NIMS: New Compliance Guidance Includes Hospitals and Other Healthcare Facilities

February 1, 2007 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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Mass-casualty emergencies such as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, made the United States aware of the need for improved emergency preparedness and response. A few years after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to provide a consistent, flexible structure that would allow governmental, nongovernmental, and private-sector organizations to work together to manage emergencies and disasters. Along with these organizations, hospitals play a central role in disaster preparation and response efforts. Some elements of NIMS include a standardized incident command system; standardized communication among all agencies; agreements among entities to share equipment, supplies, and other resources; and training, drills, and other exercises.

"NIMS is a compilation of best emergency management policies and procedures, and provides a national framework for emergency response," says Albert H. Fluman, acting director, NIMS Integration Center, a division of DHS. By implementing the standardized practices that compose NIMS, responders from one area of the United States could assist with disasters or events in other parts of the nation and fit in with the systems, procedures, and communications in that region.

DHS issued a NIMS implementation guidance document on March 1, 2004, and required state and local organizations to comply with NIMS by September 2006. However, information and compliance requirements for hospitals and other healthcare facilities, which also play an important role in emergency response, were not included, and confusion arose regarding what responsibilities healthcare facilities had for complying with NIMS. In order to resolve confusion, DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released NIMS Implementation Activities for Hospitals and Healthcare Systems in September 2006. The document includes a list of 17 activities that healthcare facilities that receive federal preparedness funding must implement over time to ensure NIMS compliance. This article provides an overview of NIMS and the 17 activities for hospitals...

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