County participates in Incident Management System

Clermont officials from across the county are in the process of completing a training course that, if successful, will link the tiniest municipality to the highest levels of federal government should an emergency of the appropriate magnitude occur.

NIMS, the National Incident Management System, is a project designed to aid homeland security by enhancing communications and “what to do” protocols between government entities.

“This is a system being adopted nationally to handle incidents like disasters, public events or any time when you would have multiple agencies responding to or coordinating some sort of activity where a management system needs to be enforced,” Clermont Emergency Management Director Beth Nevel said.

The concept behind NIMS arises from disasters such as the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as for issues involving natural disasters such as hurricane relief. Previously, confusion and miscommunication between different levels of government and different agencies in government has hampered the ability to effectively deal with incidents. This, it is hoped, will set up a protocol that will keep things working smoothly.

“This covers all parts of county government, all parts of state government and all parts of federal government,” said Nevel. “It really starts at the local with the villages and townships and goes all the way up.”

“When various agencies, government and private sector, begin to work on a situation, they can all talk the same language and understand the management system,” added Nevel. “The system can be expanded as the situation grows, so the system is flexible enough to expand and cover the biggest of events.”

For instance, Nevel said that emergencies require vast amounts of information to effectively coordinate a response. Sometimes, that extends to the public. Should there be an emergency, such as a terrorist attack involving a biological agent, or even a natural emergency such as a tornado, getting that information out quickly can make a difference in saving lives and minimizing the negative impact.

“The system has defining segments that you would want to put in place and activate, like public information,” said Nevel. “The system defines how to activate it and who would be responsible and how it’s carried out to ensure that the public gets the information they need in a timely and consistent manner.”

Nevel said that the plan, the product of the department of homeland security, could come at a cost should municipalities fail to take part in it.

In order for the system to work effectively, everyone needs to get onboard to keep communication channels open. Failure to do so, said Nevel, puts federal funding in the case of an emergency at risk.

However, Clermont County has, she said, saw participation from every level of government and every municipality.

“Bigger townships train larger amounts of people, but in small places like villages it’s usually the mayor or vice mayor who are trained,” said Nevel. “Obviously, the sheriff’s department is trained, the police and all of the fire departments have been trained. All of the department heads and managers in the county government have been trained, at least in this county.”

“We asked what would happen if we have one hold-out, and we were told that it would only affect their funding,” added Nevel. “However, we haven’t had any holdouts.”

Nevel said that the system is simply a plan that lays a groundwork to ensure the basics are spelled out for all sorts of emergencies or events.

“This is a common-sense approach with common language to managing an incident or disaster so everyone is talking the same language and doing the same thing all across the United States,” said Nevel.