Several emergency management systems were set in place as a result of the catastrophic events of 9/11, and they are still used to this day.
The Department of Homeland Security is one of those emergency management systems and was a result of a presidential order. Due to DHS, the National Incident Management System was developed to help bring order to what would otherwise be a chaotic situation. Since then, NIMS has been used during several disastrous events, such as Hurricane Katrina, the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010, and the many terrorizing events like school, mall, and movie theater shootings.
NIMS has streamlined the process of responding to an emergency situation by combining several federal agencies into one program. The system helped develop a universal system of processes and procedures and has now become a general guideline in responding to an emergency.
“NIMS provides us a consistent, flexible, national framework where government entities of all levels can work together to handle a national disaster,” said Carlos Soto, WSMR Fire Chief.
The system was officially developed on March 1, 2004 by the DHS. DHS had recognized a need to streamline the process when they noticed that incidents were being handled without bringing in the jurisdiction of surrounding emergency response personnel.
“If we can expand we can handle a severe incident with a response that includes police, fire, medics, PAO, Safety, and a liaison officer,” Soto said. “When the incident starts to grow you need to include other organizations.”
“We now have a unified command. You can have whoever you need to mitigate the situation,” Soto added.
According to the FEMA website, NIMS provides an approach to help several organizations work together to manage incidents involving any threat or hazard, regardless of size. NIMS’ goal is to reduce loss of life, damage to property, or harm to the environment.
“The responses to these large scale disasters have improved because we’ve got all the tools that we didn’t have before 9/11,” said Sam Gilpin, Assistant Fire Chief. “NIMS gives a set of guidelines to operate with on scene.”
One of the federal agencies that NIMS was rooted off of was the Incident Command System. ICS was developed by the California Department of Forestry after an occurrence of major wildfires in the 70s left 16 dead, 700 structures destroyed, and 1.5 million acres burned. The 13 day disaster cost $18 million a day.
Soto said a lot of the terms that are used in NIMS have been used by the WSMR Fire Department for some time. He said the terms were probably foreign to other emergency response units.
“Before (9/11) everybody was doing their own thing, so (NIMS formalizing the terminology) brought us all together,” Soto said.
Soto said an upcoming emergency exercise in November will help WSMR actively practice the system.
“It’s going to test our ability to work together,” Soto said. “One city or one installation does not have all of the resources.” For more information on NIMS please visit fema.gov.