Can Mutual Aid Help You?

William Shouldis reviews calling for an extra alarm or mutual aid as the only option in many escalating situations.


Every community, large or small, has the likelihood of an overwhelming emergency event and often these incidents can transcend political jurisdictional boundaries. Responding to major events and reliance on outside assistance is rising. Personnel safety and operational efficiency is the priority...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Every community, large or small, has the likelihood of an overwhelming emergency event and often these incidents can transcend political jurisdictional boundaries. Responding to major events and reliance on outside assistance is rising. Personnel safety and operational efficiency is the priority while getting the proper help in a timely manner can be a complex challenge.

In reality, calling for an extra alarm or mutual aid is the only option in many escalating situations. As the duties of responders have expanded from the single dimension of fighting fires to presently handling alarm activations, medical calls, chemical spills, transportation accidents, industrial explosions, civil disorder and terrorist threats, the skills and tools required to control a crisis have taken a predictable and sometimes expensive twist.

Pre-incident preparation is often defined as any action taken in anticipation of the demands and needs of an emergency scene. The ability of an agency to assess the availability and capability of the required resources is critical to community preparedness. Life-saving strategies often hinge on a rapid response. Mass care, decontamination and sheltering always take cooperative planning.

The conventional step of gathering pertinent facts is useful in creating an immediate Incident Action Plan (IAP), but often more information is needed beyond the initial operational period. In recent years, the response and recovery from hurricanes, tornados and floods has caused many fire service leaders to seek a new direction. Legal liability, proof of qualifications and suitable financial reimbursement issues are significant roadblocks to creating a prearranged assistance agreement. Communication and coordination are essential to quickly obtaining properly trained and equipped personnel. A pre-defined process with standard procedures for ordering and obtaining resources is a valuable tool.

One worthwhile and straightforward, but relatively unknown source of tangible mutual aid can be the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). This is a strong interstate partnership that provides assistance in an operational or logistical capacity during an officially acknowledged emergency. The activation is solely based on the governor of an affected state making the decision to declare a state of emergency. At this time, 49 states (the exception is Hawaii), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of this voluntary pact.

The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) consistently administrates EMAC activities. A standardized website is used to provide reliable information on request for assistance, mobilization steps and deployment locations. EMAC’s effectiveness is “deeply rooted†in a system approach for local and state authorities. It provides the framework for a National Response Plan (NRP). There are 13 articles that member states have agreed upon prior to acceptance. This format can resolve many of the common problems before in the pre-incident phase. Having a knowledgeable emergency management director empowered to compensate assisting states is vital. Understanding that automatic or self-deployment of personnel or materials will not be tolerated.

Pre-incident preparation greatly improves any fire department’s operations and customer service. Plans must include matching responsibilities and assignments to the potential of specific situations. Comprehensive procedures will ensure that the delivery of traditional services is not uninterrupted while embracing some non-traditional duties. Delivering medicine, packaged foods, bottled water and vaccines is necessary to the welfare of the community. Providing documentation on the assessment of property and infrastructure damage is fundamental to recovery. Sharing expertise, producing diagrams, loaning equipment and giving out supplies are all within the scope of contemporary disaster planning.

This content continues onto the next page...