The National Fire Incident Management System Consortium is an organization of fire service professionals whose goal was to merge the two most popular incident command systems used by the American fire service into a single common system. These two systems are the Fire Ground Command System, developed by the Phoenix, Arizona, Fire Department, and the Incident Command System, developed in California by the FIRESCOPE program.
This effort involved the participation of 23 major fire service organizations, including FIRESCOPE, Phoenix Fire Department, National Fire Academy, International Association of Fire Chiefs, The International Society of Fire Services Instructors, the Emergency Management Institute, IFSTA/Fire Protection Publications, among others. (See Appendix A).
The merger was achieved through a consensus process representing the American fire service.
As previously noted, the two most popular fire service incident command systems were the Fire Ground Command (FGC) system and the Incident Command System (ICS). Both were developed in the early 70’s. Fire Chief Alan Brunacini developed the Fire Ground Command System in Phoenix, Arizona. The system emphasized structural fire application and other urban related emergencies such as hazardous materials, mass casualty, etc.
The National Fire Protection Association adopted Fire Ground Command and published several related training materials. These included the textbook “Fire Ground Command” authored by Chief Brunacini, as well as video and slide training programs. In addition, Chief Brunacini had taught a very popular multi-day FGC workshop for many years throughout the country.
The FIRESCOPE Incident Command System was developed in Southern California as a result of the catastrophic wildland fire siege of 1970. From the very beginning, the major fire departments in California committed to the concept realized that ICS must be used on a daily basis to be successful. Further, that it must be all risk in nature, expandable to meet every type of incident complexity, and have common components so that agencies could work together effectively. The system has proven very successful in managing the day-to-day incidents as well as the largest of resources that respond to major incidents. As a result, many urban fire departments nationwide began to apply the system to structural fires and other urban emergencies. ICS was adopted by National Fire Academy in 1982 for its incident command training programs.
Throughout the 1980’s, fire service leaders debated the benefits of each system and the possibilities of merging the best components of the two into a single system. During the 1989 International Association of Fire Chiefs annual conference in Indianapolis, a panel discussion was conducted on the merger possibilities. Based on comments from the audience, there appeared to be strong support for a merger.
In July 1990, the Phoenix Fire Department hosted the first of a series of AdHoc Committee meetings with Phoenix and FIRESCOPE representatives, with staff assistance from the National Fire Academy. Additional AdHoc committee meetings were held at the National Fire Academy (September 1990) and Sacramento, California (January 1991). A groundbreaking meeting between the AdHoc committee and the FIRESCOPE board of directors occurred in Chesterfield, Virginia in August 1991. As additional meetings occurred, more and more fire service organizations participated, thus increasing representation.
During the August 1991 meeting in Chesterfield, Virginia, the AdHoc Committee was re-organized into a more formalized organization. The organization selected the title “National Fire Service Incident Management System Consortium” to better describe the organization’s mission. An organizational chairperson was elected and committee chairpersons were assigned to three working committees.
During the February 1993 meeting in Houston, Texas, the Consortium made some adjustments in the organization structure and officers and completed its Constitution and By-Laws and initiated the process of incorporation. Also at the Houston Meeting, the Consortium completed the successful merger of ICS and FGC. The title “Incident Management System (IMS)” was chosen to identify the merger. Shortly thereafter, the incorporation was complete. The Consortium is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the State of Texas.
The Consortium has successfully merged the Incident Command System’s organizational design and structure with the tactical and procedural components of Fire Ground Command. They have incorporated these elements in several documents titled “Model Procedures Guides”. Fire Protection Publications of Stillwater, Oklahoma publishes and distributed the guides. To obtain model procedure guides, call Fire Protection Publications at 1-800-654-4055 or go to www.ifsta.org. The various guides include:
- Model Procedures Guide for Structural Firefighting
- Model Procedures Guide for EMS Incidents
- Model Procedures Guide for Structural Collapse and USAR
- Model Procedures Guide for Hazardous Materials
- Model Procedures Guide for Wildland Interface Fires
- Model Procedures for High-Rise Fire Fighting
- Model Procedures for Highway Incidents (available in Summer 2004)
The Consortium policy is to schedule revisions and updates every five years using a public comment period. This will ensure the “system” remains current to the “users” needs and experience.
The objective of the model procedure guides is to provide fire departments an example of a procedure that will aid in the adoption and implementation of IMS. The model procedures reflect a natural escalation of the “system” from first arriving units to a major command organization. The guide’s focus is on organization design for the first 25 companies on scene.
The merger includes the strength of ICS for incident management and the simplicity of FGC for ease of application. There is a strong integration of strategy and tactics in the model procedures. The new system will permit early implementation of command and smooth escalation of the command organization to meet the needs of a major incident or disaster.
The Consortium has also adopted a 13-step decision procedure to use for developing and revising changes in IMS. Key points of the procedure include two separate 120-day public comment periods and an automatic review of all published model procedures every five years.
Consortium members also assisted the National Fire Academy in integrating appropriate IMS Model Procedure Guide material into NFA’s incident command training curriculums. That integration is complete and reflected in NFA’s training documents.
The Consortium co-sponsored with the Phoenix Fire Department starting in 1992 the first of a series of national seminars, held in Phoenix each year, dedicated to incident management systems. This effort has now been assumed by the Phoenix Fire Department and is co-sponsored by the Fire Engineering/FDIC.
The Consortium is committed to continuing its efforts to maintain, refine, and develop model procedures relating to IMS. Revision of existing procedures will continue on the 5-year cycle. New model procedures are considered when a need it identified. The Consortium remains strong supporter for the adoption of the Incident Management System by fire departments.
National Fire Service Incident Management System Consortium Charter Member Organizations
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Channel Industries Mutual Aid Organization
Emergency Management Institute
Fire Ground Command
International Association of Fire Chiefs
International Association of Fire Fighters
International Fire Service Training Association
International Society of Fire Service Instructors
National Advisory Committee on Integrated Emergency
- Management System
National Fire Academy
National Fire Protection Association
National Volunteer Fire Council
National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Bureau of Land Management
- National Association of State Foresters
- National Park Service
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service
Society of National Fire Academy Instructors
U.S. Fire Administration
Women in the Fire Service
Other Participating Organizations
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U. S. Coast Guard
U. S. Department of Energy
Oklahoma State University Fire Protection Publications
Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Services
California Office of Emergency Services
California State Fireman’s Association
United States Department of Transportation
Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute
Produced by NIMSC