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National homeland security response plan approved

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced the approval of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the nation's first standardized management plan that creates a unified chain of command for federal, state, tribal and local lines of government.

Secretary Tom Ridge said the plan is based on the "one plan, one team, one fight" concept. The National Congress of American Indians and the National Native American Law Enforcement Association were instrumental in ensuring that the NIMS included tribal governments.

Ridge said, "I recognize the efforts of the dedicated professionals from state, tribal and local governments, law enforcement, the fire and emergency management communities, emergency medical services, public health, the private sector, public works, and non-governmental organizations across America who teamed together in a collaborative effort to create NIMS."

According to DHS, the NIMS plan strengthens response capabilities by identifying and integrating core elements and best practices. Responders will be able to focus more on response, instead of organizing the response, and teamwork and assignments among all authorities will be clearly enhanced.

Key elements and features of NIMS include:
* Incident Command System (ICS). NIMS outlines a standard incident management organization called ICS that establishes five functional areas - command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration - for management of all major incidents.
* Preparedness. Responder readiness to manage and conduct incident actions is significantly enhanced if professionals have worked together before an incident. NIMS recognizes and defines advance preparedness measures such as planning, training, exercises, qualification and certification, equipment acquisition and certification, and publication management. Preparedness also incorporates mitigation activities such as public education, enforcement of building standards and codes, and preventive measures to deter or lessen the loss of life or property.
* Communications and Information Management. Standardized communications during an incident are essential and NIMS prescribes interoperable communications systems for both incident and information management. Responders and managers across all agencies and jurisdictions must have a common operating picture for a more efficient and effective incident response.
* Joint Information System (JIS). NIMS organizational measures further enhance the public communication effort. The Joint Information System provides the public with timely and accurate incident information and unified public messages to ensure that federal, state, tribal, and local levels of government are releasing the same information during an incident.
* NIMS Integration Center (NIC). To ensure that NIMS remains an accurate and effective management tool, the NIMS NIC will be established by the Secretary of Homeland Security to assess proposed changes to NIMS, capture and evaluate lessons learned, and employ best practices. The NIC will continue to use the collaborative process of Federal, state, tribal, local, multi-discipline and private authorities to assess prospective changes and assure continuity and accuracy.

The completion of NIMS follows the October 2003 nationwide deployment of the Initial National Response Plan (INRP) which represented the first step in aligning incident management response and actions between all Federal, state, tribal, local, and private communities.

A final National Response Plan is under development and will eventually replace the INRP, while NIMS will continue to provide the nation's guidance for incident management for acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

For more information, visit the Department of Homeland Security website at

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