NIMS Resource Center
Contact Info       NIMS Alerts       NIMS Coordinators       NIMS FAQs       Site Index       email updates Email Updates



Preparedness Overview

Preparedness Cycle continuous loop graphic showing Planning, Organizing, Training, Equipping, Exercising, Evaluating, and Taking Corrective ActionNIMS provides the mechanisms for emergency management/response personnel and their affiliated organizations to work collectively by offering a consistent and common approach to preparedness.

Preparedness is achieved and maintained through a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action. Ongoing preparedness efforts among all those involved in emergency management and incident response activities ensure coordination during times of crisis. Moreover, preparedness facilitates efficient and effective emergency management and incident response activities.

This component describes specific measures and capabilities that emergency management/response personnel and their affiliated organizations should develop and incorporate into their overall preparedness programs to enhance the operational preparedness necessary for all-hazards emergency management and incident response activities. In developing, refining, and expanding preparedness programs and activities within their jurisdictions and/or organizations, emergency management/response personnel should leverage existing preparedness efforts and collaborative relationships to the greatest extent possible. Personal preparedness, while an important element of homeland security, is distinct from the operational preparedness of our Nation’s emergency management and incident response capabilities and is beyond the scope of NIMS.

Back To Top

Mutual Aid Agreements and Assistance Agreements

Mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements are agreements between agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions that provide a mechanism to quickly obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials, and other associated services. The primary objective is to facilitate rapid, short-term deployment of emergency support prior to, during, and after an incident.


Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is an interstate mutual aid agreement that allows States to assist one another in responding to all kinds of natural and manmade disasters. It is administered by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA).

Model Intrastate Mutual Aid Legislation
This Model Intrastate Mutual Aid Legislation was produced by NEMA in concert with DHS/FEMA and a cross-section of emergency response disciplines to facilitate intrastate mutual aid among participating political subdivisions in a State. The document also contains a list of States that have passed intrastate agreements with links to their legislation, as reference.

Model State-County Mutual Aid Deployment Contract
This is a model intergovernmental contract which allows for the deployment of local emergency responders under the auspices of EMAC. It was drafted by NEMA's Legal Counsel Committee.

Cooperative Agreements

  • IMAS¬†(Intrastate Mutual Aid System)
  • IAFC¬†Emergency Management Committee

Model Mutual Aid Agreements

  • Water and Wastewater Utility Model Mutual Aid Agreement [12/06] (PDF 64KB, TXT 35KB)

Back To Top

Training and Exercises

Personnel with roles in emergency management and incident response at all levels of government—including persons with leadership positions, such as elected and appointed officials—should be appropriately trained to improve all-hazards capabilities nationwide. Additionally, nongovernmental organizations and private-sector entities with direct roles in response operations should be strongly encouraged to participate in NIMS training and exercises. Standardized NIMS training courses focused on the structure and operational coordination processes and systems, together with courses focused on discipline-specific and agency-specific expertise, help to ensure that emergency management/response personnel can function together effectively during an incident. Training and exercises should be specifically tailored to the responsibilities of the personnel involved in incident management. Mentoring or shadowing opportunities, to allow less experienced personnel to observe those with more experience during an actual incident, should be incorporated to enhance training and exercising. Additionally, exercises should be designed to allow personnel to simulate multiple command, supervisory, or leadership roles whenever possible.

The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is a capabilities- and performance-based exercise program that provides a standardized policy, methodology, and language for designing, developing, conducting, and evaluating all exercises. HSEEP also facilitates the creation of self-sustaining, capabilities-based exercise programs by providing tools and resources such as policy and guidance, training, technology, and direct exercise support. This blended approach to HSEEP implementation promotes exercise expertise, while advancing a standardized means of assessing and improving preparedness across the Nation. HSEEP provides common processes, consistent terminology, tools, and policies that are practical and flexible for all exercise planners. The HSEEP volumes deliver exercise program guidelines that capture lessons learned and best practices of existing exercise approaches, while suggesting strategies that align exercise programs within a broader spectrum of preparedness activities, such as training, planning, and equipment purchases. The HSEEP approach can be adapted to a variety of scenarios and events.

Back To Top


Q.  What role does Preparedness have in NIMS?

A:  Preparedness is essential for effective incident and emergency management and involves engaging in a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to achieve and maintain readiness to respond to emergencies.  As such, the NIMS Preparedness Component serves as a baseline concept that links all the NIMS Components.  Preparedness spans jurisdictions, governments, agencies and organizations.  Though individuals certainly play a critical role in preparedness and are expected to prepare themselves and their families for all types of potential incidents, they are not directly included in NIMS preparedness.  NIMS primarily discusses the preparedness role for governments, organizations geared specifically toward preparedness, elected and appointed officials, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. 

Q: NIMS promotes the use of State and local mutual aid to help local jurisdictions better handle large-scale disasters. Where can I find information on how to write a mutual aid agreement?

A: The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), in coordination with DHS/FEMA and a cross-section of emergency responders, has developed a tool to assist State and local governments in the preparation of model legislation designed to streamline the sharing of assistance and resources between communities during a disaster. The model is available for download at Additionally, many States, such as North Carolina, have developed statewide mutual aid systems. We are also working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) on developing better firefighting mutual aid systems with States to make filling EMAC requests faster (Intrastate Mutual Aid Systems), as well as developing a national firefighting coordination system (Emergency Management Committee). Information on these can be found on the IAFC Web site.

Q: How does the NIC view its role in the management of mutual aid resources?  Is there potential for conflict between the NIC and EMAC?

A: The NIC does not manage resources - the NIC facilitates resource management by providing resource typing definitions for nationally important resources. All the work we have been engaged with is in support of EMAC and for the purpose of making EMAC more efficient.

Back To Top

NIMS Alerts


  • NIMS Alert 22-06: National Integration Center Announces the Water and Wastewater Utility Model Mutual Aid Agreement [12/06] (PDF 64KB, TXT 35KB)
  • NIMS Alert 03-06: FEMA and IAFC Launch Interagency Mutual Aid Project [3/06] (PDF 23KB, TXT 7KB)

Back To Top


Back To Top

Additional Resources

Back To Top