National Wildfire Coordinating Group

NWCG Committee Toolkit

Welcome to NWCG and thank you for your participation! NWCG is comprised of over 100 committees and subgroups that cover all aspects of our wildland fire program and has approximately 1000 members. Below are some expectations, SOPs, best practices, links, templates, etc. to help you navigate the NWCG organization and better understand the processes designed to support your committees and subgroups.

Mission, Agencies, Standards, and History

The NWCG Mission and Objectives as well as the Member Agencies, NWCG Standards definition, and the History of NWCG can be accessed on the NWCG home page.

From the NWCG homepage, committee members can also join the NWCG Mailing List (see Bulletin Board) to be kept up to date on key announcements on their choice of subject areas, including new releases for publications and training.

Charters and SOPs

There are two charters and Executive Board Standard Operating Procedures designed to guide the work of the NWCG:

NWCG encourages the development of committee/subgroup specific standard operating procedures (SOP)  to direct committee/subgroup business and to ensure continuity as membership evolves (see Committee Internal SOPs Template). SOPs can be posted on the respective webpages, if the committee deems it appropriate, or can be stored in committee-specific Teams or SharePoint sites. Committee/subgroup specific SOPs must support the direction listed within the NWCG and Master Committee Charters and guidelines posted online.

Organizational Types

Committees and subgroups are categorized into the types listed below based on purpose and organizational hierarchy. Creation of a new committee and its chair require Executive Board approval, but committees may create and/or dissolve subgroups as they deem necessary. Recruitment of members to fill subgroups is the responsibility of the agencies represented on the committee that is establishing the new subgroup.

The organizational types recognized by NWCG include:

  • Committee
  • Subcommittee
  • Unit
  • Board
  • Task Team
  • Course Steering Committee

Membership Management Types and Responsibilities

It is up to each member agency to determine their membership needs on committees/subgroups.

It is important to ensure that committee/subgroup membership is diverse among both NWCG member agencies (as applicable) and across geographic areas. Members should be active in the meetings, taskings, and general work of the group. Issues with non-active members should be addressed with the NWCG coordinator and the Executive Board agency representative.

Membership types include Primary Member, Associate Member, Alternate Member, Support Staff, Advisor, Liaison, NWCG Coordinator, and NWCG Training Liaison (NAFRI).

The chair, co-chairs (in lieu of a chair), and vice chair are designated only to primary members or individuals assigned from an NWCG member agency to perform a specific facilitation role as well as represent their agency. Exceptions require Executive Board level approval.

The NWCG Executive Board members are collectively committed to the success of each individual committee member and have established common responsibilities for all committee/subgroup members.

It is a shared responsibility of all members to ensure the information presented on the committee/subgroup website is current and accurate; this responsibility falls to the chair unless delegated to committee support staff or a primary member on the committee/subgroup (if deemed appropriate). Roster updates and website changes must be communicated to the NWCG webmaster and respective NWCG coordinator. All roster changes should be submitted by the chair or NWCG coordinator using the Update Roster Request online form (if submitting a large request an excel spreadsheet may be submitted versus using the online form).

Chair Rotation

Chairs (or co-chairs) and vice-chairs will typically serve two-year terms and rotate among the primary member agencies represented on the committee/subgroup. Internal committee/subgroup SOPs should outline the timeframes, transition dates, and agency rotation. In rare cases the chair may serve continuously based on their day job position or the Executive Board may approve a chair from an agency/organization other than those represented by the primary members (e.g., Office of Wildland Fire, National Weather Service).

If an agency member is unable to serve in the chair position, that agency is responsible for finding an alternate to serve as chair. As committee/subgroup work is a collateral duty for the majority of members and in the interest of maintaining an interagency perspective, it is important that member agency representatives share the workload.

Meeting Standards

Common standards have been established to assist committees/subgroups with meeting management:

  • Meeting Purpose
  • Attendance
  • Decision Making
  • Quorum
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Frequency
  • Location
  • Minutes, Notes, Records – agenda and meeting templates are also available for download

Committees/subgroups are responsible for ensuring all meeting minutes and correspondence meet 508 accessibility standards prior to being submitted to their NWCG coordinator for posting on the website. The web team can provide 508 accessibility training and assistance as necessary.

Coordination with Committees and Subcommittees

It is the responsibility of the committee/subgroup chair to understand the publications, position stewardship, and tasks that are being accomplished by their subgroups. Communication with subgroups can occur in many ways and should follow an efficient transfer of information. Suggestions to ensure positive communication may include:

  • Subgroups attend and report out at committee meetings.
  • Committee representatives attend subgroup meetings.
  • Create a committee/subgroup chairs meeting for information sharing.

As committees/subgroups update publications, position qualification requirements, training courses, etc. consideration should be given to other committees/subgroups (key stakeholders) that may have input. As a consensus body, NWCG committees/subgroups should work together to meet the interests of all. If consensus cannot be reached, work through the committee/subgroup coordinator to determine next steps.

Course Steering Committees are assigned by the NWCG Executive Board or a committee to oversee course development and delivery of a specific courses. These are typically national level courses, and the cadre serves as the national interagency leads for the course. Cadre are assigned by their agencies to participate on Course Steering Committee. For those committees/subgroups with assigned responsibility for a Course Steering Committee, Standard Operating Guidelines and meeting agenda and notes templates. Revisions to these guidelines and templates will be coordinated between the Course Steering Committee chairs, Training Committee, NAFRI Director, and the NWCG coordinators.

Coordination with NWCG Staff and Executive Board

Committee/subgroup chairs are expected to communicate with their assigned NWCG coordinator. If appropriate, chairs can communicate directly with the training, publications, and web staff, or the NWCG Program Manager; chairs should cc their NWCG coordinator on any such correspondence/emails.

NWCG coordinators will attend as many committee/subgroup meetings as possible to provide NWCG updates, help answer process questions, and ensure all necessary information about tasks and publications are communicated to all other affected committees/subgroups to ensure collaborative committee partnerships. NWCG coordinators will inform the chairs when they cannot attend a meeting.

If a topic arises that the chair and NWCG coordinator agree needs to be brought forward to the Executive Board for discussion and/or decision, the NWCG coordinator will request time on the upcoming Executive Board agenda and coordinate with the chair on preparing materials for the presentation. Executive Board meetings are typically held the third Wednesday of each month, with agenda topics due the first Monday of the month, and handouts due the second Wednesday of the month.

Topics typically brought to the Executive Board include:

  • Politically sensitive topics
  • Safety related topics
  • New publications or significant changes to standards
  • Topics for which correspondence will be issued by the Executive Board (memos, tasking memos, letters)
  • Topics at the request of the Executive Board
  • Topics a committee cannot reach consensus on and needs Executive Board direction

Presenters must provide appropriate reference and background material (see briefing checklist below) to the Executive Board seven days prior to a meeting. Chairs and committee members are expected to brief their Executive Board representative on issues. Allow time for vetting among committee and NWCG staff prior to the meeting as needed. The meeting materials will be routed by the coordinator through the executive secretary.

Requests to establish new publications must have the full publication included in the Executive Board meeting materials packet as well as a transition plan, to help member agencies navigate change and/or implement standards, if specific guidance is necessary for implementation. It is the responsibility of the committee/subgroup to draft the transition plan, from the Executive Board to the field, for Executive Board review and approval (see Transition Plan Template).

Significant changes to existing publications/standards should include a Summary of Changes for briefing the Executive Board (see Summary of Changes Template). If a Summary of Changes is created, it can be posted on that publication’s attributes page for future reference.

Briefing Checklist (if applicable):

  • Draft memo or briefing paper
  • Previous memos or decisions related to the topic
  • Draft publication (if new)
  • Transition plan for implementation
  • Summary of changes
  • Presentation materials (e.g., PowerPoint)
  • Vetting or socialization of proposed decision by committee agency representatives

It is best to have the committee chair at the meeting to present the topic, but at the request of the chair, the NWCG coordinator or a primary member on the committee may present on the chair’s behalf. The Executive Board typically requires a minimum of one month to review and vet materials prior to making a decision. Depending on the nature of the topic, the committee may be asked to provide an informational briefing during one meeting and then present the requested decision at the following month’s meeting.

Committee chairs will be asked to provide a briefing on current committee/subgroup work at Executive Board monthly meetings on a rotating basis. These briefings should include topics such as the background on committee and subgroup work, current taskings, challenges, successes, position stewardship, publications, etc., and allow time for Executive Board questions and discussion.

Committee Connections Meetings are scheduled on a quarterly basis for approximately 2 hours. The intent of these calls is to share information between the committees and the NWCG staff. Each committee will need to prepare a brief update on their current committee/subgroup business that may be relevant to the other committees. Committee chairs are expected to participate in these meetings, but if unavailable should ensure a committee member or subgroup chair has the call information and is prepared to update the group on the current committee business.

An NWCG Annual Meeting is scheduled each February. These meetings are multiple days in length and typically held in Boise. Attendance may vary based on venue and agenda, but all NWCG committee chairs, Executive Board members and NWCG senior staff are expected to attend. NWCG staff will poll committees for assistance in developing an agenda and for assistance in planning efforts.

Useful Resources

Communication Guidance has been developed to ensure NWCG communications are consistent and standardized. Guidance applies to all memos, tasking memos, letters, briefing papers, announcements, etc. Direction on these various message formats as well as recommended distribution methods is also provided on the Communications Guidance webpage. Committees will typically draft the tasking memos for the Executive Board to review and sign. This is to ensure the committees and the Executive Board have a clear understanding of the expectations, due dates, etc. If tasking memo due dates need to be extended, the committees are expected to work with their coordinator to seek approval for an extension from the Executive Board.

Templates are available to assist committees/subgroups with written communications and to provide consistency in the layout and structure of the information being presented. Updates to these templates will be coordinated between NWCG senior staff and committee/subgroup chairs.
  • Schedule regular meetings (per committee/subgroup SOP) and send invitations to members, liaisons, support staff, and NWCG coordinator.
  • Develop agenda for each meeting and distribute to members, liaisons, support staff, NWCG coordinator and outside presenters.
  • Ensure quorum is met at the meeting (if no quorum, then all voting actions are delayed or will need to occur by email).
  • Obtain prior meeting minutes/notes edits and committee/subgroup approval (can occur via email).
  • Check that the committee/subgroup website(s) are accurate and communicate any changes to the NWCG coordinator.
  • Review committee/subgroup roster and submit changes through the online Roster Update Form ( or the NWCG coordinator. Communicate any membership changes or transitions to the committee/subgroup members and the NWCG coordinator.
  • Provide any committee/subgroup correspondence (508 accessible) to the NWCG coordinator for posting to website.
  • Provide Word and pdf versions of approved meeting minutes/notes (508 accessible) to the NWCG coordinator for posting to the website in a timely manner.
  • Determine, vet, and prioritize any committee/subgroup project funding request submissions annually and submit prioritized requests through the committee to the NWCG coordinator by the established deadline.
  • Provide timely updates on the status of approved projects receiving funding to the NWCG coordinator, manage the budget allotted, ensure completion of required work, and communicate issues.
  • Respond to requests for information, reviews, and approvals related to training courses, positions, publications, and/or website updates in a timely manner.
  • Track all official taskings from the Executive Board, work with the NWCG coordinator for any required briefings or decisions, communicate the progress with the NWCG coordinator, and provide an official response memo once completed.
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