What We Can Learn from the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS)
We’ve discussed the National Incident Management System (NIMS) in this venue before. The widespread benefits introduced by NIMS led to the development of similar structures outside of the U.S. So, what do we stand to learn by understanding those structures?
Key tenets of the CIMS framework
In New Zealand, emergency services organisations use the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) framework. Indeed, its use is mandated by law, specifically the nation’s Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, whose tenets are now associated with the national Civil Defence Emergency Plan Order.
Like NIMS in the U.S. and AIIMS in Australasia, CIMS enables emergency personnel to respond more effectively to incidents by better coordination across various functions and organisations. The specific mechanisms by which it does so include:
- Establishing common structures, functions, and terminology in a flexible, modular, and scalable framework that can be tailored to specific circumstances
- Providing organisations, with due consideration to each organisation’s unique responsibilities, resources, and legislative authority, a framework that they can use to develop their own CIMS-aligned processes and procedures supportive of both own-organisation responses and multi-organisation interoperability
Being so flexible gives CIMS broad applicability to all types of incidents – unplanned emergencies and planned events, such as celebrations, parades, concerts, and official visits.
In that respect, too, CIMS resembles NIMS and AIIMS, both of which can be used to provide effective management to the following:
- Biosecurity incursion incident
- Environmental damage incident
- Fire incident
- Food safety incident
- Hazardous substance incident
- Marine mammal stranding
- Mass maritime arrivals
- Missing person incident (search and rescue)
- Natural hazard incident
- Business continuity disruption
- Communicable disease outbreak and pandemic
- Public disorder incident
- Public health and medical emergency
- Transportation accident
- Crime and terrorism
- Technological failure
How CIMS is different
Many other principles and characteristics of CIMS (including flexibility and unity of effort) are also similar to those of NIMS and AIIMS.
CIMS, however, does stand out in a few crucial respects. And understanding why might be beneficial to emergency services outside of New Zealand.
Responsiveness to community needs, for instance, is a core CIMS principle – and it is more important than ever as the emergency threat spreads. Practitioners, as such, are taught that their response efforts should mitigate and manage the consequences of an incident on the affected individuals, families/whānau and communities, including animals.
To that end, response personnel must recognise an individual’s rights, treat individuals with fairness and dignity, and ensure the needs of affected people and animals are identified and met throughout the response and into recovery.
What’s more, communities must be able to actively participate in a response rather than wait passively for assistance. To allow this to occur, response personnel need to effectively communicate with communities to understand, integrate, and/or align the community response.
Another CIMS highlight is the emphasis on lead and support agencies. What’s the difference?
- Lead agencies are those mandated by legislation or expertise to manage hazards resulting from incidents. One of their tasks as leads is to integrate support agencies into the response. This requires lead agencies to recognise and support agencies’ own statutory responsibilities and/or objectives.
- Supporting agencies, in their turn, are required to develop and maintain the capability and capacity to perform their role. That will often mean fulfilling their own statutory responsibilities and objectives in addition to, or as part of, the support they provide to lead agencies, which includes helping in the development of Incident Action Plans.
To do so, support agencies might have to render assistance by repurposing their existing capabilities. How can they do so? Here, digital emergency management technology comes in handy. To learn what advantages these solutions can bring, download our guide, five reasons to upgrade your emergency management platform.