This technology would make it possible to effectively maintain critical infrastructure in case of an attack or disaster. While the NCCIC already maintains a relationship with ICS owners, this law codifies the responsibilities and ensures interagency collaboration with the DHS to update and improve its capabilities for protecting critical national infrastructure systems (Bisson, 2018). At the state level, this leads to collaboration with a multitude of agencies responsible for the effective functioning of industrial systems and their supporting resources. National and state-level agencies must work together since the guidelines for management are at a national level, but the critical infrastructure is often located and remains in the private sector adhering to state regulations or under the jurisdiction of states.


NIMS and ICS are standardized systems of disaster management and emergency response that are utilized by agencies at the national and state levels. Homeland Security significantly benefits from the management capabilities and unified communication introduced by these systems, which impact aspects such as multi-agency cooperation and resource management. It is important to maintain and update the NIMS and ICS systems as part of the security and disaster management parameters that can ensure efficient and secure responses by government agencies.


Bisson, D. (2018). House passes bill designed to help protect industrial control systems. Web.

FEMA. (2018). Incident Command System resources. Web.

FEMA. (2019). National Incident Management System. Web.

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Hambridge, N. B., Howitt, A. M., & Giles, D. W. (2017). Coordination in crises: Implementation of the National Incident Management System by surface transportation agencies. Homeland Security Affairs, 13(2), 1-30. Web.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). National Incident Management System (NIMS) fact sheet. Web.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2013) National Incident Management System (NIMS) intelligence/investigations function guidance and field operations guide. Web.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). Section 5: Systems for emergency/incident response management. Web.

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