National Incident Management System

NIMS redirects here. For other meanings see Nims.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is emergency management doctrine used nationwide to coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management and response among the public (Federal, Tribal, state, and local government agencies) and private sectors.

NIMS is a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that is applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines. NIMS enables us 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 works hand in hand with the National Response Framework (NRF) - NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents, while the NRF provides the structure and mechanisms for national-level policy for incident management.

The benefits of NIMS include:

  • A standardized approach to incident management that is scalable and flexible.
  • Enhanced cooperation and interoperability among responders.
  • Comprehensive all-hazards preparedness.
  • Efficient resource coordination among jurisdictions or organizations.
  • Integration of best practices and lessons learned for continuous improvement.


Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5), “Management of Domestic Incidents,” directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS).

The 2003 presidential directive required all federal agencies to adopt the NIMS and to use it in their individual domestic incident management and emergency prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation programs and activities. The directive also required Federal Departments and agencies to make adoption of NIMS by state, tribal, and local organizations a condition for federal preparedness awards beginning in federal fiscal year (FY) 2005. Federal Preparedness Awards can include grants, contracts, equipment, supplies, and other activities. It is not limited to financial aid.

NIMS Concepts and principles

NIMS is based on a balance of flexibility and standardization:


NIMS is flexible because it is applicable to any incident regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity and its components can also be utilized to develop all-hazards plans, processes, procedures, agreements, and roles.


NIMS provides an organized set of scalable and standardized operational structures, which is critical for allowing various organizations and agencies to work together in a predictable, coordinated manner. NIMS provides standardized terminology, organizational structures, processes, and procedures designed to improve operability among jurisdictions and disciplines in various areas.

NIMS components


Preparedness is essential for effective incident and emergency management. Achieving national preparedness requires partnership among all levels of government, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations. NIMS preparedness encompasses a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action. Ongoing preparedness provides for better coordination during times of crisis.

Communications and information management

NIMS prompts the use of flexible communications and information systems that allow all emergency management and response partners to establish and maintain a common operating picture of the incident. This NIMS component builds on the key concepts of interoperability, reliability, scalability, and portability to ensure that personnel from different disciplines, jurisdictions, organizations, and agencies are able to communicate, using plain language, with each other.

Resource management

Efficient incident management requires a system for identifying available resources at all jurisdictional levels to enable timely and unimpeded access to resources needed to prepare for, respond to, or recover from an incident. Resource management under the NIMS includes mutual-aid agreements; the use of special Federal, State, local, and tribal teams; and resource mobilization protocols.

Command and Management

The Command and Management component NIMS outlines the systems and processes the form the basis for standardizes response operations and information sharing. This is accomplished through the use of consistent terminology and and established organization structure. These tool, applied consistently, provide the framework for effective and efficient incident command and management via the following systems:

  • The Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Multi-agency Coordination System (MACS)
  • Public Information

Ongoing Management and Maintenance

The Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Integration Center (NIC), is responsible for:

  • Administration and Compliance: To manage ongoing administration and implementation of NIMS, including specification of compliance measures, the NIC is responsible for working toward the following:
  • Developing and maintaining a national program for NIMS education and awareness.
  • Promoting compatibility between national-level standards for NIMS and those developed by other public, private, and professional groups.
  • Facilitating the establishment and maintenance of a documentation and database system related to qualification, certification, and credentialing of emergency management/response personnel and organizations.
  • Developing assessment criteria for the various components of NIMS, as well as compliance requirements and timelines.
  • Standards and Credentialing: The NIC works with appropriate standards development organizations to ensure the adoption of common national standards and credentialing systems that are compatible and aligned with the implementation of NIMS. The standards apply to the identification, adoption, and development of common standards and credentialing programs.
  • Training and Exercise Support: The NIC leads the development of training and exercises that further appropriate agencies’ and organizations’ knowledge, adoption, and implementation of NIMS.
  • Publication Management: Publication management for NIMS includes the development of naming and numbering conventions, the review and certification of publications, development of methods for publications control, identification of sources and suppliers for publications and related services, management of publication distribution, and assurance of product accessibility.

NIMS Stakeholders

NIMS is applicable to all levels of government, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations who have an active role in emergency management and incident response. Below is a summary of key roles and responsibilities.

  • Federal Departments and Agencies: HSPD-5 requires all Federal departments and agencies to adopt NIMS and use it in their individual incident management programs and activities, as well as in support of all actions taken to assist State, tribal, and local governments.
  • Tribal, State, and Local Governments:In the vast majority of incidents, State, territorial, tribal, and local government resources and mutual aid and assistance agreements provide the first line of incident response, management, and coordination. NIMS is based on the concept that local jurisdictions retain command, control, and authority over response activities for their jurisdictional areas. HSPD-5 requires adoption of NIMS by State, tribal, and local organizations as a condition for Federal preparedness assistance (through grants, contracts, and other activities).
  • Private Sector and Nongovernmental Organizations: The private sector and nongovernmental organizations play valuable roles in helping communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from incidents. All entities that are directly involved in response operations are strongly encouraged to have their response personnel receive NIMS training.

FEMA National Integration Center

Recognizing the need to keep NIMS current and relevant within the emergency management and homeland security communities, the Secretary of Homeland Security established the NIMS Integration Center, now National Integration Center, in June 2004. The National Integration Center is a division with FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate and is the primary government office responsible for the maintenance and management of NIMS. The National Integration Center collaborates with Federal, State, Tribal, and local communities and the private sector to provide strategic direction for, and oversight of, NIMS:

  • supporting routine maintenance and continuous refinement of the system and its components;
  • identification and communication of NIMS adoption and implementation activities;
  • the development and distribution of guidance relating to typing of resources and credentialing of emergency response personnel;
  • the development and facilitation of NIMS training; and
  • the oversight of the routine review and revision of NIMS.

For more information on NIMS and NIMS implementation, contact the National Integration Center - 500 C Street, SW Washington, DC 20472

  • Phone: (202) 646-3850
  • NIMS Resource Center:

NIMS Resource Center

The NIMS Resource Center ( provides online resources to implement and maintain NIMS concepts and principles, including:

  • NIMS Information & Related Documents. Provides access to the NIMS document and other related annexes, guides, materials, and documents.
  • NIMS Components. Presents information, guidance, and resources on critical elements such as resource typing definitions, mutual aid and assistance agreements, interoperability, credentialing, and training and exercises.
  • NIMS ImplementationGuidance. Offers stakeholders implementation guidance and assistance. Also includes information about Federal preparedness awards.
  • Briefings, Training & Other Resources. Provides valuable resources such as NIMS briefings, training requirements and opportunities, alerts, frequently asked questions, lessons learned, forms, and job aids.

See also

External links

  • U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security]
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • FEMA NIMS Resource Center

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