Mutual Aid for Emergency Dispatchers

Many commonalities are shared by the suppression and communications functions of a fire department. Both must respond to emergencies at a moment's notice. Both rely on accurate information to do their jobs. And both require a minimum amount of staffing to...

From smaller local beginnings, the program has proceeded to become a truly national effort. In 2006, some 30 agencies in Illinois joined in a statewide initiative and benefitted from training provided by a $300,000 anti-terrorism grant. Similar taskforces have now been created in many states. The importance of having a sufficient number of trained telecommunicators available during an emergency cannot be overstated, and has been proven time and time again through a variety of incidents. In addition to overwhelming call volumes, disasters may also bring destruction and devastation to the lives and property of public safety personnel. TERT provides needed relief by helping to assume the workload while giving local dispatchers time to address personal issues. In fact, the benefits of TERT are so important that two pre-eminent organizations — the Association of Public-safety Officials (APCO) International and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) — have partnered to form the National Joint TERT Initiative (NJTI) to assist in the continued development of this concept.

TERTs have rapidly become a valuable tool for emergency managers. Issuance of memoranda of understanding and more formalized agreements help to cover liability issues and reimbursement for services through inclusion in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact (EMAC). Agencies wishing to participate in TERT or seeking additional information should contact local chapters of APCO or NENA, or check the parent websites at or

BARRY FUREY, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is director of the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center in North Carolina. During his 35-year public safety career, he has managed 911 centers and served as a volunteer fire officer in three other states. In 2002, Furey chaired the Association of Public-safety Communications Officials (APCO) International conference in Nashville, TN, and in 2005 he received an APCO life membership for his continued work in emergency communications.