How Many NIMS Management Characteristics are There

How Many NIMS Management Characteristics Are There?

Should you be curious about how many NIMS management characteristics are there, this article will clarify your doubts. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is an all-encompassing framework for incident management across the nation, established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

These management characteristics form the core of the NIMS Incident Command System. In this article, we will simplify these elements to enhance your grasp of the NIMS and ICS principles. Our goal is to elucidate these frameworks and the operation of the NIMS management characteristics.

To swiftly address the inquiry of how many NIMS management characteristics are there, the number is fourteen (14). Continue reading to explore the individual NIMS management characteristics and their functions.

Overview of NIMS Management Characteristics

Management characteristics are essentially the core components and principles of NIMS that make it a comprehensive, systematic approach to incident management. They are the fundamental elements that any participating organization or agency adopts to ensure a well-coordinated response. These characteristics provide a framework that is adaptable to the complexity and demands of various incidents.

The role of management characteristics in NIMS is to provide a set of standardized operational structures that are repeatable and can be learned and implemented regardless of the type, size, or complexity of the incident. They facilitate coordination among various entities, promote the use of common terminology, and aid in the scalable nature of response efforts. Through these characteristics, NIMS integrates the capabilities and resources of various organizations and agencies, creating an efficient and interoperable response structure.

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How Many NIMS Management Characteristics Are There?

Understanding ICS and its role paves the way to the crucial question: How many NIMS management characteristics are there? There are fourteen (14) specific characteristics that ICS incorporates to effectively manage incidents in emergency situations. These are the NIMS characteristics you need to know:

  1. Common Terminology
  2. Modular Organization
  3. Management By Objectives
  4. Incident Action Planning
  5. Manageable Span of Control
  6. Incident Facilities and Locations
  7. Comprehensive Resource Management
  8. Integrated Communications
  9. Establishment and Transfer of Command
  10. Chain of Command and Unity of Command
  11. Unified Command
  12. Accountability
  13. Dispatch/Deployment
  14. Information and Intelligence Management

Common Terminology

Common terminology refers to the standardized set of terms and definitions that are used universally by all entities involved in incident management. Its importance lies in its ability to promote clear and concise communication, free from misunderstanding, which is crucial in high-pressure incident scenarios.

In practice, common terminology covers roles, such as Incident Commander; facilities, like the Incident Command Post (ICP); resource descriptions, such as Urban Search and Rescue Teams; and incident classifications, like Type 1 Incident, which involves national-level support.

Modular Organization

The modular organization is a structural response strategy that can be expanded or contracted based on the incident’s needs. It starts with the incident command and can grow to include various functional units and divisions as required.

The modular approach benefits incident management by providing flexibility, scalability, and the capability to distribute responsibilities evenly, ensuring that management does not become overwhelmed as the situation evolves.

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Management by Objectives

Objectives are established based on the priorities of the incident, and they provide a clear direction for all tactical and support activities. They are what every member of the response team aims to achieve through their actions.

Clear objectives guide decision-making by providing benchmarks for what needs to be accomplished. They help align the strategies and tactics of the different units involved, ensuring cohesive and effective action.

Incident Action Planning

The Incident Action Planning process involves the creation of a formal, coherent response plan that documents the overall incident goals, operational period objectives, and the response strategy defined by incident command.

An Incident Action Plan typically includes the incident objectives, the strategies to be used to achieve them, tactical directives, a communications plan, a map of the incident area, and a safety plan.

Manageable Span of Control

The span of control refers to the number of individuals or resources that one supervisor can manage effectively during an incident. The ideal span of control is typically one supervisor to five subordinates.

During emergencies, maintaining a manageable span of control is crucial to ensure effective supervision, decision-making, and execution of tasks without overextending resources applying this concept.

Incident Facilities and Locations

Incident facilities include the Incident Command Post, staging areas, camps, and base, as well as heliports and other locations that support incident operations.

Facilities are strategically placed to support efficient response activities, ensuring that operations are close enough to the incident to be effective yet far enough to be safe.

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Comprehensive Resource Management

The principles include categorizing, ordering, dispatching, tracking, and recovering resources, both personnel and major items of equipment, needed to support incident management.

Resources are allocated based on the incident objectives, and their use is tracked to ensure effective deployment and to inform the planning of future operations.

Integrated Communications

Communication strategies ensure that all incident personnel can receive and disseminate information within their assigned roles. The systems used are designed for interoperability among all responding agencies.

Ensuring interoperability and continuity involves establishing common communication plans, maintaining equipment compatibility, and ensuring uninterrupted communication during transitions or shifts.

Establishment and Transfer of Command

Command is established by the highest authority present at the scene who has the capacity to manage the response effectively, and it is communicated clearly to all participants.

The command may be transferred during incidents due to changes in the incident scope or for other operational reasons, and the process should be marked by a comprehensive briefing for the incoming commander.

Chain of Command and Unity of Command

The chain of command and unity of command help to establish clear reporting relationships and eliminate the confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives.

These concepts ensure that all efforts are focused on achieving the incident objectives under a single, unified direction, even when multiple agencies or jurisdictions are involved.

Unified Command

A unified command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities to work together effectively without losing their individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.

Within a unified command, coordination is achieved as agency representatives contribute to the process of determining priorities, objectives, and strategies to ensure an effective response.

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Accountability in NIMS includes check-in procedures, incident action planning, unity of command, personal responsibility, span of control, and resource tracking.

Accountability Systems in NIMS are implemented to track resource location, status, and task assignments. This ensures that resources are used efficiently and that personnel are protected.


Effective dispatch and deployment strategies involve the orderly, timely, and safe movement of resources to be in the right place at the right time.

Timing and sequencing are critical in ensuring that resources are available as soon as they are needed and that they can be mobilized effectively.

Information and Intelligence Management

Intelligence operations involve gathering, sharing, and managing information and intelligence relevant to the incident to inform decision-making and response strategies.

As part of the planning cycle, information and intelligence are integrated to ensure that all aspects of the response are based on the most current and accurate understanding of the situation.

The Significance of Each Characteristic in Total Count

Each characteristic is integral to the NIMS framework, contributing to a cohesive and comprehensive approach to incident management. The total count of these characteristics is significant because they encompass the complete spectrum of incident management activities—from initial response to recovery—ensuring a standardized and effective approach to any incident regardless of its size, scope, or complexity.

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Implementation of NIMS Management Characteristics

Integrating NIMS characteristics into practice involves several strategies. Agencies must first adopt NIMS at the organizational policy level. This is followed by incorporating NIMS principles into operational procedures and emergency operations plans. Additionally, utilizing the Incident Command System (ICS) structure for all incidents, regardless of size or complexity, helps to normalize the concepts and practices of NIMS across the organization.

Training and exercises are essential for effective NIMS implementation. Personnel should receive NIMS-based training tailored to their specific roles and responsibilities within the incident management structure. Regular, multi-disciplinary exercises that simulate emergencies can help responders apply NIMS principles in a controlled environment, building confidence and identifying areas for improvement in real-world responses.


The management characteristics of NIMS form the backbone of a successful incident management strategy. They provide the structure and processes necessary to manage emergencies efficiently and effectively. These characteristics ensure that responders from various agencies can come together with a common understanding, leading to a coordinated and cohesive response.

If you’ve been seeking the answer to “How many NIMS management characteristics are there? I trust this article has been helpful. Should you have any further questions or need clarification on this matter, don’t hesitate to post your inquiries in the comment section below.

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