ASSUMPTION AND ADAPTATION IN EMERGENCY RESPONSE: EVALUATING THE STRATEGIC APPROACH OF THE NATIONAL INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Chapman, Charles W.
Woodbury, Glen L.
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The National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidance strategy influences local public safety organizations and jurisdictions with emergency response obligations to develop and adopt all-hazards emergency response plans to prepare for critical incidents and natural disasters. Plan developers use assumption-based planning to imagine disaster scenarios and cultivate response options, but there are inherent problems with using such an approach for emergency preparedness. This thesis reviews the literature regarding NIMS strategy for incident response, assumption-based and adaptive planning processes, complexity and decision-making, and response implementation to determine whether a shift in policy could benefit local responders. It also covers four response case after-action reports to determine whether pre-incident plans were beneficial to responders and if jurisdictions had sufficient resources to respond to their incidents. The review illustrates that assumption-based planning is not the best tool for developing new plans but is better suited to review existing procedures or as a training tool for responders. This thesis shows that pre-selected and trained incident management teams provide superior preparedness for response and, when combined with a decision-making framework, are a dynamic, efficient tool. This thesis recommends changing the national strategy to influence local authorities in the development and implementation of coordinated local incident response teams.
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