The National Response Framework (NRF) is a guideline as to how the nation conducts response to many different types of hazards (FEMA, 2008). It is meant to be scalable, flexible, and adaptable in its ability to coordinate resources and other structures on all levels of government. It is intended to be used for emergencies that are serious, but local, and on emergencies that are large scale, such as terrorist attacks. The framework is intended for government officials, leaders of non-governmental leaders, and emergency management professionals (FEMA, 2008). The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a similar document that is also meant to ensure effective preparedness, planning, and response to national emergencies (FEMA, 2014). This research will explore the NRF and NIMS to gain a better understanding of how these two documents work together.
Relationship between NRF and NIMS
At first glance, it may appear as if the NFT and the NIMS are redundant, particularly since they are a FEMA directed document. The NIMS provides the framework for the NRF. The NRF provides the structure and for national-level policy making for the management of major incidents (Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, n.d.). The NIMS is focused multi-agency coordination through the joint field office (JFO). The primary purpose of the NIMS is to define the roles of various agencies in a coordinated disaster response (USACCARYM, 2010). The NRF and NIMS are meant to be companion documents that work together in an emergency.
The NRF is limited and does not cover all civil support incidents (USACCARYM, 2010). The NRF is initiated when the disaster has the potential becoming a significant national event or one that could have long term consequences. The NRF is designed to help assist local governments that many be overwhelmed in the event of an emergency (USACCARYM, 2010). The NRF provides coordination with local resources and disaster response. State law enforcement agencies may provide can provide investigative personnel and state patrol officers. The National Guard can be activated to help support local first responders when local capabilities are exceeded. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) can call in help and support services from other states (USACCARYM, 2010).
NIMS is used for all events and emergencies, including large scale special events. NRF is only activated for designated events or incidents. The main difference between the two documents is that the NIMS provides the response structure, whereas the NRF governs the allocation of resources during and after an event (ASPR, n.d.). The key difference between these two documents is their scope.
NIMS is more general in its scope. It consists primarily of a set of core concept, principles, and terms that are used for incident command. All Federal agencies and departments must adopt this unified set of framework. State and local governments must also be NIMS compliant (FEMA, 2009). The main purpose of the framework is to get everyone on all levels on the same page. The NIMS makes certain that everyone speaks the same language and that they provide a similar response. Various agencies cannot coordinate if they have different operating methods and procedures. NIMS provides uniformity so that coordination can occur.
NRF and NIMS in Action
The NRF and NIMS seem conceptual and may seem difficult to apply in an actual emergency situation. The question is how the worker, or first responder can apply these principles in a real life situation. The first step is understanding one’s place within the framework. A person must understand how they fit into framework in order to know what their role is and what to do (Federal Highway Administration, 2009).
The NRF divided response agencies into 15 separate categories such as search and rescue, firefighting, external affairs, public safety, energy, and others. These are all assigned ESF numbers. Using the U.S. Department of Transportation as an example, the category of transportation is ESF-1. Transportation in a disaster includes maintaining the transit system so that other services can get to and from the area. The same procedures are used regardless of the nature of the disaster, whether natural or manmade (Federal Highway Administration, 2009). In a disaster, the Federal Agency would coordinate efforts with the State Department of Transportation. One of the difficulties is that states have organized their departments of transportation differently (Federal Highway Administration, 2009).
The NRF provides a specific set of responsibilities in a disaster. They are to monitor and report on the statue of damage to the transportation system. They are to identify alternative, temporary solutions to ensure the movement of people and equipment. They perform all other duties conducted under the DOT. They coordinate the restoration and recovery of the transportation system. They coordinate and support preparedness and mitigation efforts (Federal Highway Administration, 2009). On a local level, this may mean that individual workers are putting up road closed and detour signs. They may be clearing debris and directing traffic flow. They may inspect roads and bridges for damage (Federal Highway Administration, 2009).
This example demonstrates how the NRF and NIMS result in a unified approach to disaster response and preparedness. It demonstrates how the framework results in a coordinated effort on a state and federal level, right down to the activities of the individual worker. The NIMS provides the conceptual framework for the development of the NRF. The NRF is the working document that, when activated, results in the delivery to resources to the people and areas that need it.
- Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) (n.d.). Federal Emergency
Preparedness. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from (USACCARYM, 2010).
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2008, January). National Response Framework. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from http://www.fema.gov
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2009, September 21). National Response
Framework & National Incident Management System. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2014, June 13). NIMS and National
Preparedness. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from http://www.fema.gov/national-incident- management-system
- Federal Highway Administration (2009, September). The National Incident Management
System. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from
- United States Army Combined Arms Center. (2010, December). National Response Framework
And National Incident Management System. Chapter 3. Retrieved 19 June 2014 from
- Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. (n.d.). National Incident Management System
(NIMS). Retrieved 19 June 2014 from http://emergencymanagement.wi.gov/nims/