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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Federal Emergency Preparedness

Federal Public Health and Medical Emergency Preparedness

National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Framework (NRF) – How They Work

The National Response Framework (NRF) provides the framework for Federal interaction with State, Tribal, and local governments; the private sector; and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery activities.

Due to the large number of agencies involved in responding to emergencies, a national framework for managing incidents was developed that coordinates all the parties involved, with a view toward cohesiveness and coordinated action.  This framework includes the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Framework (NRF).The NRF and NIMS integrate the capabilities and resources of government, emergency response disciplines, NGOs and the private sector.

National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a system that provides a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, Tribal and local government; the private sector; and NGOs to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents regardless of cause, size, or complexity. To provide for interoperability and compatibility among Federal, State, Tribal, and local capabilities, NIMS includes a core set of concepts, principles and terminology.

The National Response Framework (NRF) is mandated by the Homeland Security Policy Directive 5 (HSPD-5), which integrates Federal domestic prevention, preparedness, and response, and recovery plans into one all-discipline, all-hazards plan.  The NRF applies to all Federal Departments and agencies that may be requested to provide assistance.

NRF uses NIMS to establish a framework for coordination among Federal, State, Tribal, local and nongovernmental, and private sector organizations.  The NRF is built on the NIMS template, which provides a consistent doctrinal framework for incident management at all jurisdictional levels regardless of the cause, size, or complexity. NIMS is used for all events and incidents, including emergencies and special events; the NRF is activated only for designated events or incidents. NIMS coordinates the response structure at emergencies and significant special events; the NRF governs the resources used during and after the designated event or incident.

Within the National Response Framework, the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) provide the mechanism for coordinated Federal assistance to State, Tribal and local resources for potential or actual incidents or events.

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  • This page last reviewed: June 11, 2019