Home Opinion FEMA Updates the National Incident Management System

FEMA Updates the National Incident Management System


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

As society changes, policies need to also change to meet up with the demands of what's happening within society. For emergency management, this could mean that policies need to be updated to keep up with the lessons learned in the midst of a major crisis.

The National Incident Management System has been a vital component to creating collaborative leadership efforts from agencies at the federal level of analysis, but also has helped to bring agencies together at the local, state and federal levels of government, too. Just like many other policies, it needed some updating and the Federal Emergency Management Agency just revealed some of the updates that will stramline and strengthen emergency management.

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

As with any organization, roles and responsibilities are an important component of managing the overall programs, policies and goals of an oganization. But, organizations cannot move forward with the success of the organization if it isn't clear to those working for the organization what their roles and responsibilities are.

In emergency management - particularly when things become chaotic during a major incident, the management of the incident becomes far more complicated. Thus, it is particularly important for everyone involved with an emergency to understand on a fundamental level what they are responsible for.

While the updated version of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) "retains key concepts and principles of the 2004 and 2008 versions of NIMS," it does work to clarify certain aspects of NIMS and how it is an important function of emergency management. This clarification is always useful because defining roles, as many social science scholars argue, helps to illuminate everyone's role in a major situation further illustrating responsibilities. In doing so, this helps to further clarify and define emergency management efforts.

The NIMS updates also includes an explanation about the relationship between the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and senior leaders/policy groups. While emergency management needs to have a certan amount of flexibility and versatility, it is still important to define these roles so it is clear to everyone involved in managing an incident.

Students of emergency management are often confused by the NIMS and ICS, (unless they have worked in emergency management within some capacity). Thus, further clarification becomes an important piece of managing the overall incidents making it much more clear who is responsible for what.

Defining roles and responsibilities in organizations is an important component to managing an organization, let alone an emergency. The NIMS updates will prove to be very helpful in helping to manage future emergencies at the local, state and federal levels of analysis.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.