States get 3 years for NIMS

NIMS Integration Center

State and local leaders have three years to establish and implement systems and practices needed to ensure seamless response to emergencies and incidents or else federal grants will be withheld, Homeland Security Department officials said this month.

In a letter to governors at the beginning of September, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said that fiscal 2005 marks the beginning of a requirement for government leaders to begin putting in place practices and policies for the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Federal and local officials are also required to implement NIMS, and officials at all levels of government have cited its assistance in homeland security exercises conducted so far.

Following this timeline, fiscal 2006 will be a year for determining what works and what needs to be improved. After fiscal 2007, if DHS officials decide that local officials have not fully implemented NIMS, federal emergency preparedness funding will not be granted to that state or locality, said Michelle McQueeney, a program specialist with the NIMS Integration Center's Standards and Resources Branch.

She spoke Sept. 22 at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' annual conference in New Orleans.

DHS officials developed NIMS as a framework that sets baseline capabilities across all levels of government to ensure that when an attack or natural disaster occurs, everyone responding to it is on the same page and can quickly establish a coordinated response, McQueeney said.

"It's a balance between flexibility and standardization," she said.

NIMS addresses standards, training and other issues under several broad categories:

Command and management.

Preparedness.

Credentialing.

Resource management.

Communications and information management.

Supporting technologies.

Ongoing management and maintenance.

In each of those areas, officials at the NIMS Integration Center will be assisting and building on the efforts of other parts of DHS -- such as the Safecom program's work on communications interoperability standards -- as well as initiatives under way at other agencies, McQueeney said.

Officials at the center, which was formed in June, have already developed online training for several specific areas and will be working on the integration of nationwide systems where necessary, such as building a national credential database from the many state databases that must be put in place as part of NIMS implementation, she said.

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