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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established its National Incident Management System (NIMS) in 2004. A response to one of President George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Presidential Directives, NIMS sets guidelines for public and private sector collaboration in preventing, mitigating, and responding to domestic incidents. 

Because NIMS “applies to all incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity,” modeling and simulation are vital to strengthening incident management tools. To manage incidents—a process that involves careful analysis and strategy—FEMA utilizes NIMS and the National Response Framework (NRF) to serve as the backbone of its methodologies. 

Since 2004, a lot of work has gone into creating realistic scenarios that train government employees and private sector participants to act during an actual emergency. However, simulation scenarios are still largely executed manually with participants working at actual tabletops with notebooks and paper. Maybe the time has come to leverage business intelligence technologies to analyze scenario decision making. 

Modeling and Simulation

Modeling and simulation (M&S) for NIMS relies upon five components, each of which can be enhanced by business intelligence technologies:

1: Preparedness. How can we anticipate incidents before they happen? How can we mitigate these incidents? If an event does occur, what information and resources will be vital?

  • Can be enhanced by predictive & prescriptive analytics 

2: Communications & Information Management. If an incident impacts a large crowd, how can first responders provide clear, accurate information? Additionally, how can leaders offer up-to-date information to those first responders, whose hands are full? Pre-incident, mid-incident, and post-incident communication strategies are all vital in this case. 

  • Can be enhanced by object recognition technologies, alerting, and advanced geospatial analytics

3: Resource Management. What resources are necessary for a given domestic emergency? Accurately anticipating necessities allows hospitals, first responders, and other organizations to compile what they’ll need and be better prepared for a given situation. Which facilities, vehicles, supplies, and personnel can mitigate casualties and destruction?

  • This is a standard commercial application of business intelligence software that can be immediately adopted by the public sector

4: Command & Management. Tools such as the Incident Command System (ICS) create standardized approaches for integrating communication and resource management. FEMA focuses on ICS’s five components: command, operations, planning, logistics, intelligence, and finance/administration. ICS and C&M are the glue that holds together the sharing of information and the utilization of resources.

  • Can be enhanced by data integration with other core systems

5: Ongoing Management & Maintenance. How can we ensure that NIMS will remain up-to-date and accurate as technology and civilizations evolve? Federal, state, and local management groups can contribute to NIMS with supplementary data, information, and models to ensure the system is as polished as possible. 

  • Can be enhanced by automating the process of integrating new policies and scenarios from the federal government down to the local level


While NIMS structures responses to crises, NRF facilitates the use of resources during and after incidents. NRF currently has fifteen national planning scenarios, including disease, weather, and terrorist- and cyber-attack relief. 

In addition to these fifteen scenarios, NRF includes fifteen Emergency Support Function Annexes (ESFs), which group necessary resources and information to create package solutions for various situations. Those annexes are as follows:

  1. Transportation
  2. Communications
  3. Public Works and Engineering
  4. Firefighting
  5. Information and Planning
  6. Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Temporary Housing, and Human Services
  7. Logistics
  8. Public Health and Medical Services
  9. Search and Rescue
  10. Oil and Hazardous Materials Response
  11. Agriculture and Natural Resources
  12. Energy
  13. Public Safety and Security
  14. Cross-Sector Business and Infrastructure
  15. External Affairs

Based on those fifteen ESFs, it’s clear to see just how broad incident management can get. And, with new technology emerging every day, Homeland Security must remain attentive to potential dangers and proactively scout emerging technologies to assist with this critical mission. 

Although incidents can cover a vast range of circumstances and impacts, simulation models are the backbone of management systems. These simulations help us better understand the effects of emergencies on communities and the connections between resource types and ESF methodologies and help us plan for the future. Investing in technology in this critical area of the government should be a no-brainer.