Automating NIMS ICS for efficient incident response
- Published: Monday, 18 May 2015 08:04
When a disruptive incident impacts critical national or regional infrastructure, or when public safety is at stake, multiple emergency agencies are often involved in the response.
Those responders could be from federal or state agencies as well as local teams of EMT’s, police, firefighters and other volunteers. Emergency response organizations specialize in a certain aspect of response based on their skill sets. From coastguards, firefighters, bomb-disposable squads and EMT’s animal control and hazmat clean-up or cyber expert, those teams’ skills and actions are generally unique, well defined and perfected through regular practice.
In the event of multi-disciplinary emergency response, command, control and communication (between the responders) are critical for an effective – and efficient – response. Protocols for collaboration among responders are defined by NIMS (the National Information Management System) of which the Incident Command System (ICS) is a critical component.
In many cases, an incident ‘evolves’: the impact might change over time – as in the cases of a: building collapse, wild fire, pandemic, earthquake or regional utility outage. Command and collaboration in these cases requires the use of ICS forms. To be effective, the ICS Forms should be dynamic, editable, printable, sharable and editable (including appending of documents). Since ICS forms originate as static (manual) documents – even though most have been converted to MSWord – they lack the ‘automation’ that would greatly improve their efficiency and effectiveness. The same can be said for the entire NIMS ICS process.
At minimum, automating NIMS ICS for incident response requires the ability to:
- Create and manage multiple incidents at the same time
- Define and manage operational period(s)
- Support all standard ICS forms (as well as customized forms)
- Create a dynamic/ad-hoc command structure
- Create/publish standard position manuals (response tasks or actions)
- Develop and report appropriate key decisions for each operational period
- Collate multiple ICS forms into appropriate incident action plans (IAPs)
- Use mass notification to reach responders on an as-needed/when-needed basis
- Provide reporting to monitor, measure and manage the incident response.
Automating a NIMS ICS-based incident response provides many tangible benefits:
- Dashboards that provide status visibility to a broad range of audience
- ICS Form data available in database for processing and
- Integrated command, control and communications
And providing web-based NIMS ICS automation allows responders to collaborate from anywhere, at any time with any connected smart device.
Leveraging available technology can add efficiency to incident response. Those efficiencies allow both commanders and responders to concentrate more on the efforts for which they’ve trained, and less on the ‘paperwork’ that NIMS ICS requires. Those efficiencies can result in greater effectiveness. And in the end, it is the effectiveness of the response that makes a difference.
Ramesh Warrier: eBRP Founder and Chief Designer of eBRP Suite, Ramesh is a proponent of constant change, a visionary who believes that the practice of Business Continuity can deliver improved operational efficiency. Ramesh, B.Tech in Electrical Engineering, has nearly 30 years’ experience in Business & Technology roles. His thoughts are expressed in blogs, white papers, frequent webcasts and speaking engagements at industry conferences.
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