Based on your readings thus far from the text and your own research, discuss principles of effective emergency management response. What do the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) offer and how do they help? Are there things that NIMS does not offer that are still needed?
Lecture Notes: Response
Response is defined as an immediate reaction or relief effort focused on saving lives, and recovery is the process of repair and restoration. The key elements of this definition are “saving lives.” A related term, evacuation, is usually discussed under mitigation, but it can be mentioned here that comprehensive evacuation planning should have already calculated behavioral estimates of the percentage of the population that will evacuate when directed, the levels of transportation assistance and special needs required, and the number of people who may seek refuge at public shelters. Here, we are concerned primarily with the more people-oriented procedures in a post-disaster environment. Pretty much, everything discussed so far has dealt with the pre-disaster phase of emergency management. Now, it is to be assumed that catastrophe is at the door, and it is time to analyze some principles and issues unique to response and recovery.
One important concept is the notion of “redundancy” which means to have duplicate components that provide alternatives in case one component fails. It is definitely the case that redundancy is a good principle to follow with response and recovery. The response phase, because it deals directly with saving lives; e.g., pulling survivors out of the rubble, should not be something that is underfunded or sacrifices redundancy. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be coordinated; it just means that a different set of principles might be involved. It is well-known that recovery is the costliest phase of emergency management (Bullock et. al. 2005), and further, maintaining the political willpower to completely rebuild after a catastrophe is a difficult challenge.
Another important concept is “interoperability.” In practice, this means that all the different responders are on the same page in terms of radio frequencies, codes, abbreviations, terminology, and the like. In this field, one is likely to encounter a whole lot of acronyms. Abbreviations for agencies, programs, centers, councils, and systems are plentiful and frequently change. While every effort is made to use the latest acronyms and spell out what they mean the reader may need to consult a Glossary of Acronyms found in a textbook or find an online glossary to refer to, such as FEMA’s List of Acronyms (pdf) or a state-level list. Specialized glossaries may need to be sought for specialized areas. Emergency management puts great emphasis upon everyone using the same terminology, and even the traditional 10-code system that many agencies use will be quite different and translated into plain English.
Reference will also be made to the names of various federal plans that frequently change or have various timetables; e.g., the National Response Framework (NRF), the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and the Interagency Domestic Terrorism CONPLAN, to name a few examples. This area of learning can be overwhelming. To simplify it, the NRF and the NIMS are probably the two most important documents to focus.