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