The Secret of NIMS
March 28, 2009
This past week I attended the Life Services Network annual meeting in Chicago. Honestly, it was a great conference, and many of the things I learned, whether in the sessions themselves or the hallways, receptions, drinks with colleagues, etc., will likely find there way, in one form or another, into this blog. One notion that particularly caught my attention was an idea that has apparently been coming down the pike for quite some time, but with the stimulus money, finally might have the chance for real government backing and implementation. In its simplest terms, state departments of public health are considering including nursing homes in regional emergency response teams, much like hospitals are now.
What interested me about this development is really two things: 1) I know many of my colleagues, especially those that work in skilled nursing facilities, already work hand in glove with their local emergency management agencies. So, of course, I was left to wonder what shape this involvement would take. And 2) the plan to include nursing homes in a fundamental way into the emergency response plans will require training in the government’s emergency response system, the National Incident Management System or NIMS.
The official handbook to NIMS describes its origin and usefulness in this way (link here): Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, much has been done to improve prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation capabilities and coordination processes across the country. A comprehensive national approach to incident management, applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines, would further improve the effectiveness of emergency response providers1 and incident management organizations across a full spectrum of potential incidents and hazard scenarios. Such an approach would also improve coordination and cooperation between public and private entities in a variety of domestic incident management activities.
The actual training in the NIMS system consists of some on-line, work at your own pace training with some short term (one hour) classroom training, and, at higher levels, or for executive management, full day, multi-day training. Although, NHAs, as a profession, suffer from an ever expanding job description, I think it is a good idea to include nursing homes into the emergency response mix. The simple fact is that aside from hospitals (and in someways superior to hospitals), nursing homes are the go-to infrastructural asset in the face of a large emergency. No other type of facility has the concentration of health care technology, personnel and space to serve the public in time of great need. Therefore, I like the idea that may be coming to a state near you; NHAs trained in the decision making process the government has created, assisting their communities through the careful application of their expansive expertise.