The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazard incident management concept in the United States. It is a management protocol originally designed for emergency management agencies and later federalized. ICS is based upon a flexible, scalable response organization providing a common framework within which people can work together effectively. These people may be drawn from multiple agencies that do not routinely work together, and ICS is designed to give standard response and operation procedures to reduce the problems and potential for miscommunication on such incidents. ICS has been summarized as a “first-on-scene” structure, where the first responder of a scene has charge of the scene until the incident has been declared resolved, a superior-ranking responder arrives on scene and seizes command, or the Incident Commander appoints another individual Incident Commander.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS), on the other hand, is a structured framework used nationwide for both governmental and nongovermental agencies to respond to natural disasters and or terrorist attacks at the local, state, and federal levels of government. (Hogan & Burstein, 2007)
The system’s development was instigated on February 28, 2003 by President George W. Bush, who in Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5, Management of Domestic Incidents directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer the system.  After the proposed system went through a period of vetting and coordination among federal agencies, NIMS was released by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on March 1, 2004.
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 to make adoption of NIMS by State, tribal, and local organizations a condition for Federal preparedness assistance beginning in Fiscal Year 2005. In addition, all State, tribal, and local emergency personnel with a direct role in emergency preparedness, incident management or response were to have completed NIMS training by October 1, 2005. After the directive was adopted, all State, tribal and local personnel with any role in emergency response were given until October 1, 2006 to complete training for NIMS compliance.
To learn more or to schedule training in the Incident Command System (ICS) and/or the National Incident Management System (NIMS), please contact us.