Now, I know a lot of us on the site have political views that are to the right of Patrick Henry and we get suspicious of anything Federal that comes up. I’m hip.
However, when you extract three to four trillion of tax money from the citizenry each year, there are some things that come out once in a while that are actually worth checking out. One of those things is the Incident Command System (ICS), which is a subset of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). In layman’s terms, NIMS and ICS are organizational and operational models that are used to guide responses from a simple three car accident all the way up to dealing with the caldera at Yellowstone exploding and eating the center of the country.
In federal-ese, NIMS is explained as:
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together seamlessly and manage incidents involving all threats and hazards—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—in order to reduce loss of life, property and harm to the environment. The NIMS is the essential foundation to the National Preparedness System (NPS) and provides the template for the management of incidents and operations in support of all five National Planning Frameworks.
The purpose of the NIMS is to provide a common approach for managing incidents. The concepts […] provide for a flexible but standardized set of incident management practices with emphasis on common principles, a consistent approach to operational structures and supporting mechanisms, and an integrated approach to resource management.
In my work, we see it all the time when operating with fire and police. It is the core of any Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) drill. I have seen it used to great effect first hand in a real MCI where 80 casualties were moved off a scene and into care in just over 60 minutes. It empowers the first people to respond to a scene to start organizing how the incident will be responded to. It establishes chains of command, organization, communications protocols, operations, resources, and ensures that everyone working the scene has one boss to report to, thus reducing freelancing and general chaos. It helps people get their bearings and focus on getting help in and hurt people treated and out while at the same time enabling a transition to a bigger, longer term response.
The reason I bring this up is that any big SHTF or grid-down scenario you may find yourself in is going to be using ICS in some form or another. Over at Max Velocity’s place, Leatherneck556 explores using ICS as a standard operating procedure in a Command and Control (C2) system for keeping the peace and helping neighbors when security is disrupted.
The cool part is that you can take courses online for free at FEMA.gov to get an overview of both NIMS and ICS. If you want to go further, there are more in-depth classes, like ICS 300 and ICS 400, that can be taken in meatspace. That’s probably overkill if emergency management isn’t your main source of income.
The courses you want to take are:
- ICS 100.b – Intro to the Incident Command System
- ICS 200 – ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents: This is a great one for small groups of people
- ICS 700.a – Intro to the National Incident Management System: This is where all us small government guys will mutter and chuckle, as you can feel the bureaucracy grow. However, this is how all of your state and local emergency services are trained to run in an MCI, so it’s good to know what to expect.
- ICS 800.b – Intro to the National Response Framework: More of the above and worth doing.
On the linked pages for each class, the right hand column has links to downloadable classroom materials, the online course, and the online final exam. Once you complete the course, you will get a certificate of completion (woohoo!) and can hang that on your wall next to your mom’s picture.
Having these under your belt will help if you decide to do CERT training, and are also requirements for most emergency services organizations as well as disaster response teams like Team Rubicon.
So hop on board the FEMA train and bathe in the bureaucratic goodness. I wouldn’t be pushing it if I didn’t see it work well in real life.