The United States faces a broad range of threats and hazards, both naturally occurring and manmade. Over the past few decades, efforts to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from these varied threats and hazards have evolved into a patchwork collection of special-purpose plans including the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). These plans govern U.S. policy toward hazardous materials releases and oil spill response. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5), Management of Domestic Incidents, mandates the creation of a National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Response Plan (NRP) to provide a single, comprehensive national approach to incident management. The NRP is intended to integrate the various prevention, preparedness, response and recovery plans into an all-discipline, all-hazard approach. NIMS provides a standard Incident Command System (ICS) for Federal, State, local and tribal government to work together to prepare for and respond to incidents. NIMS ICS includes a core set of concepts, principles, terminology, technologies, multi-agency coordination systems, unified command, training, identification/management of resources, qualification/certification, and the collection, tracking and reporting of incident information and incident resources. Together, the NRP and NIMS provide a standardized framework to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations work in partnership to support domestic incident management regardless of cause, size, or complexity of the incident. How does this change what is being done in oil and hazardous materials response? The National Contingency Plan (NCP, 40 CFR 300) notes that “where practicable,” the framework for the response shall use ICS within a Unified Command (UC) system. OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1910.120) also require the use of ICS for emergency response. The response community (federal, state, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations) has been using “ICS” in oil spill/HAZMAT response since the early 1990's in the United States. NIMS ICS will be used when responding to oil HAZMAT spills, however, there are differences in ICS implementation between responders in the response community and NIMS ICS will have stricter requirements to improve uniformity in application. These similarities and differences will be discussed at length in this paper.

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Author notes

1 The opinions or assertions expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U. S. Coast Guard.