Independent evaluations

Eastern Kentucky University is investigating how well commercial incident management software meets the criteria of the National Incident Management System standard

One of the best ways to assure successful results when testing emergency management applications built around the National Incident Management System standards is to install the right technology in the first place.

To help agencies meet that goal, they can enlist an independent judge to validate vendor claims of NIMS compliance. Eastern Kentucky University’s Justice and Safety Center provides such a service.

The university’s NIMS Support Center developed the NIMS Supporting Technology Evaluation Program, or NIMS STEP, to independently evaluate how well commercial incident management and emergency operations center software meets NIMS criteria for interoperability and other factors. Vendors supply products for evaluation, and the center posts its results in the Responder Knowledge Base.

“If a vendor says it complies with NIMS, we provide an objective evaluation so someone making a purchase has some assurances,” said Chad Foster, associate director of incident management programs at Eastern Kentucky University.

The center tests products for how well they adhere to industry standards for sharing data, including the Common Alerting Protocol and the Emergency Data eXchange Language Distribution Element. Testers also conduct qualitative assessments of NIMS compliance.

“If the product claims to provide situational awareness to the user, our assessors will use a checklist to determine this,” Foster said. For example, testers will note whether that type of application includes geographic information system capabilities. Similarly, assessors of resource management products document whether the products include NIMS requirements, such as inventorying, allocating, and tracking resources.

“The evaluations are especially important for those who may not have the resources to do their own evaluations,” Foster said. “This helps provide a thoughtful way of choosing a product.”

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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