Thursday, May 11, 2006

NIMS: Institutional Planning for Disasters (Pandemics, Hurricanes or Political Conventions!)

I just came back from one portion of a NIMS training my university is having done for staff at many levels. We previously did Incident Planning (or disaster planning); months of meeting with mid- and upper-level managers throughout the university to consider all types of possible things that could happen from floods to storms to riots to protests to electrical outages, and more. We ranked the likelihood, ranked how disastrous it would be to our adminstration, our financial and our teaching functions. And then we prioritized the ones we thought would be most likely and most diastrous to our core educational mission.

Now, the key emergeny team have met and identified members who need to be involved at operational levels. And we are training everybody identified to be involved at all levels. There are 4 levels of training, I think. This is called NIMS (National Incident Management System) training. It is mandated at the federal level and some states have also mandated it. But it also works well for planning and managing non-emergency events as well as preparing for emergencies. So there are good reasons to get with this program.

I have to say my enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by the fact that a lot of this programming comes from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration. FEMA took some real beatings over poor handling of a number of recent emergencies, from Hurricane Katrina onwards. But we also have to remember that they also have some very good career people in place, who handled some terrible disasters well, and will rise to emergencies again in the future. Also, much of the NIMS procedure is based on 30 years of experience in California fighting wildfires.

Here are some good links to find out more about these procedures. They are basically very flexible processes and protocols that allow best use of resources, personnel, and coordination among organizations.

NIMS information at FEMA link
Brief introduction, PDF and html files, training courses and FAQs

State and Local Guide for All Hazard Emergency Operations Planning link
Divided by chapter into type of emergency. Pdf in easily downloaded chunks.

Incident Command System at OSHA link
This sounds very military, and it does have some military overtones. But this is the portion of NIMS that developed over the 30 year period fighting wildfires in California. It is a very important portion of the organization planning. This is a very good website explaining the core of the system. Also includes some CFR citations and links so law librarians like me can see how this fits into the law.

The image of a firefighter actually comes from the OSHA website at

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