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A Chance for You to be Heard on NIMS and Local Incident Management

Full NIMS Nationally “NIMS Essentials” Locally

A few years ago I was taking photographs and overlying different fire effects that I pulled from other photographs to create simulations. Then a program came out called Photoshop an excellent program unfortunately expensive. In order to be more effective at producing simulations I purchased the $600 program. When I opened the program I found it to be extremely sophisticated. The full program had many applications that with my limited knowledge of photography and of the program I was never able to use. It would have required several courses of study to become competent, and I would have been happy to do just that if photo retouching and photos enhancement was how I earned my living. However my goal was to simply produce more realistic photographs for simulations.

Several months after I purchased the full program the company came out with a program they called Photoshop Essentials. Photoshop Essentials was designed for someone like me, someone who needed only specific basic components of the program. This program was only $100, I purchased it and I still use it today several years later. Both programs are extremely useful, both programs are extremely necessary one for the folks who earn their living involved in very sophisticated photo related activities and the other for folks like me who have very simple needs in regards to photo retouching.

Today I am absolutely convinced that NIMS is the most sophisticated and most effective system available to manage complicated large-scale events. I completely support the presidential directive which mandated the use of NIMS for use at all national and those events which we classify as type one, two or three. I want to be absolutely clear that I fully support and that I am extremely grateful to the folks who developed NIMS. Additionally I have the utmost respect for those individuals and the great care and tremendous efforts that they extend to continually refine it and make it better.

Currently we find ourselves with a dilemma; no one can dispute the effectiveness, and the necessity for NIMS or the critical importance of all command officers being not only aware of but proficient in the use of NIMS. Conversely as I travel around the country which I do weekly, I'm continually addressed by experienced and well intentioned firefighters of all ranks, who feel deeply that they do not understand how to use NIMS effectively on the fireground at the level four and five routine events which they are called on to manage a daily basis.

One solution recently proposed to the NFPA was to create a “NIMS Essentials” standard. The terminology that was suggested was to call the standard the Local Incident Management Standard or LIMS. This proposal has elicited both strong support and strong opposition. The reactions were not unexpected; I would have been surprised if I did not see reactions. I hope that we can go forward with this discussion in the fire service and address people's concerns without creating villains and heroes. There are no good or bad guys here just firefighters with differing experiences and backgrounds. By engaging in discussion and collaborating we always come out better.

Briefly here are the two views. Opponents of this local incident management standard contend that the current all hazards approach NIMS is scalable. The common analogy is that of the toolbox from which you can select the various tools you need depending on the job which you are trying to perform. The folks opposed to the new local standard point to 35 years of effective use of ICS/NIMS on the West coast with great success.

I think we need to explore what west coast ICS in this system looks like, it may very well be “NIMS Essentials”. Opponents also state that the creation of a separate standard for local events type 1 and 2’s, undermines the importance and effectiveness of the NIMS system. Opponents are concerned that a separate standard would erode the point of presidential directive number five which was to create a common framework and terminology for incident management within all of the various practitioners of public safety as a matter of national security.

Those who support the local incident management standard believe that rather than undermine it would enhance and improve the NIMS system by establishing a base or basic footprint for routine events locally. Proponents state that all terminology used in the local incident management standard would be NIMS compliant. Those who support local incident management believe that this would give the local fire chief and firefighters a standard which would have attainable and measurable goals for fire departments of any and all sizes.

They contend that the current NIMS system as it is currently being presented is a top down presentation. They, the proponents of local incident management want to do a bottom up presentation for local implementation of NIMS principles.

I emphatically support the NFPA allowing this discussion to go forward. To stop the discussion at this point would be to say that there is no legitimate issue. That is simply not true, otherwise we would not have the firefighters who are ready and willing to use the system as it currently stands, concerned that they either cannot or do not understand how to do that correctly at the local level.

This does not mean that these individuals do not want to use the NIMS system, what it means is that as it's currently presented it is not clear how this compliance is to be accomplished at routine local emergencies. Simply stating that NIMS is a toolbox, and one can select components one chooses is a gross oversimplification of the issue. And certainly not an answer to the dedicated and concerned firefighters who want to be compliant, effective and part of the solution in complex incident management. Let's develop “NIMS Essentials” like the smart folks at Photoshop did, for 95% of what we do and lets assure that we all are well-educated in NIMS the full package for major events which require using the full program.

To have you voice heard on this matter you need to send your opinion favorably or un-favorably to Codes and Standards Administration, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy,

MA 02169-7471, by October 15, 2008.

In the intrest of fairness I have attached the Cal. Chiefs opposition letter which represents the opinions of many of my closest friends so please read it as well before you make up your mind. There are always many different sides to any fire service issue and they all are to be respected and honored. We should always remeber to apply dignity as the minimum standard in our discussions. If you are concerned take five minutes and simply respond in our own words. Attached are links to theNFPA site and the pdf’s of the proposal and the call for comments.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, God bless America and please be careful out there, Bobby

Download Local Incident Management New Project.pdf

Download AVB LIMS Proposal.pdf

Download CalOpsLetter_10-01-08.pdf

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Comment by Michael D. Wilson CFEI, MDI on October 22, 2008 at 11:14am
NIMS, just like the beginning of ICS, is a very important part of the fire community. Having a top notch standard that instructors are to follow would be great. I have been in classes where the instructor walks you through the questions, with the answeres and in classes where they make you work, enjoy the learning progress, and work as a team as NIMS stresses we do. Yes this is a training issue, but if we Chief's don't step up and help make it a NFPA project, shame on us.
This article is great!

Comment by Mike Puchol on October 17, 2008 at 6:16pm
Bobby, when I started showing NIMS to our crews, they were enthusiastic in the sense that a common system was being agreed to, but they felt as if they now needed to become proficient in a very complex system, which is only as good as the data we all contribute to it.

If crews get lazy at having to fill in 54 fields in a form every time they go put out a dustbin, the system and its data will slowly get corrupted. Then will come the "experts" and fix everything by providing a simpler, lean system that can scale from tiny calls to full-scale major disasters.

I fail to see how a reduced version of exactly the same protocol can do any harm to its larger brother. We see this in software all the time, not just Photoshop, with 'Lite' and 'Pro' versions all over the place. As with the gear in our rigs, a tool for every situation.

Thanks for sharing this with us!
Comment by Ben Fleagle on October 16, 2008 at 10:57am
Hey Chief:

I'm with Doug and Bob. I agree and I disagree, knowing in the end, I'm going to have to explain to a bunch of very young firemen.
Did I mention that since you received the sacred pneumonia virus in the Great Small Town of the State of Alaska, you probably also have the same strain that I had last winter. There just isn't that many of us in this state and we tend to share a lot of things. Don't mention it, I'm sure your welcome. Please get well, we all look to you for leadership right now.
End Note: Several of our officers had to be revived after taking the NIMS online courses. The drool was the worst, with Hazmat having to get involved.

Actually, Chief, I believe that you are on the right path. You've gotten a really good look at how many of the brothers on the line feel.
When taking my certification, I struggled with buy in because to me, (having been a probie in the L.A. area), ICS already did all that and I wondered why we were re-packaging everything back in to a different name. I like the simple straight forward way that ICS works, but just like the NIMS it has always been taught with the large picture in mind and rarely sized down for those of us who routinely need to implement it on small incidents.

All I ask is that when a simpler version is created (LIMS, Blue Card, .....SIMPNIMS, whatever) for the common man in the common firehouse, lets keep the FEMA folks out of it, and design it using firemen and policemen and hazmat techs, ....the people who will have to use it.

I'd like to think that a fire chief in Seward Alaska, can enter into a emergency call, using NIMS can be able to develop it into whatever is needed for the task at hand, even if the President of the United States never gets involved.
Comment by Doug Price on October 16, 2008 at 9:46am
Bobby, I was just reading up on all the talk that has been going on in here. i saw were you said you were sick, just wanted to say get well soon and our thoughts and prayers here are with you. Thanks again for all you do!!
Comment by Michael Baker on October 15, 2008 at 7:01pm
Why as humans do we insist on always having things so complicated? The majority of our incidents can be handled by the fire triangle and understanding middle school science. Especially when in a FF finds them selves in a situation that is no longer safe - return to the basic drills and knowledge. Any application of simple practice that enables effective incident management better apply the concepts rapidly in an escalating situation. The initial actions will determine the outcome. As we prep for a community NIMS training, I can tell you that I will be using prompts to establish the JIC and stay ahead of the information. K.I.S.S.
Comment by Bob Allard on October 14, 2008 at 8:29pm
I agree with what everone else has stated and this should be stopped now.
Comment by Bobby Halton on October 14, 2008 at 4:12pm
I think the fact that this has generated so much positive and productive discussion is the most important fact. Also it is clear to me that methodology and ownership are the issues which go the heart of the matter on both sides of the coin.

We need to have some forum for structural folks to have input as Steve pointed out on an equal basis. And NIMS ICS is a good tire for both on and off road use, so lets just agree to find a better way to integrate opinions and needs.

I feel it clear we need to start by cooperatively, structural and wildland folks together, improving the delivery system. I began today retaking the entire set NIMS 100 to NIMS infinity. Mainly because I confined to bed with pneumonia and some other health issue complications so I have as they say “free time” so now you all know it is true... I really have no where else to go! You jokers warts and all, are my life, and I love ya all.

Any way have you seen this on-line stuff holy cow, I starting asking the Lord to take me now! I wish I was more articulate because boring just falls so far short! If I die this week tell everyone “It was the on-line NIMS class that killed the Beast!”

I also love this FEcommunity because no one here has to wrong for the other guy to right, everyone here has shown the kind of respect for disagreement which is the true sign of leadership, not egotistical demagoguery which is so the norm in other places in today’s society.

I will write more tomorrow but excuse me now as I am going to rest for a while. I hope you continue to be safe and God protects all our California brothers and sisters now facing such daunting responsibilities with these winds and this fire so close to so many. Sorry to be short but I am having a tough time concentrating. I just didn’t want you guys to think I wasn’t paying attention.

Thanks to everyone for posting and keep the discussion going see ya back here tomorrow. Bobby
Comment by Ed Hadfield on October 14, 2008 at 2:18pm

A concern that has been brought up in discussion brings about this question. If we are tending to agree that one major flaw in the NIMS program is the instruction or lack thereof, and the lack of qualified instructors, then what makes us think that LIMS or Blue Card system is going to be any better?

As I said previously, I agree with moving forward with a discussion on addressing the NIMS issue nationwide, however, it is my belief we should fix this problem before we embark on another nationwide program. I have concerns with developing and delivering a new system to the fire service which in my mind could have the same delivery and instructional issues. i.e. lack of qualified instructors and ineffective teaching techniques.

Chief Kreis mentioned that firefighters are smart enough to understand terminology changes, and I agree to a point. The problem that will raise its ugly head is when we use one set of terms for a particular system and another set of terms for another system which are both describing the same thing, i.e. sectors, divisions/groups. If we are going to develop and deliver LIMS, NIMS Essentials or Blue Card, then let’s make sure we have not changed from the foundation and origins of ICS and FIRESCOPE.

Lastly, maybe I’m missing something, but when we have taught our personnel and those in the city including police, public works, department directors, as well as city staff and council, it was our intent and directive to assure that all personnel understood how the system worked and why the system works in all situations, large and small. Utilization of ICS/NIMS can be seen in action on typical oil in the gutter call handled by public works to a major incident involving fire and police in joint unified command. Therefore, my question again is, “Is NIMS the problem or is the problem in how it is being or not being taught???”

Truly it’s a question because I fail to see how this is so confusing to the American Fire Service unless there is a huge disconnect that I just don’t see. Again, I can understand the need to discuss items further as we are doing a good job of…Thanks and let me know what I can do to help. I will be the first to sign up and help move things forward based upon the need of the fire service.
Comment by Brandon Roark on October 14, 2008 at 1:32pm
Patrick, after learning more about the Blue Card system, I am more open to the essentials program. I am lucky enough to have a brother that is beta testing that program now. I took the opportunity to sit down with him and was given a quick overview of the proposed blue card program...which really sat me at ease with some of the issues that I have with nims.
My opinions about NIMS have not changed. But as I learned this new system is not about large scale incidents but rather the local (type 4and 5) incidents.

At this point the proposed LIMS (blue card, essentials, whatever you want to call it) cannot really be compared to NIMS, they are two totally diffent programs concerning totally different incidents.
There are folks here that are far more versed in this subject than I am and they can certainly offer a much more indepth description of the proposed systems....

Did you check out the blue card demo on or the material that Bobby posted?

Incidently, you are dead on about the lack of NIMS experienced instructors, poor material delivary and overall shottyness of the educational integrity currently offered within the NIMS program.
Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on October 14, 2008 at 1:20pm
Last time I checked, we already have NIMS "Lite" or NIMS Essentials.

It's called ICS, which also serves as the foundation for a larger system and a larger solution - but only as necessary to meet the size and complexity of the incident.

I can't think of an incident small enough where you can't apply ICS (spelled NIMS) components in an appropriate and applicable manner. Whether we mouth the words (actually use command terminology) or not, we still execute the actions of establishing inicident command and performing operations on every incident.

That's ICS (and thus NIMS) in it's rawest form. That's what we do every day and I personnally don't think we need yet another system to tell us how or to help us do it.

The building blocks are there. The solution is right in front of us.

Let our responders go back and actually learn the system instead of just taking the test to get the certificate and I'm confident that they'd be able to couple that knowledge with their given experience to actually apply the system appropriately.

I see it happen every day, right here in the streets of the Wild, Wild East...

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