With a fall deadline looming, local emergency response personnel must move fast to achieve compliance with a federally-mandated disaster response program.
Introduced several years ago by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Incident Management System (N.I.M.S.) is a program aimed at establishing a coordinated response to large-scale emergencies. A directive issued in 2005 by President George W. Bush requires emergency personnel to complete the first phase of N.I.M.S. training by Oct. 1.
"From one state to another, everybody does things differently," said Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband. "What this is intended to do is put everybody on the same page."
According to Husband, area emergency responders have some catching up to do.
Husband said the directive applies to officials and emergency workers "all the way to the top of the chain"-- from members of volunteer fire departments to police officers to higher-ranking city and county officials.
"It's just something that we as first responders, as a community, need to do," he said. "We don't know when that disasters going to hit."
The program requires participants to complete a series of on-line classes, each covering a different aspect of the N.I.M.S. program. Each section takes two to three hours to complete, Husband said.
The first two courses, both broad introductions to the workings of N.I.M.S., must be completed by Oct. 1.
Additional sections will be assigned for next year, Husband said.
Individual departments with members who fail to achieve compliance could suffer financially, according to Husband. He said non-compliance threatens eligibility for federal grants, the life-blood of many volunteer fire departments.
"There's a lot of people getting these grants," he said. "It's hard to keep up with, but we have to make sure we stay in compliance."
To determine if N.I.M.S. applies to you or your department, call Husband at 446-2535 or access the N.I.M.S. Web site at: