NIMS in Rural America

November 2009 (VOL. 27, NO. 3)

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Research was conducted on how rural emergency managers at the local level understand and employ the National Incident Management System in 2007. This article focuses on research findings from face-to-face interviews with county emergency managers in three states. The data revealed that the majority of emergency managers interviewed interpret NIMS in a generally positive manner; however, they do so with considerable qualification. Emergency managers recognized that their interpretation of NIMS plays a role in how they comply with and implement NIMS; however, it was discovered that it is not the emergency managers’ interpretation that determines compliance and implementation as much as it is factors related to local reality. The unique amalgamation of emergency manager interpretations and local reality produced large variation in NIMS compliance and implementation—no two emergency managers and no two counties were exactly alike. Therefore, though the federal government mandated its expectations and standards for emergency management through NIMS, both people and aspects of place dictate the mandate’s interpretation and implementation. Based on findings from the research, implications of findings for emergency management are discussed and suggestions are made for future research.