Lesson 1: Understanding NIMS

What Is NIMS?

Each day communities respond to numerous emergencies. Most often, these incidents are managed effectively at the local level.

However, there are some incidents that may require a collaborative approach that includes personnel from:

  • Multiple jurisdictions,
  • A combination of specialties or disciplines,
  • Several levels of government,
  • Nongovernmental organizations, and
  • The private sector.

The National Incident Management System, or NIMS, provides the foundation needed to ensure that we can work together when our communities and the Nation need us the most.

NIMS integrates best practices into a comprehensive, standardized framework that is flexible enough to be applicable across the full spectrum of potential incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity.

Using NIMS allows us to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents.

This course introduces you to the NIMS concepts, principles, and components.


National Incident Management System (NIMS) Overview

NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable Federal, State, tribal, and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together 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 and property and harm to the environment.


NIMS Document: A Collaborative Partnership

The NIMS document was developed through a collaborative intergovernmental partnership with significant input from the incident management functional disciplines, NGOs, and the private sector.

Originally published on March 1, 2004, the NIMS document was revised in 2008 to reflect contributions from stakeholders and lessons learned during recent incidents.


Related NIMS Document Section

This lesson summarizes the information presented in the Introduction and Overview, including:

  • Introduction
  • Concepts and Principles
    • Flexibility
    • Standardization
  • Overview of NIMS Components


HSPD-5, Management of Domestic Incidents

Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 5, "Management of Domestic Incidents," directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • Develop the National Response Framework (NRF).


The NIMS Mandate

HSPD-5 requires all Federal departments and agencies to:

  • Adopt NIMS and use it in their individual incident management programs and activities.
  • Make adoption of NIMS by State, tribal, and local organizations a condition for Federal preparedness assistance (through grants, contracts, and other activities).


Collaborative Incident Management

NIMS is not an operational incident management or resource allocation plan.

NIMS represents a core set of doctrines, concepts, principles, terminology, and organizational processes that enables effective, efficient, and collaborative incident management.


NIMS Builds on Best Practices

Building on the foundation provided by existing emergency management and incident response systems used by jurisdictions, organizations, and functional disciplines at all levels, NIMS integrates best practices into a comprehensive framework.

These best practices lay the groundwork for the components of NIMS and provide the mechanisms for the further development and refinement of supporting national standards, guidelines, protocols, systems, and technologies.


NIMS Is Dynamic

NIMS is not a static system.

NIMS fosters the development of specialized technologies that facilitate emergency management and incident response activities and allows for the adoption of new approaches that will enable continuous refinement of the system over time.


NIMS Components

NIMS is much more than just using the Incident Command System or an organization chart.

NIMS is a consistent, nationwide, systematic approach that includes the following components:

  • Preparedness
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Resource Management
  • Command and Management
  • Ongoing Management and Maintenance

The components of NIMS were not designed to stand alone, but to work together.


Effective emergency management and incident response activities begin with a host of preparedness activities conducted on an ongoing basis, in advance of any potential incident. Preparedness involves an integrated combination of assessment; planning; procedures and protocols; training and exercises; personnel qualifications, licensure, and certification; equipment certification; and evaluation and revision.

Communications and Information Management

Emergency management and incident response activities rely on communications and information systems that provide a common operating picture to all command and coordination sites. NIMS describes the requirements necessary for a standardized framework for communications and emphasizes the need for a common operating picture. This component is based on the concepts of interoperability, reliability, scalability, and portability, as well as the resiliency and redundancy of communications and information systems.

Resource Management

Resources (such as personnel, equipment, or supplies) are needed to support critical incident objectives. The flow of resources must be fluid and adaptable to the requirements of the incident. NIMS defines standardized mechanisms and establishes the resource management process to identify requirements, order and acquire, mobilize, track and report, recover and demobilize, reimburse, and inventory resources.

Command and Management

The Command and Management component of NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized incident management structure. The structure is based on three key organizational constructs: the Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information.

Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Within the auspices of Ongoing Management and Maintenance, there are two components: the National Integration Center (NIC) and Supporting Technologies.



The components of NIMS are adaptable and scalable to any situation, from routine, local incidents, to incidents requiring the activation of interstate mutual aid, to those requiring a coordinated Federal response. NIMS applies to all types of incidents.



NIMS provides a set of standardized organizational structures that improve integration and connectivity among jurisdictions and disciplines, starting with a common foundation of preparedness and planning.

Personnel and organizations that have adopted the common NIMS framework are able to work together, thereby fostering cohesion among the various organizations involved in all aspects of an incident.


What Is NIMS?

What NIMS is: What NIMS is NOT:

  • A comprehensive, nationwide, systematic approach to incident management, including the Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information
  • A set of preparedness concepts and principles for all hazards
  • Essential principles for a common operating picture and interoperability of communications and information management
  • Standardized resource management procedures that enable coordination among different jurisdictions or organizations
  • Scalable so it may be used for all incidents (from day-to-day to large-scale)
  • A dynamic system that promotes ongoing management and maintenance

  • A response plan
  • Only used during large-scale incidents
  • A communications plan
  • Only applicable to certain emergency management/incident response personnel
  • Only the Incident Command System or an organization chart
  • A static system