An emergency involving multiple jurisdictions or multiple agencies is better managed by the National Incident Management System (NIMS). In California, NIMS should be a flexible, adaptable tool for responding to all emergencies.
Emergency management agencies should follow elementary principles and principles of emergency management, like the use of Incident Command Systems (ICS), multi-agency coordination, and operational area concepts.
The Incident Command System (ICS) consolidates facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications into a single organizational structure, which permits effective and efficient incident management. In order for NIMS to function, ICS must be in place. California’s fire service originally developed it to deal with wildfire emergency response.
State Operational Centers (SOC) are operating units that reflect the basic functions of the Incident Command System (ICS). On the other hand, ICS is a field-based tactical communications system, while NIMS is a system for managing an event locally, operationally, regionally, and at the state level.
As part of the response to an ICS event, an incident commander is appointed from the agency with the primary functional authority and/or jurisdiction. In many cases, more than one agency will be responsible for responding to an event. It is easier to eliminate duplication of effort by creating a unified command under one agency and making its response more efficient
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According to Command and Coordination, organizations may use a combination of tactical and strategic structures to manage incidents.
Management, operations, planning and intelligence, logistics, and finance/administration make up the five primary functions of NIMS at each organizational level. The SOC under NIMS has access only to the functional elements needed. The next highest level in the organization will perform duties for functions that are not activated.
The SOC Director will determine when functions will be activated. Section chiefs report to the SOC Management for each of the four subordinate functions. In order to perform the functions required by the incident, organizational elements will need to be in place. SOC, REOC, and other NIMS levels should be coordinated, but it is important to focus on functional needs as the primary organization consideration.
The SOC must be able to represent all functions. It is not necessary to activate all functional positions. It is the SOC’s task to provide a central command for all emergency response activities statewide. In addition, it coordinates requests for federal assistance. The SOC may act in the following ways:
- Linking the Regional Emergency Operations Center (REOC), the Federal Regional Operations Center (ROC), the Joint Information Center (JIC), and the Regional Assistance Center (RAC);
- Providing information to the REOCs, Governor’s Office, key State, and Federal Agencies, Local Government(s), other states (where applicable), and businesses and non-profit organizations;
- To prevent human suffering, to protect the environment, property, and animals;
- Identifying immediate mitigation efforts to minimize the impact of the occurring incident;
- Maintaining essential government services;
- Coordinating mutual aid between states and facilitating financial aid from the federal government;
- Preparing and coordinating public information and press releases;
- assessing disaster situations.
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