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Renaud’s NIMS Study Gains Worldwide Reach

Folsom Police Chief Cynthia Renaud chats with Commissioner Ken Lay of the Victoria Police at the Control Line 2012 conference in Australia.
Press Release

Folsom, California, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud’s research into the early phases of incident command have spread around the globe thanks to an article in the online journal Homeland Security Affairs, the academic journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS).

The September 2010 CHDS graduate was invited to the Control Line 2012 conference in Melbourne, Australia, for a presentation based on her paper, "The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders How to Function in the Edge of Chaos."

Furthermore, the California Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission has, based on the paper, launched a steering committee with an eye toward building a course on the topic. Meanwhile, she is scheduled to speak at the California Police Chiefs Association’s conference in February as well as an emergency management conference slated for March in Montana.

Instructors from institutions such as Northwestern University in Chicago and the National Defence Academy in Bulgaria have emailed to inform her they are incorporating the work in their courses.

Based on her thesis, Renaud suggests that while the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a useful framework for managing large-scale incidents, it should go further in terms of guiding first responders at the chaotic outset of a catastrophic event.

"The thrust of the article is that there is an initial phase to every large scale incident and in that phase it is extremely chaotic," Renaud said. "While NIMS is an excellent tool for managing response efforts in subsequent phases it leaves us unprepared with how to deal with the initial phase of chaos."

An incident controller in Australia, the equivalent of an incident commander in the U.S., read the article online and the organization proffered an invitation to address the conference, sponsored by the Bays Water Fire Brigade in the state of Victoria. The conference drew more than 160 attendees and included fire, ambulance, law enforcement, elected officials, health services and hospitals, human services, utility sector, as well as the Department of Primary Industries, Department of Transport, Department of Sustainability and Environment and the private sector.

"It was one of the most cross-disciplinary conferences I have ever attended," Renaud said.

As with the rest of its British-rooted family of countries, emergency service and law enforcement agencies are all state departments rather than the town and city departments common to the United States. But the agencies deal with the same kinds of hazards, especially summer wild fires. Australian first responders use a system similar to NIMS, called the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS).

"They have suffered great loss of life and great challenges in their response," Renaud noted. "Like everybody, they work to constantly improve how they respond to large scale incidents."

Renaud fully credits CHDS for the opportunity to research and write about the topic and for the paper’s reach.

"The thesis would have never been written had I not been fortunate enough to spend two years in an academic environment where I was pushed to think, to prod, and to explore this subject area," she said. "I would have gone on in my daily life thinking about this issue but not doing anything about it. And, because Homeland Security Affairs is an online publication, my article has reached corners of the world I never thought it would."