Emergency Information

National Incident Management System (NIMS) &

Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS)


What Is NIMS?

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5) Management of Domestic Incidents called for the establishment of a single, comprehensive national incident management system. As a result, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released the National Incident Management System (NIMS) in March 2004.

Purpose of NIMS

NIMS provides a systematic, proactive approach guiding departments and agencies at all levels of government, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work seamlessly to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life, property, and harm to the environment. This consistency provides the foundation for implementation of the NIMS for all incidents, ranging from daily occurrences to incidents requiring a coordinated Federal response.

States and territories, Tribal Nations and local governments play an important role in ensuring effective NIMS implementation; not only must they implement NIMS within their jurisdictions, but also ensure that the systems and processes are in place to communicate and support NIMS compliance at all levels of government.

The long-term goal of NIMS is to provide a consistent framework for all aspects of emergency management and incident response. This framework should be sustainable, flexible, and scalable to meet changing incident needs and allow for integration of other resources from various partners through mutual aid agreements and/or assistance agreements.

What Is SEMS?

The Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) is the system required by Government Code Section 8607(a) for managing emergencies involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies. SEMS consists of five organizational levels, which are activated as necessary:
1. field response
2. local government
3. operational area
4. regional
5. state

SEMS incorporates the functions and principles of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the Master Mutual Aid Agreement (MMAA), existing mutual aid systems, the operational area concept, and multi-agency or inter-agency coordination. Local governments must use SEMS to be eligible for funding of their response-related personnel costs under state disaster assistance programs.

Purpose of SEMS

SEMS has been established to provide effective management of multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional emergencies in California. By standardizing key elements of the emergency management system, SEMS is intended to:
• facilitate the flow of information within and between levels of the system, and
• facilitate coordination among all responding agencies.

Use of SEMS will improve the mobilization, deployment, utilization, tracking, and demobilization of needed mutual aid resources. Use of SEMS will reduce the incidence of poor coordination and communications, and reduce resource ordering duplication on multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional responses. SEMS is designed to be flexible and adaptable to the varied disasters that occur in California and to the needs of all emergency responders.


Click here for more information on the Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services.

Emergency Web site
Contact: Sally Gore
Phone: 408.864.8758

Last Updated: 9/3/08