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Objectives for this Chapter

A student reading this chapter will be able to:

Discuss the history and origins of Incident Command System (ICS), the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and The National Response Plan (NRP.

List and describe the major components of ICS, NIMS, and NRP

Objectives for this Chapter

A student reading this chapter will be able to:

Describe and discuss the role of Environmental Health professionals in emergency/disaster response.


  • It is not terrorist bombs or the release of anthrax spores that spawned the birth of modern day emergency preparedness.

USS Cole


  • It began with a wildfire in Southern California in 1970 that swept through several counties during a 13 day period burning more than half a million acres, destroying over 700 structures, and costing 16 lives.


  • the 92nd Congress approved funding for the U.S. Forest Service Research group to design a system or process to significantly improve the capacity of the agencies in Southern California to provide protection against wildfires.

This became known as FIRESCOPE (Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies).


There were five major program components that required planning and attention.

The coordination of the resources among many agencies during a large incident,

Creating a standard and easily understood terminology by all participants to avoid the use of professional jargon that would differ among police, fire, and emergency medical responders,

Code Four—–I’m okay or Are you okay? Police

Fire departments almost never use this term.


Develop systems and technical capacity that would permit communication among many participating agencies,

Provide training to all members of the participating agencies in communication, terminology, and command structure, and

Develop better methods for predicting the behavior of fires.

Incident Command

  • These objectives were ultimately condensed into two components of the FIRESOPE system designated as:
  • Incident Command System (ICS) that provided a specific command structure and coordinated incident management tool.
  • Multi-Agency Coordination System (MACS) that improved coordination among multiple agencies for large incidents that demanded massive resources.


  • ICS structure and successfully employed ICS on a number of wildland and urban fires in 1978.
  • The use of ICS expanded to non-fire incidents.
  • The management of these incidents was “all-hazard” as they employed the well documented and proven command structure of ICS to a wide variety of incidents.


  • Initial steps to extend this ICS management structure began in 1983 with the creation of the National Inter-Agency Incident Management System (NIIMS).

Post 9/11

  • In swift reaction to 9/11, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (H.R. 5005-8) was approved with the purpose of establishing a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an executive department of the United States.

DHS Mission

  • The mission of DHS is to: prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce the vulnerability of the U.S. to terrorism, and to minimize damage and assist in recovery from those terrorist attacks that do occur in the United States.
  • DHS was officially established on January 23, 2003 causing a massive reorganization of the government


  • More than 20 Federal agencies were directed to become part of the DHS and to be compartmented into one of four directorates including: 1) the Border and Transportation Directorate; 2) The Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate; 3) the Science and Technology Directorate; and 4) the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate. 4, 5


  • President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5) on February 28, 2003. HSPD-5 directed Secretary of Homeland Security (Tom Ridge) to develop and then administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS) in order to provide a consistent management tool for government, private, and nongovernmental organizations to function together during a major incident.


  • Among the most likely reasons for response failure in an emergency includes: confusion about who is in charge, unclear lines of authority, and lack of clear communication. The management model used successfully for more than 30 years to overcome these problems is ICS.


  • ICS position titles are distinct and recognizable anywhere in the country and at any agency or organization using the ICS system. There is only one Incident Commander at each incident and only that person is given the title, Commander. Members of the command staff are called Officers, and members of the general staff are called Chief


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  • ICS provides a very clear reporting structure so that each response person knows to whom to report and what they are expected to do. All response personnel answer to one immediate supervisor and can be assured that communication will be understandable and in plain English.


  • ICS structure may be greatly expanded if the incident grows or is already complex and large.


  • Public health doesn’t normally function within an ICS command structure as do police, fire, and EMS, since most public health departments and agencies are quite small, personnel have defined roles, communication is usually simple, and there are very few immediately life threatening incidents.


  • Whether large or small incidents, the response of Public Health needs to be within the NIMS/ICS framework. In order to better understand how ICS might work within a Public Health structure, a detailed description of the Public Health Incident Command System is available online at


  • The purpose of NIMS is to provide a unified national response to incident management for all potential incidents regardless of size and complexity. A major objective of NIMS is also to improve coordination and cooperation among public and private agencies and organizations throughout a whole range of domestic incident management activities.


  • NIMS is composed of six related components that function together as a system to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents
  • Command and Management
  • Preparedness
  • Resource Management
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Supporting Technologies
  • Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Command and Management elements of NIMS

  • The Command and Management elements of NIMS during an incident is based on the use of: ICS for establishing the operation and structure of incident management organizations
  • Multi-agency Coordination System which defines the operation and structure of supporting entities;
  • and Public Information Systems that establishes the processes, communication systems , and procedures for delivering timely and accurate information to the public.

Preparedness: NIMS

  • NIMS compliancy also requires participating entities to be prepared and to provide continuing pre-incident training, planning, exercises, personnel qualification checks, certification standards, and equipment acquisition and certification standards.

Resource Management: NIMS

  • NIMS requires effective resource management so that there are standard methods for managing equipment, supplies and personnel throughout the incident.


  • Similarly there needs to be a standardized system for communications information management including: systems and technology procedures that work across all agencies, and a mechanism of assuring that information flows smoothly through a commonly accepted architecture.

Unified Command

  • When there is more than one responding agency or there are incidents that cross jurisdictional boundaries, a Unified Command may be employed whereby command decisions and planning are completed by senior representatives of the participating organizations who comprise the Unified Command

Area Command

  • Area Command is used for coordinating multiple incidents with different incident command posts (ICP).
  • An Area Command structure does not require an Operations section since those functions are normally performed at each site.

National Response Plan (NRP)

  • The Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-5) led to the creation of the National Response Plan (NRP) in establishing a “single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.”


  • The NRP is constructed around the previously described NIMS and is intended to be an all-hazards plan that provides the structure for incident management at all levels of federal, state, and local government and for any major type of incident including a major public health emergency.
  • The NRP is designed to be scalable and flexible to meet the needs of incident management ranging from multi-jurisdictional to Incidents of National Significance (INS) such as massive hurricane.


  • The NRP and NIMS are companion documents that function together to integrate the capabilities and resources at all government levels, non-government entities, tribal, and private-sector organizations into a coordinated national response for domestic incident management.


  • When an incident occurs, it is managed at the lowest jurisdictional level possible. If it is a train derailment with the release of a toxic gas as an example, it may be handled locally with the assistance of State agencies and response teams. The NRP does alter the typical ICS response of first responders to carry out their functions or responsibilities. Should the derailment incident expand to multiple jurisdictions or states with greater potential consequences, then more than one federal, state or local agency will have jurisdiction.


  • The Incident Commanders from each agency will form a Unified Command to coordinate resources, develop a common Incident Action Plan with a unified set of objectives. An Incident Command Post (ICP) will likely be designated and the Unified Command develops the NIMS/ICS command structure from the top-down according to the size and complexity of the incident.

Environmental Health Response

  • The American Public Health Association (APHA) collaborated with EH practitioners to create three major EH competency areas now in use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These three major EH competencies include:
  • Assessment: gathering information, data analysis, evaluation
  • Management: record-keeping, problem solving, project management
  • Communication: risk communication, conflict resolution, education

Environmental Health Response

  • .Environmental health personnel should participate in the development of the emergency response plans since the plans provide direction for EH professionals during an incident response.
  • The EH professional will have responsibilities for identifying, monitoring, and reducing environmental hazards that may impact on the health of the community during a disaster.

Environmental Health Response

  • Conducting these activities requires EH personnel to work in partnership with other responding organizations in the emergency management structure including police, fire, public works, Red Cross, medical response teams, and so forth.

Environmental Health Response

  • The EH personnel will be expected to perform their assigned duties often based on a pre-defined set of activities defined in a Job Action Sheet (JAS) created as part of the emergency response plan for their agency. A JAS describes the functional role of a position/person in an emergency response.

Environmental Health Response

A set of immediate actions suggested by the Minnesota Department of Health to rapidly restore environmental health services during and after a disaster would include:

Obtaining information on the movements of populations at or near the incident site; identifying the location of facilities used to house displaced persons, hospitals, and medical facilities; and determining where relief workers will be housed to determine if those living quarters meet sanitary and housing codes.

Environmental Health Response

Determine what capacities remain for delivering basic environmental health services including inspection and regulation enforcement of food, water and housing.

Quickly assess what damage has occurred to those food, water, housing, solid waste, and other environmental entities that fall under the Public Health regulations and ordinances. The EH professional should also attempt to discover what the immediate needs are for safe water, housing, food and sanitation.

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