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NIMS version: March 1, 2004
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Tab 3
NIMS - The Planning Section

A. Planning Section Chief

B. Resources Unit

C. Situation Unit

D. Documentation Unit

E. Demobilization Unit

F. Technical Specialists

The Planning Section is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and disseminating tactical information pertaining to the incident. This section maintains information and intelligence on the current and forecasted situation, as well as the status of resources assigned to the incident. The Planning Section prepares and documents IAPs and incident maps and gathers and disseminates information and intelligence critical to the incident. As shown in Figure 3-A, the Planning Section has four primary units and may include a number of technical specialists to assist in evaluating the situation and forecasting requirements for additional personnel and equipment.

Figure 3-A



The Planning Section Chief oversees all incident-related data gathering and analysis regarding incident operations and assigned resources, develops alternatives for tactical operations, conducts planning meetings, and prepares the IAP for each operational period. This individual will normally come from the jurisdiction with primary incident responsibility and may have one or more deputies from other participating jurisdictions. canadadrugstop.com

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1. Responsibilities.
Physical resources consist of personnel, teams, facilities, supplies, and major items of equipment available for assignment to or employment during incidents. The Resources Unit makes certain that all assigned personnel and other resources have checked in at the incident. This unit should have a system for keeping track of the current location and status of all assigned resources and should maintain a master list of all resources committed to incident operations.

2. Managing Resources.
For effective management of their employment, resources must be categorized by capability and capacity across disciplines and tracked continuously as to status. The following tools are necessary for maintaining an up-to-date and accurate picture of resource utilization:

a. Status Conditions.
Tactical resources at an incident can have one of three status conditions:

Assigned resources are personnel, teams, equipment, or facilities that have checked in (or in the case of equipment and facilities, receipted for) and are supporting incident operations.

Available resources are personnel, teams, equipment, or facilities that have been assigned to an incident and are ready for a specific work detail or function.

Out-of-service resources are personnel, teams, equipment, or facilities that have been assigned to an incident but are unable to function for mechanical, rest, or personal reasons; or because their condition makes them unusable.

b. Changes in Status.
Normally, the individual who changes the status of a resource, such as equipment location and status, is responsible for promptly informing the Resources Unit.



The Situation Unit collects, processes, and organizes ongoing situation information; prepares situation summaries; and develops projections and forecasts of future events related to the incident. The Situation Unit also prepares maps and gathers and disseminates information and intelligence for use in the IAP. This unit may also require the expertise of technical specialists and operations and information security specialists.

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The Documentation Unit maintains accurate and complete incident files, including a complete record of the major steps taken to resolve the incident; provides duplication services to incident personnel; and files, maintains, and stores incident files for legal, analytical, and historical purposes. Documentation is part of the Planning Section primarily because this unit prepares the IAP and maintains many of the files and records that are developed as part of the overall IAP and planning function.


The Demobilization Unit develops an Incident Demobilization Plan that includes specific instructions for all personnel and resources that will require demobilization. This unit should begin its work early in the incident, creating rosters of personnel and resources and obtaining any missing information as check-in proceeds.

Note that many city- and county-provided resources, because they are local, do not require specific demobilization instructions. Once the Incident Demobilization Plan has been approved, the Demobilization Unit ensures that it is distributed both at the incident and elsewhere as necessary.


The ICS is designed to function in a wide variety of incident scenarios requiring the use of technical specialists. These personnel have special skills and are activated only when needed. Specialists may serve anywhere within the organization, including the Command Staff. No minimum qualifications are prescribed, as technical specialists normally perform the same duties during an incident that they perform in their everyday jobs, and they are typically specially certified in their fields or professions.

Technical specialists assigned to the Planning Section may report directly to its chief, may report to any function in an existing unit, or may form a separate unit within the Planning Section, depending on the requirements of the incident and the needs of the Section Chief. Technical specialists may also be assigned to other parts of the organization (e.g., to the Operations Section to assist with tactical matters or to the Finance/Administration Section to assist with fiscal matters). For example, a legal specialist or legal counsel may be assigned directly to the Command Staff to advise the IC on legal matters, such as emergency proclamations, legality of evacuation orders, and legal rights and restrictions pertaining to media access. Generally, if the expertise is needed for only a short period and normally involves only one individual, that individual should be assigned to the Situation Unit. If the expertise will be required on a long-term basis and may require several personnel, it is advisable to establish a separate Technical Unit in the Planning Section.

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The incident itself will primarily dictate the needs for technical specialists. Below are representative examples of the kinds of specialists that may be required:


environmental impact specialist

resource use and cost specialists

flood control specialist
water-use specialist
explosives specialist
structural engineering specialist
firefighter specialist
medical and/or health care specialist
medical intelligence specialist
pharmaceutical specialist
agricultural specialist
toxic substance specialist
radiation health physicist
intelligence specialist
infectious disease specialist
chemical or radiological decontamination specialist
law enforcement specialist
attorney or legal counsel
industrial hygienist
transportation specialist
scientific support coordinator

A specific example of the need to establish a distinct technical unit within the General Staff is the requirement to coordinate and manage large volumes of environmental sampling and/or analytical data from multiple sources in the context of certain complex incidents, particularly those involving biological, chemical, and radiation hazards. To meet this requirement, an Environmental Unit could be established within the Planning Section to facilitate interagency environmental data management, monitoring, sampling, analysis, and assessment. The Environmental Unit would prepare environmental data for the Situation Unit and work in close coordination with other units and sections within the ICS structure to enable effective decision support to the IC or UC. Technical Specialists assigned to the Environmental Unit might include a Scientific Support Coordinator and Sampling, Response Technologies, Weather Forecast, Resources at Risk, Cleanup Assessment, and Disposal Technical Specialists. Example tasks accomplished by the Environmental Unit would include the following:

identifying sensitive areas and recommending response priorities;

developing a plan for collecting, transporting, and analyzing samples;

providing input on wildlife protection strategies;

determining the extent and effects of site contamination;
developing site cleanup and hazardous material disposal plans; and
identifying the need for and obtaining permits and other authorizations.



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