For the safety professional, emergency planning and response reflect the complexity and capabilities of a highly capable social structure. We are socially committed to assure the protection of our workers, communities and country. Any unplanned incident that impacts our workers, communities or the nation's infrastructure is a threat that must be managed. The Safety professional is often that part of the organization that develops contingencies for incidents, meets regulatory and social expectations, and safeguards workers and the community.

Whether the organization is a hospital, a manufacturing facility, a refinery, or a government first response organization - safety is integrated into all aspects of work. Contingency planning, training for response, and exercising for emergencies all require knowledge of; what is expected, how the organization will integrate with other organizations, and how to maximize effectiveness through preparedness and competence.

As a result of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks in 2001, the government decided that the nation needed to be better prepared to respond to incidents. The nation's domestic incident management landscape encompassed a broad spectrum of threats and hazards, both naturally occurring and manmade. These naturally occurring threats included hurricanes, flooding, volcanic activity, earthquakes, and wild land fires. Manmade threats included industrial accidents, transportation accidents, and the newly emphasized threats of chemical, biological, and nuclear releases, explosions, or other acts against people and society.

Efforts to prepare for and respond to these threats over the past century have resulted in a collage of laws, authorities, practices, and plans. While all are were adequate in their own stead, none were adequate for incidents that challenged multiple organizations simultaneously across multiple disciplines.

The time had come to make better use of the nation's response resources. These threats demanded an integrated management program with compatibility between agencies and disciplines. Thus was born the National Response Plan (NRP). The NRP is intended to supercede several existing legislated plans to improve both efficiency and the effectiveness of government and private sector response to emergencies.

The National Response Plan is written with the assumption that the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is the established process, procedure, and language of every emergency response organization. NIMS is establishing a standard in preparedness, competence, and interoperability between government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations.

The safety professional in this age must understand the larger context of:

  • how the government intends to manage incidents

  • how regulatory agencies will assure the integration of society's response needs

  • the processes by which the emergency management community will react to incidents and threats

This paper describes the current state of development for the National Response Plan and the National Incident Management System. These two documents describe profound changes in the manner by which the Federal, State and local government will administer, regulate, and execute emergency management in the United States.

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