The number of natural disasters in the U.S. and around the world are growing at epic proportions. Headlines are reporting with more frequency catastrophic events including hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tornados and winter storms that have swept across the country.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since 1980 the U.S. has suffered more than 200 disasters at an estimated cost exceeding $1.5 trillion. The agency notes that while hurricane tracking has improved notably, our country is “not planning adequately for these disasters.”
Better preparation begins with improved communications and coordination at all levels, at both public agencies and private enterprise.
NIMS, an acronym for the National Incident Management System, is a methodology for managing crises that was developed by the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks. Good for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you say, but what does this have to do with the managing crises for my company?
As it turns out, everything. NIMS proved so successful that it jumped the fence into the private sector and now is considered by many experts to be the gold standard for crisis management, period.
What’s the big deal about NIMS? First and foremost, it solved the problem of turf battles that get in the way of otherwise well-intended professionals who just want to get their jobs done.
NIMS spells out roles and responsibilities in an unambiguous way across organizational lines, focusing individuals on their functions and limiting unnecessary back-and-forth talk and negotiating in favor of acting quickly and efficiently. The result, first responders move as a team instead of colliding, and get results sooner.
As the manual states, NIMS represents a core set of doctrines, concepts, principles, terminology and organizational processes that enable effective, efficient, and collaborative incident management at all levels. The five pillars of NIMS:
- Preparedness. Preparedness serves as the baseline that links all the NIMS Components and its broad constituency including, elected and appointed officials, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. This essential step involves engaging in a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising and evaluating. Another important aspect of preparedness is taking corrective action to achieve and maintain readiness in response to future emergencies.
- Command. The Command component within NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized. To institutionalize these activities within a formal structure, command and management includes three fundamental elements: incident command system, multiagency coordination systems and public information. These fundamental elements provide standardization through consistent terminology and established organizational chain of commands.
- Communications. NIMS equates communications with public information which consists of the processes, procedures, and systems to communicate timely, accurate, and accessible information on the incident’s cause, size, and current situation to the public, responders and additional stakeholders. Public information must be coordinated and integrated across jurisdictions and organizations, including federal, state, tribal and local governments, private sector entities and nongovernment organizations.
- Logistics. Resource management involves the coordination, oversight and processes necessary to provide timely and appropriate resources during an incident. Utilization of the standardized resource management concepts, such as the recording, ordering and tracking of resources, will facilitate their dispatch, deployment and recovery before, during, and after an incident.
- Ongoing Support, a customized program to ensure recovery and continuity.
While a NIMS-based approach is the gold standard of a comprehensive crisis management plan, training and routine practice of these five principles become the best form of protection from the uncertainties of a crisis that may impact the financial health and reputation of your business.
David Trumble is principal of Integrated Crisis Management Solutions, an organization composed of security operatives and communications professionals offering risk assessments, streamlined emergency protocols, management training, customer/media relations and recovery programs.