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NIMS Support Center and Exercise Simulation System

In 2004, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to provide a consistent nationwide template to enable governments and responders to work together effectively and efficiently to manage incidents and planned events. To support NIMS implementation, DHS established the NIMS Support Center (NIMS SC) in 2005–a program that operated under a Cooperative Agreement between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Justice and Safety Center (JSC). The NIMS SC provided direct support to the Incident Management Systems Division (IMSD) of FEMA’s National Integration Center (NIC).

The NIMS SC was designed to develop new first responder tools, enhance technology integration, and evaluate and report on products and standards to improve incident management and information sharing throughout the first responder community. The program provided products and services in the following areas:

  • Compliance & Technical Assistance
  • Resource Management
  • Standards & Product Evaluations
  • Training & Exercises
  • Guidance Documents & Job Aids

Exercise Simulation System

The NIMS SC program resulted in the development of the Exercise Simulation System (ESS), which was designed to improve exercises and the planning and coordination capabilities of emergency managers and responders, elected officials, and other stakeholders at all levels of government. The system provides a readily-available environment that may be leveraged for developing scenarios, objectives, and injects to test incident management capabilities.

The community information in the ESS is presented in multiple formats, such as text, tables, organizational charts, and static and interactive Geographical information System (GIS)-based maps. The ESS interactive maps provide users with an extensive library of GIS functions and information to facilitate planning and decision making processes. This feature allows instructors and students to customize maps so they display only the relevant portions of the State of Columbia, Liberty County, and Central City, as well as the pertinent infrastructure and resources needed for a specific scenario. For example, users may be able to locate and display all roads, utilities, hospitals, and shelters within a specified radius of the incident location to assist with planning. Similarly, the ESS provides users with a list of organizations in a given geographic area that may be deployed to support the incident response effort.

The ESS environment may be used to challenge exercise participants to create situational awareness, respond to exercise injects, and make incident- and community-level decisions. The ESS is currently used by the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) Section.

Other NIMS SC Projects

Incident Resource Inventory System(IRIS)

Among other projects, the NIMS SC program resulted in the development and release of IRIS, a free database management tool that allows communities to insert NIMS Typed Resources and provide a means to quickly assess these resources to support emergency response operations. Although housed locally, resources stored in IRIS may be shared with other response organizations. The tool aims to improve the capability to identify, mobilize, and dispatch a typed resource in support of a specific mission. For more information or to acquire this tool for your use, visit:

The NIMS Supporting Technology Evaluation Program (NIMS STEP)

NIMS STEP was designed to provide independent, objective evaluations of commercial and governmental software products against NIMS concepts and data exchange standards. The program was designed to assist in the implementation of the NIMS, and to enhance interoperable emergency communications and information management systems in support of a common operating picture in the field.

NIMS STEP evaluations were conducted at a laboratory in Somerset, Kentucky, managed by the Science Applications International Corporation. This laboratory became the first in the nation to receive accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for testing emergency response information technology. Evaluations conducted at the laboratory aimed to verify that systems conformed to interoperability standards and could exchange critical messages during disasters. To achieve accreditation status, the laboratory was required to meet general requirements for the competencies of testing and calibration laboratories, as provided in ISO/IEC 17025:2005. A laboratory’s fulfillment of these requirements means the laboratory meets both the technical competence requirements and management system requirements that are necessary for it to consistently deliver technically valid test results. 

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