Applied Sciences

14 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The Importance of NIMS to Campus Emergency Response By MARk FAzzINI, M.S.

© Rich Malec

T oo often, evil acts seem to occur anywhere in society. Recently, some of the most shocking incidents have taken place on the grounds of highly esteemed colleges and universities, institutions that exist to better society. These occurrences have helped high- light the need for authorities to have effective countermeasures in place to address threats to campus safety.

Understanding the impor- tance of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to colleges and universities

requires a recognition of what it means to emergency re- sponse capabilities. NIMS was developed in March 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security to provide a system- atic, proactive approach for government agencies at all levels, nongovernment organi- zations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—to reduce the loss of life, destruction of property,

and harm to the environment. It gives campuses a much-needed method of protection.


What It Offers A recent report funded

through the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority examined the relationship between local law enforcement and postsecondary institutions in Illinois and across the nation.1 One of its key find- ings revealed that many cam- puses have experienced critical incidents of some sort within

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”Chief Fazzini heads the College of DuPage Police Department in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

…NIMS offers a predefined, yet

flexible, organizational structure that can be altered, as necessary, to ensure maximum


the past 5 years. Considering this fact, along with the impor- tance of NIMS to the effective and efficient planning for or response to an emergency inci- dent, every college and univer- sity should become compliant.

Institutions also can reap important financial benefits. Responding to and recovering from an emergency can cost a considerable amount of money. Only organizations that have implemented NIMS can recoup any portion of such expenses from the federal government.

Additionally, NIMS offers a predefined, yet flexible, orga- nizational structure that can be altered, as necessary, to ensure maximum effectiveness during small operations or complex responses and extended in scope if an incident grows in size. NIMS can adapt according to geographical boundaries, opera- tional function, or a combina- tion of both.

How It Works NIMS allocates responsibili-

ties among four main areas— planning, operations, logistics and administration, and finance. Each has its own assigned primary and secondary func- tions that then can break down further into branches, divisions, groups, task forces, or strike teams. An incident commander is necessary in any operation, but the positions in each of the

four realms of responsibility are staffed only if the event dictates the need.

The establishment of uni- form titles, with accompanying responsibilities, allows for an easy-to-understand command structure. This practice helps emergency responders from diverse communities work together effectively and ef- ficiently under a single banner of operations. For instance, two officers from fire departments at opposite ends of a state could understand the responsibilities of a planning section chief.

NIMS-compliant agencies working together all gain an understanding of and share common terminology and acronyms to effectively com- municate and accomplish objectives. Also standardized, the typing, or sufficiently

defining, of resources ensures that emergency managers request the right equipment, supplies, and other provisions for a particular purpose. For example, a section chief may need a tanker. Some personnel instinctively may think of an airplane tanker and others a fire truck tanker. Standardized typing of equipment eliminates any potential confusion.

NIMS also employs stan- dard forms to document differ- ent aspects of a response. Each department shares these same familiar forms. Documenta- tion of all activities records important information, such as resources deployed, safety precautions taken, media mes- sages written, and equipment ordered, pertaining to the re- sponse to an incident, as well as the necessary justification

16 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

EOC in operation during May 2008 Tri-City Team’s full-scale exercise

© Rich Malec

for requesting reimbursement of expenses from the federal government. And, if necessary, it helps in the defense of any lawsuits that potentially can result from a response effort.

BECOMING COMPLIANT Institutions interested in im-

plementing NIMS must follow the five steps that constitute the “continuum for compliance.” To this end, a college or university must have its governing board initiate the institution’s work within the NIMS structure, train personnel toward the effort, es- tablish an all-hazard emergency operations plan, test the cam- pus’ efforts, and implement a continual review of the system.

Accepting the System The governing board or

authority has to adopt NIMS for all departments and agencies. It

can accomplish this by passing a resolution and incorporating NIMS compliance into school policies and procedures. The institution’s contract specifica- tions also may include compli- ance language where appropri- ate. Additionally, the authority should encourage the school’s nongovernment associates to pursue compliance.

Training All Personnel Next, staff members must

undergo NIMS training, which consists of various incident command system (ICS) classes, the level of which depends on the nature of the involvement they will have during a crisis response. Currently, six basic ICS classes exist that various members of the campus need to take. Personnel can complete several courses, ICS-100: Introduction to the Incident

Command System; ICS-200: ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents; IS-700: National Incident Management System (NIMS), an Introduc- tion; and IS-800: National Response Plan (NRF), an Introduction, independently through the Internet. They must take ICS-300: Intermediate ICS and ICS-400: Advanced ICS in a classroom setting. These two classes provide the fundamen- tals of using the standard forms, and students work through several scenarios to familiarize themselves on how the entire NIMS system works.

Individuals who will make major decisions during an emergency and who may act, perhaps, as an incident com- mander or section chief need to complete all six basic classes. Personnel who will serve as support for the highest level of decision making should take at least the 100, 200, 700, and 800 courses. All administrators and supervisors should gain a famil- iarity with the NIMS system by completing classes 100 and 700. Some members of the incident management team also may want to take other specialized courses; for instance, the public information officer may want to complete IS-702: NIMS Public Information.

As a way to reduce costs, institutions may wish to have designated staff members attend train-the-trainer classes. This

September 2009 / 17

NIMS Continuum of Compliance

Continual Review

Testing Plan

Develop Plan Training

governing Board


will give the agency its own in-house instructors to teach additional personnel while hav- ing less impact on the budget. Further, staff then could receive training on-site, rather than tak- ing time off to attend courses away from the campus. Not only would training time be reduced but institutions could eliminate transportation costs to other locations.

Developing a Plan The campus must imple-

ment an all-hazard emergency operations plan that works hand in hand with the NIMS system. To develop the plan, the institu- tion should form a committee with membership from all con- stituents, including police and fire personnel. For additional assistance, authorities can refer to the Internet, where many colleges have their plans avail- able, for examples and consult with county or state emergency management officials. After finalizing the plan, the com- mittee must distribute it to all campus administrators, area police and fire departments, and the local emergency manage- ment office.

Testing the Plan Also important, the insti-

tution—along with such com- munity partners as local police, fire, and other agencies—tests the plan. Including the other constituents helps ensure their

knowledge of the plan and, thus, the effectiveness of a criti- cal incident response should a real situation occur. Involved campus entities should consist of members of the incident management team (IMT) and, perhaps, IMT alternates, public relations staff, counselors, and other campus leaders.

Different methods of testing exist. Tabletop exercises often are the most preferred. In these, participants, including the IMT, formulate a response to given scenarios. The sessions last from a few hours to all day, de- pending on the amount of time allocated for training.

A functional exercise can test a particular component of the emergency operations plan. For instance, phones and radios could be used to test the com- munication system established for an emergency command center (EOC). Personnel can set up these systems beforehand to eliminate the time needed to do so during the test. These exer- cises typically take longer than a tabletop event and may in- volve the deployment of human and other resources.

Another way to evaluate the effectiveness of emergency plans is to conduct a full-scale exercise. This would involve the

18 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

College of DuPage local Emergency Operations Center in the college board room

© Rich Malec

mobilization of more staff and resources than the other meth- ods. For these events, person- nel should set up staging areas and have staff help evaluate response times. Such exercises, or mock drills, take more time to run through than other tests; they also cost more because they involve the most staff. To reduce expenses, institutions can hold the exercise during regular work hours, rather than paying employees overtime.

Campuses wisely will use multiple methods to ensure their plans are current and functional. Testing of emergency response plans must occur to know whether or not they will work. Over time, procedures and resources will change. Only by conducting exercises and mock

drills can institutions make sure their plans stay current.

College Of DuPage’s Exercises

Deciding to collaborate with other community partners to im- prove its response capabilities, the College of DuPage joined with three neighboring villag- es—Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, and Winfield—to form the Tri-City Crisis Response Group, initially developed to operate a medical distribution site at the campus in the event of a terrorist inci- dent. Now, the group exists to respond to incidents that threat- en to overwhelm the resources of any one of the participating communities. To further this effort, the college outfitted a computer laboratory with 30

phone lines, Internet access, and cable television to function as an EOC for the group. In the event of an activation, person- nel move a storage box loaded with phones, signs, manuals, and maps into the EOC. The group regularly meets and trains together. It dramatically has increased the response capabil- ity of any one of the individual partners.

During 2008, the College of DuPage planned or participated in four exercises testing emer- gency plans in place. In Febru- ary, it took part in a functional exercise with the DuPage County Homeland Security Office. In May, the college, along with the Tri-City Crisis Response Group, conducted a full-scale exercise to test the command structure of the group. In July, because of its status as one of the county’s medical distribution sites in the event of a terrorist act, the College of DuPage participated in a mock drill using over 200 individuals to test medical distribution capabilities on-site. In August, it worked with a local high school to test the college’s ability to evacuate all of the high school students and staff to one of its buildings.

Monitoring the Process Constant monitoring and

review represents the final and ongoing component of the NIMS compliance continuum. A Comprehensive Source of Information About NIMS

September 2009 / 19

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Training, plan development, and testing comprise a continual process. At a minimum, institu- tions should review and test the plan annually. The emergency operations plan is a living document needing regular attention. Many details, includ- ing phone numbers, building layouts, and personnel changes, need updating at least annually.

CONCLUSION Unfortunately, unthinkable

events can happen anywhere, even on the campuses of institu- tions of higher learning. Con- sidering this threat, along with the benefits NIMS offers, every

college and university should become compliant. And, cam- pus authorities have ready sources of help, including not only online resources but departments responsible for emergency management—these offer a wealth of assistance and are located in every state and most counties.

The National Incident Management System is instru- mental to effective emergency

responses, large or small. It can help campus authorities plan for a concert, athletic competition, high-profile visitor, or other event. Most important, it helps keep students, faculty, and facilities safe.

Endnotes 1

ResearchReports/Critical%20Incident%20 Preparedness%20and%20Response%20 on%20Campus%20Dec%2012%202008. pdf.

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