Published on July 1, 2019.

Code Factor

NFPA standards play an important role in planning for and managing events like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.


NFPA 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System and Command Safety, outlines the basic components and implementation of the incident command system—and its somewhat broader relation, the incident management system, or IMS—for any emergency.

The system is modular and flexible, allowing for expansion as the incident grows or shrinks. An incident that may start as a single building fire, but then grows to a major incident, can be managed by the same IMS, expanding as the need for resources increases, and then decreasing as the incident is brought under control. Even when multiple, simultaneous incidents are occurring, the IMS allows for area command to oversee the multiple incidents while allowing for each incident to be run locally. If numerous agencies are involved in the response, IMS allows for unified command.

The document scope of NFPA 1600®, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management, establishes a common set of criteria for all hazards, disaster/emergency management, and business continuity programs for communities, agencies, and other entities. The emergency management and business continuity community comprises many different entities, including the government at distinct levels (e.g., federal, state/provincial, territorial, tribal, indigenous, and local levels); commercial business and industry; not-for-profit and nongovernmental organizations; and individual citizens.

Each of these entities has its own focus, mission, responsibilities, and operating principles. Many components of NFPA 1600 were utilized as the impacted communities responded to and recovered from the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

Finally, NFPA 1026, Standard for Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications, identifies the minimum job performance requirements for personnel performing roles within an all-hazard incident management system. NFPA 1026 is the certification document for all ICS positions, and includes core competencies for positions including incident commander, safety officer, public information officer, liaison officer, operations section chief, staging area manager, operations branch director, and many other roles.