Happy Independence Day! Over the last week, I have attempted to increase my understanding of how the American incident management system works and the organizational structure that is in place in case of an emergency. In order to do this, I took two courses provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A large portion of these courses are given online and can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. These courses provide anyone who is interested in this area in general, or in becoming an emergency responder in particular, with free disaster preparedness and emergency management lessons and materials. They are self-paced courses, with short knowledge review questions in the middle to check a person’s understanding of the presented material. Students are also provided with a personal certificate of completion at the end of the course.
The first course I took was ICS-100. This is the primary baseline course in the series of Incident Command System (ICS) courses, which are intended for all emergency responders and personnel involved in the field of incident management. The ICS-100 course provides information about the National Incident Management System’s (NIMS) characteristics and the basic structure of the ICS. It effectively explains the work that the incident commander, the command staff, and the general staff do. Participants learn how to work efficiently with response partners from a variety of different government levels, as well as with actors from the private sector. Overall, the course’s goal is “to promote effective response” by enabling participants to become familiar with both the ICS and the NIMS principles that are currently used to manage all incidents nationwide, regardless of size or type.
The IS-700 course was the second course I took. This course focuses on both the subcategories that exist within the NIMS, and on resource management. It provides detailed information regarding the NIMS to people from the private-sector, nongovernmental organizations, in government positions, and leaders in emergency management prevention and response. In this course, participants learn about various resource management methods, effective communication formats, and the underlying systems under the NIMS Management and Coordination Structures.
Participants also learn about the Emergency Operations Center and common models of staff organization. The chart below provides an overview of the Incident Command System, a common organizational model, which can help improve the effectiveness of communications across different agencies.
The primary focus of IS-700 is how the use of NIMS can help responders work seamlessly together to “prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the effects of an incident”. This course is a informative resource for anyone interested in the field of incident management who desires a detailed understanding of these systems and their uses.
The baseline courses include the IS-700 course and the ICS-100. However, there are many other courses provided by FEMA to interested learners. For additional training, the ICS-200, IS-800, ICS-300, and the ICS-400 are offered. These courses have different areas of focus and levels of complexity so learners can pick the course that would fit their interests. The chart on the right provides an overview of how these courses build upon each other.
All of these courses are free. However, one must apply for a student identification number (SID) to take the final exam. The number is not actually required until one takes final exam to receive one’s certificate of course completion. To receive such a certificate, one must enter the SID number, take the timed final exam, and answer 75% of the questions correctly.
Overall, these courses taught me a lot about the NIMS system and the ICS system in an efficient way. Before taking them, I did not know much about the systems in place in the USA, including that there are certain roles, regulations, and steps in place to respond, prevent, and recover from an incident.
The courses gave me valuable information that I will use to further my studies in public health and emergency preparedness. They helped me to better understand the US approach to incident response which has made me more curious about this field.
You can find out more by clicking on the link below: