Water Sector National Incident Management System
(NIMS)  Implementation  Objectives
As utility personnel plan and prepare for emergencies, a
common question arises: "What does National Incident
Management System (NIMS) compliance mean for
the water sector?" Although the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) developed NIMS
compliance requirements for state, local, and tribal
governments, they have not developed requirements
for individual sectors, such as the water sector. In the
absence of specific requirements, this document provides
recommended water sector NIMS implementation
objectives that integrate NIMS principles into utility
operations and planning. It is recommended that public
drinking water and wastewater systems coordinate with
their local emergency management agency (EMA) when
implementing these objectives to check whether the local
government NIMS compliance requirements also apply to
their utilities.

What is NIMS?

Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 5
tasked the Department of Homeland Security to develop
and administer NIMS.  HSPD 5 also requires federal
departments and agencies to adopt NIMS planning and
response concepts. States, territories, local jurisdictions,
and tribal entities must adopt NIMS in order to receive
federal preparedness assistance. NIMS, originally
published in 2004, establishes a comprehensive, national
approach to incident management that is applicable at all
jurisdictional levels, across all agencies, and to all domestic
incidents regardless of size. NIMS is flexible but still
provides a set of standardized organizational structures, as
well as requirements for processes, procedures, and systems
designed to improve the ability of responders (public and
private) to work together. Essentially, NIMS promotes
the use of mutual aid and assistance. Many Water and
Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs) use the
concepts of NIMS for a more successful program.

What are the Benefits of NIMS?

Implementing NIMS helps the water sector to:

  Strengthen response capabilities by following a
  nationally adopted, standard, flexible practice for
  emergency response;
 Improve mobilization, deployment, utilization, tracking,
  and demobilization of needed resources;
 Establish protocols for improved communication with
  other first responders and support personnel;
                             Reduce the time delay to access mutual aid and
                             assistance resources; and
                             Integrate with other local and state emergency response

                           What are the Main Components of NIMS?

                           There are five main components of NIMS:

                             Communications and information management;
                             Resource management;
                             Command and management; and
                             Ongoing management and maintenance.

                           Each of these components is described in detail in the
                           NIMS document and includes a number of key themes. As
                           utilities begin to incorporate NIMS concepts and principles
                           into their preparedness planning, many are surprised to
                           learn that they are now considered first responders. HSPD
                           8, published in 2003, formally acknowledged the vital
                           role that public works (which includes drinking water
                           and wastewater utilities) personnel play in response to an
                           incident. NIMS encourages and helps all first responders to
                           work together to provide mutual aid and assistance to one
                           another as effectively and efficiently as possible.


                           Many water utility professionals believe that implementing
                           NIMS only requires taking one or two classes. However,
                           a utility should adopt NIMS by incorporating it into its
                           emergency preparedness, response, and security activities.
                           Some utilities have issued a policy formally requiring the
                           use of NIMS. Subsequently, these utilities have updated
                           their existing plans and procedures to ensure consistency
                           with NIMS. As defined in the NIMS document,
                           preparedness covers the elements of planning, training, and


                           Many utilities are implementing NIMS by preparing
                           emergency response plans (ERPs) and business continuity
                           plans (BCPs), and by becoming members of Water and
                           Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs). If your
                           utility has not yet developed an  ERP or BCP, or considered
                           joining a WARN, it is in your best interest to do so. Be
                           sure to coordinate your planned response actions with other
                           local first responders.
              Office of Water (4608T)  EPA XXX-X-XX-XXX  March 2009


The second element of preparedness is training.
At a minimum, all utility staff who would likely
be involved in the response to an incident should
complete the Basic Incident Command System (ICS)
IS-lOOPWa and NIMS, An Introduction IS-700a
courses. These courses are offered for free both
on-line through FEMA's Independent Study website
at and in-
person by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(USEPA) at various locations throughout the country.
One advantage to attending a USEPA-sponsored
training is that the standard FEMA courses have
been tailored to the water sector and contain relevant
teaching examples and group activities. To find a
USEPA training location near you and to  register,
please visit at
id=92&type=l. The water sector-specific materials
used during USEPA's  in-person classes are also
available online. If you hold a supervisory or
management role within your utility, more training is
recommended.  For example, utility personnel who
serve as first-line supervisors or in management roles
should also complete ICS IS-200a training. Utility
executives and senior officials may wish to consider
taking the 2-hour state-offered ICS Overview G402
course. Complete details on required courses
and who at your utility should complete them can
be found in the NIMS: Five Year Training Plan,
available at
nims_training. shtm.


Exercises comprise  the last element of preparedness.
NIMS components, such as the use of ICS, should
be incorporated into all exercises. First responders
and identified staff should participate in exercises.
Many preparedness organizations, such as Local
Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and
either county or state EMAs, already plan and
conduct all-hazard exercises that incorporate
NIMS. It is worthwhile for utilities to reach out to
these preparedness organizations and to take part
in the  exercises they conduct. This will ensure
that a utility's ERP is coordinated with other local
emergency plans. In addition, this participation allows
utility staff to take part in professionally facilitated
exercises with minimal utility resource expenditure,
and it  also allows utility personnel to develop working
relationships with other local first responders before an
emergency occurs.

Utilities with more resources may wish to consider
conducting their own exercises and inviting other first
responders to attend.  Exercises should to be designed
   NIMS Implementation Objectives for the Water Sector*
1. Revise Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) to incorporate NIMS principles such as
2. Maintain mutual aid and assistance agreements with response partners and
participate in a Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN).
3. Use existing resources for NIMS trainings, such as USEPA's Water Sector ICS-
NIMS Training.
4. All staff completes IS-lOOPWa (ICS) and IS-700a (NIMS) at a minimum.
5. Managers/Supervisors complete ICS-200a, ICS-300a, ICS-400a, and IS-800B
(NRF) as appropriate.
6. Incorporate NIMS principles into exercises, such as a corrective action process.
7. Participate in an all-hazards, multi-agency, and multi-jurisdictional exercise
program such as those offered by LEPCs and EMAs.
             Communications and Information Management
8. Use NIMS terminology and clear text, avoid using acronyms.
9. Use tools during an incident or event to promote a common operating picture (e.g.,
ICS Form 209 and/or SitRep).
                      Resource Management
10. Inventory resources and type them according to local protocols and the AWWA
Water & Wastewater Mutual Aid & Assistance Resource Typing Manual.
11. Purchase interoperable equipment (e.g., radios).
12. Use a WARN program to help obtain needed resources.
13. Participate in jurisdictional credentialing (e.g., first responder ID cards) if
                    Command and Management
Incident Command System
14. Use ICS to manage all incidents and events.
Multi-Agency Coordination System
15. Use your jurisdiction's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for incident support
in addition to mutual aid and assistance such as a WARN.
Public Information
16. Use the Joint Information System during an incident or event, such as having a
Public Information Officer.
17. Ensure that all water use advisories and notices are compliant with the Public
Notification Rule and fully coordinated with other public notifications regarding the
* Based on FEMA's FY2008 NIMS Compliance Objectives
     and conducted in accordance with the Homeland Security
     Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidance.
     Scenarios and exercise materials can be obtained from
     the USEPA's Water and Wastewater Emergency Response
     Tabletop Exercises tool at
     watersecurity/tools/trainingcd/.  This tool will be updated
     so that all materials in the tool conform to HSEEP
     guidance and be posted at
     watersecurity/tools.cfm. Once an exercise is complete,
     any lessons learned should be captured in the utility's ERP
     through a corrective action process.
                Office of Water (4608T)  EPA XXX-X-XX-XXX  March 2009

Communications and Information

Communications and information management is another
component of NIMS that should be implemented. An
important aspect of communications is for utilities to use
common NIMS terminology and what is referred to as clear
text. Common NIMS terminology includes, for example,
using the title Incident Commander for the person with
overall responsibility for managing an incident. The use of
common terminology greatly reduces confusion between
jurisdictions and agencies working together during a larger
incident, since all first responders across the country are
learning the same, common NIMS terminology.  Clear
text refers to the principle that utility personnel should
always use  plain English when communicating during an
incident. Other agencies and jurisdictions are not familiar
with your utility-specific acronyms or jargon, and your use
of them will only lead to confusion on larger incidents and
when mutual aid and assistance agreements are activated.
For example, the acronym SCADA is not understood by
everyone outside of a utility!

Information management is necessary so that everyone
responding to an incident is on the same page, or shares a
common operating picture. One information management
tool that already exists and can be readily adopted by
utilities is the Situation Report, or SitRep. The SitRep
format has been in use for years, and is a proven way to
present incident information to others so that a common
operating picture can be developed and  shared. The daily
national SitRep can be found on FEMA's website at http:// Another
tool that can be used at the local level is the ICS Form 209 -
Incident Status Summary.

Resource Management

Resource management, which can be problematic at
larger incidents, is another critical component of NIMS
implementation. Resources include utility personnel,
equipment, supplies, and materials. Under NIMS, all
resources should be typed, which means that resources
are  classified by their function (category), class (kind),
and their performance or capability (type). Once a
resource is typed, it is very clear to first responders what
resource they are asking for, and, it helps to ensure that
the  first responder receives the resource that he or she
requested.  Utilities should consider inventorying and
typing their resources. This can be done in conjunction
with jurisdiction efforts (local, county, or state level), and
through the Water & Wastewater Mutual Aid & Assistance
Resource Typing Manual produced by the American Water
Works Association (AWWA) and available at http://www.  Resource inventories can be kept using
a hard copy system, such as a card catalog, or by using
a spreadsheet, database or other digital program, such
as the on-line resource lists maintained by many WARN
Another NIMS implementation objective under resource
management is purchasing interoperable equipment,
such as radios, so that your personnel can readily
communicate with other first responders (e.g., police, fire)
in their jurisdiction.  If your jurisdiction is developing a
credentialing  system that will help verify the identity and
qualifications of emergency personnel responding to an
incident, you  may want to participate.
Command and Management

The Command and Management component within NIMS
is designed to enable effective and efficient incident
management and coordination by providing a flexible,
standardized incident management structure.  The structure
is based on three key organizational constructs: the ICS,
Multiagency Coordination Systems (MACS), and Public

Incident Command System

HSPD 5 requires that federal agencies manage all domestic
incidents under ICS. During large incidents, utilities should
be prepared to coordinate with state and federal agencies
using ICS, and utilities can practice using ICS when
responding to routine emergencies such as main breaks.
This will ensure that utility personnel are familiar with
NIMS common terminology and how the ICS functions,
which will be an advantage when working with other local,
state, and federal first responders during a larger incident.

Multi-Agency Coordination System

The primary function of MACS is to coordinate activities
above the field level and to prioritize the incident demands
for critical or competing resources, thereby assisting the
coordination of the operations in the field. MACS consist
of a combination of elements:  personnel, procedures,
protocols, business practices, and communications
integrated into a common system. For the purpose of
coordinating resources and support between multiple
jurisdictions, MACS can be  implemented from a fixed
facility (such as an Emergency Operations Center or EOC)
or by other arrangements outlined within the system.
Utilities should learn the location, contact information,
and organizational structure  of the EOC that serves their
community. In addition, utilities should ensure that they
are represented within their local EOC during emergencies.
Both the EOC and the WARN can help a utility to obtain
resources during an incident.

Public Information

If public information or notices (e.g., water use advisories)
are to be disseminated during an incident, the Public
Notification Rule must be followed.  NIMS principles
regarding public  information further support this rule.  In
              Office of Water (4608T)  EPA XXX-X-XX-XXX  March 2009

addition, utilities should have templates for foreseeable
public notifications such as boil order or system bypass
notices. These templates help to ensure that no detail is
overlooked and that notifications are consistent. A Public
Information Officer (or individual serving in that capacity)
prepares the notification, which is then approved by the
Incident Commander prior to issuance.  At larger incidents,
the Public Information Officer may need to coordinate the
utility's public notice with that of others. The bottom line
is that a clear, consistent message needs to go to the public
from all agencies and jurisdictions taking part in public

Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Just like your ERP, NIMS is constantly being revised and
changed based on best management practices and lessons
learned. NIMS was first revised in 2008.  If you have
comments about NIMS or have suggestions to improve
NIMS, you can contact the NIMS National Integration
Center at 202-646-3850 or

NIMS implementation may appear daunting, but in
actuality it relies on many best practices already in use by
water and wastewater utilities as well as other agencies and
jurisdictions.  These best practices have been adopted under
NIMS so that mutual aid and assistance can be as effective
as possible.
To learn more about NIMS, please visit:
(click on "Emergency/Incident Planning" and scroll down
to NIMS)
(FEMA's official NIMS website)
cfm?outreach_id=92&type= 1
(learn about U.S. EPA's water sector ICS and NIMS
(download the water sector ICS and NIMS presentations
               Office of Water (4608T)  EPA XXX-X-XX-XXX  March 2009