Mutual Aid System
The Mutual Aid System is a no-charge reciprocal system of emergency response and assistance that towns, villages and municipalities can access through their local fire departments.
The main focus of the Mutual Aid System is to make a large number of resources available in a pre-arranged, organized fashion at no additional cost to the town, village or municipality requiring assistance during a large- scale emergency situation.
Mutual Aid is activated when the fire or emergency is beyond the capability of the responding fire department, or there are more fire calls or emergencies than the local fire department can respond to. For example, if a fire in your community was too large for your local fire department to handle alone, Mutual Aid could be called upon for additional equipment and personnel. The same would apply if a tanker or train carrying dangerous goods was involved in an accident.
Mutual Aid also offers back-up protection. If the local fire department is attending one fire or emergency, this system provides response to any other fire or emergency situation in that town or municipality. All of this additional assistance is provided at no cost to the town or municipality.
A town or municipality must pass a by-law to participate in the Mutual Aid System. Mutual Aid calls are on a no-charge basis; but calls, which fall under a fire protection agreement, are subject to the terms and conditions of that agreement. It should be noted that to qualify as a Mutual Aid call, the "home" or requesting fire department must be fully committed. Any other forms of assistance would fall under a fire protection agreement.
The Need for Mutual Aid/Automatic Aid
A well-trained and well-equipped fire department can be very impressive to watch in operation, and the citizens clearly benefit from this preparation. However, dangerous situations can develop that are beyond the capability of any single department, regardless of size. Securing mutual aid and automatic aid agreements beforehand is a way for a good fire department to be better prepared for any emergency.
Situations that make mutual and/or automatic aid desirable can occur in a variety of ways:
- A fire can occur near the border of one jurisdiction and the nearest water source can be over the line in a neighboring jurisdiction.
- A fire can occur near the border of one jurisdiction but the arrangement of roads means that fire apparatus from a neighboring jurisdiction can reach the scene faster than the home fire apparatus.
- A fire can occur near the border of one jurisdiction and the customary water source, roads or bridges even in the jurisdiction may be temporarily out of service.
- A large fire anywhere in the jurisdiction may require more water than can be moved with the home department's equipment alone.
- Several neighboring departments may each have specialized equipment that is not owned by the other departments.
- Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes and hurricanes can easily overwhelm the capabilities of any department.
Written agreements with neighboring departments not only provide for the addition of emergency personnel and equipment, they also lay the foundation of joint training operations. Then, each opportunity for working with another department is also another opportunity to learn to work together efficiently.
A Six-Step Process to Help You Improve Your Fire Protection Effectiveness, to help departments better use mutual aid and joint training agreements. A sample cooperative agreement is provided, and it is designed to be adjusted for local needs. The six step process includes:
- Obtain commitment
- Examine your problems
- Set goals and objectives
- Develop programs and policies
- Approve and implement the plan
- Evaluate and revise the program as needed.