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  1. #1
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    Post Automatic Mutual Aid

    I started this with a post on another thread and decided to bring it here as it was a little off topic.

    While I think Automatic Aid is a good solution for some circumstances, inadequate staffing is not one of them.

    With the convenience of automatic dispatching, some departments allow their staffing levels to fall below valid response levels during weekdays. More and more departments have become dependent upon each other to handle small structural fires. Two or three districts are committing all available forces to one working house fire. A simultaneous fire would have unrestrained advancement until the fourth, fifth, or what ever next due districts could get there. I know some departments move up from other districts but, at some point it's all spread too thin if we don't all have a little to spare.

    Mutual Aid is a very, very, good thing. We all need it for those incidents that exceed our department's capabilities. We must remain diligent in efforts to recruit, train and retain personnel so that most incidents do not exceed our department's capabilities.

    Stay Safe


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    Default Re: Automatic Mutual Aid

    Originally posted by TriTownship600
    Mutual Aid is a very, very, good thing. We all need it for those incidents that exceed our department's capabilities.
    And you don't think a structure fire with only 3 or 4 people is beyond a department's capability? Granted you can do it, but why not get more people? If you live in an OSHA state, you need at least 4 people on scene before you can launch an interior attack. So you have a pump operator, 2 guys on a line, and an IC or whatever....the same two or three guys are going to do fire attack, search and rescue, ventilation, overhaul, etc?
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    Default Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard

    The thing you have be careful of, whether it's mutual aid or auto-aid, is protecting your own district. I finally convinced our people that we have to leave enough in our own district to respond to our own calls. Now we leave a minimum of three in district no matter what. We can't muster six (three stay home, three go), sorry, you don't us for aid today.
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    Default

    Just a quick comment on the OSHA state thing: The main difference between an OSHA state and a non-OSHA state, is that in OSHA states, OSHA can come in unannounced and check out your operations and fine you for those things that are lacking. In non-OSHA states, they can only come in AFTER something happens (death or injury to responder or citizen). Then they can nail you to the wall anyway, normally to a larger degree than if it were just a visit. I'm sure there's other differences, but saying that non-OSHA states can ignore the 2-in/2-out rule because they are non-OSHA, is wrong. God forbid something happens when that is violated, you would not only have to deal with the injuries/deaths, but have OSHA come down and make a few reports, fines, or maybe even worse. A few departments have been shut down because of violations.

    Back to the subject at hand.

    jaybird is right, you have to protect your own district. Unlike many volunteer departments, we have scheduled crews. M-F 6a-6p is paid crew, the rest of the time is volly. Having run with a dept in PA, I was kind of turned off by the scheduling, but I like it better because the minimum strength of the department is known at all times: 3 engines, 2 paramedics, 2 ambulances, and various officers on radio as in service. We have been requested as automatic mutual aid, but have turned it down because you do have to concentrate on your own district first. Just to make sure we're all on the same page, our definition of "automatic mutual aid" is being added to the assignment before any credible source confirms the incident severity. I know some of you are saying "Duh" but you'd be surprised how many we've run in to that think that calling after you confirm the fire is "automatic". (I think we need to send out some dictionaries, or at least flash cards with the definition of the word "automatic")

    Anyway, we run structural fires and major MVCs as All Company dispatches, but that is going to change to running 2 districts to the calls instead of all 3 and calling in a mutual aid so that we still have at least one of our own engines available. It stinks not being able to go to your own home game, but no one knows your district like you, so someone needs to be able to guide in a 2nd mutual aid response if necessary.

    And as far as adding mutual aid companies, make sure that they don't empty their district trying to come to your fire either. We just had a new combo department formed on our western border, and right now they only have 4 paid guys on duty at a time, and no volunteers. So they can only man one engine. The volunteer dept on the other side of them that used to cover that area, has 4 stations, no paid crews, and can usually afford to send us 1-2 engines and a tower almost any time of the day. The topic has already come up with the combo department, that it makes no sense for us to call them, because then the other dept has to assist us and cover the combo's district as well. Granted, if it's an entrapment, or really, really large incident, I'm calling everyone anyway, but on "routine" structure fires, it makes no sense to empty the only piece out of one district and have another company cover them that you'll probably need at the scene anyway and can supply more manpower.

    The only reason I can see sticking with automatic mutual aid is long distances between departments (15-20 minute response times). You can always turn them around if it's nothing. I think 5-10 minute response times are low enough that someone can get there to confirm the fire and have the mutual aid dispatched.

    Another recommendation is to schedule drivers. My PA dept started doing that because there's nothing like having 10 guys respond and none of them can drive. Having all personnel be drivers is another option, but there's always at least one person in each department you'd probably not want behind the wheel.

    Stay safe.

    Brian
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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    BC79er, Federal OSHA doesn't regulate public services, only private. It is up to state OSHAs to regulate the public services. So if you are not in an OSHA state and something happens, OSHA won't come investigate. If you can prove me wrong, I am willing to listen...
    Last edited by Adze39; 01-31-2003 at 11:23 AM.
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    Default Re: Re: Automatic Mutual Aid

    Originally posted by Adze39


    And you don't think a structure fire with only 3 or 4 people is beyond a department's capability? Granted you can do it, but why not get more people? If you live in an OSHA state, you need at least 4 people on scene before you can launch an interior attack. So you have a pump operator, 2 guys on a line, and an IC or whatever....the same two or three guys are going to do fire attack, search and rescue, ventilation, overhaul, etc?
    Adze,

    Please finish the paragraph,

    We must remain diligent in efforts to recruit, train and retain personnel so that most incidents do not exceed our department's capabilities.

  7. #7
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Default

    Ok, so the town near me with 200 residents of which 65% are females over the age of 60, the total percentage below the age of 60 is 5%. That leaves roughly 10 people under the age of 60 to run a firehouse. Then they have jobs and other responsibilities. Should they not have automatic mutual aid? You can't squeeze blood from a stone.

    Yes, extreme example, but it happens. Recruitment, retention, training are great. But when they aren't enough, Automatic mutual aid.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Adze,

    Pennsylvania is not an OSHA state but every LODD in the state the Federal OSHA was there to investigate, and in some cases levied fines against the departments.

    I can't remember if NJ is or not, but I did see of one occasion that a dept got fined for a confined space incident. An OSHA Investigator saw a picture in the paper of the incident, in which the chief of the dept was standing over the hole, no safety line, no SCBA mask, and the air pack on upside down. Both the dept and chief were fined.

    When it comes to public safety, the feds can come in anytime, anywhere, especially after any injuries or death have occurred. It's just that non-OSHA they can't do any surprise inspections. Unless asked to assist by the state OSHA. I got this from an OSHA investigator, but it was over 3 years ago. Things may have changed but since it involves the federal government, 3 years isn't enough time to correct spelling and grammer, let alone change the rules.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Default

    When it comes to public safety, the feds can come in anytime, anywhere, especially after any injuries or death have occurred

    No, they can't.

    FedOSHA has no jurisdiction over State or Municipal agencies and their employees in any state.

    A State may adopt a StateOSHA plan. Once FedOSHA approves the state plan, FedOSHA relinquishers jurisdiction over both private and public employers in that state. Part of the state plan requirements is it must be at least as stringent as FedOSHA, and it must apply to public employees.

    Three states, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are hybrids. Each has adopted a StateOSHA plan that covers public employees, while private employers remain under the jurisdiction of FedOSHA.

    The languauge of the OSHA Act:
    (5) The term "employer" means a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States (not including the United States Postal Service) or any State or political subdivision of a State.

    By definition, FedOSHA has no jurisdiction over State or municipal employees, because those entities are not considered employers under the OSHA law.

    Now, a State may have health & safety regulatory agencies that apply to public employees but aren't considered "OSHA" -- Florida comes to mind where they've implemented their own variation of two in/two out that you have to meet with the State, but they're not StateOSHA so it doesn't have to meet the minimum FedOSHA standard.

    And in Pennsylvania deaths may be investigated by a federal agency, NIOSH, but NIOSH is not OSHA, and NIOSH doesn't enforce regulations.

    OSHA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor; NIOSH is an agency of the Centers for Disease Control of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Default

    Oh, on the original post...

    1. We dump the barn for most "1st alarm" AMA runs we make. The exception is one town where we're specifically called for 1 Engine on the 1st Alarm that goes to draft for them.

    2. If we're going on a "2nd Alarm" or higher, we do make provisions to leave at least a skeleton crew of 3 guys and a truck in town. Usually the 2nd alarm runs are specifically for the Ladder & Engine only anyways, so the ETs and Rescue can stay in town.

    3. When needed, we can have cover assignments. We have a fairly high density of stations in my area, so usually you can get adequate coverage by covering 1 in 3 stations with a staffed crew.

    4. Soon as you can we try to get units not actively fighting the fire turned around and positioned so they could leave for a second call in any of the three districts (us + 2 mutual aid) that responded to a fire. You pull a crew out of the manpower pool, and they can respond with extra units. A 1st Alarm for us brings 4 Engine-Tanks, 3 Engines, 1 Ladder, 3 Rescues, 1 Ambulance, and some support units...so unless it's a big one, at least an Engine and a Rescue are usually uncomitted. (Corollary: We've only gone above a 1st alarm assignment twice in my 16 years...).

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    Default

    Dalmation, thanks for the info. I think where some of the fuzzies come in is how the agreement between departments and the areas of municipalities they cover. In PA, volunteer/combo departments are privately held non-profit, contracted to provide services to the boros and townships. I know up there when on duty we were boro employees for sake of workman's comp. Down here, Emergency Services Districts collect taxes and contract with departments, also non-profit private corporations. But also down here, there are unincorporated areas where there is no local authority. Hence the reason Houston's boundaries keep changing as they annex.

    Overall, I don't really care who shows up when someone gets hurt or killed. Let's just keep it from happening.

  12. #12
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default Re: Re: Re: Automatic Mutual Aid

    Originally posted by TriTownship600
    We must remain diligent in efforts to recruit, train and retain personnel so that most incidents do not exceed our department's capabilities.
    Yes, but in the meantime if your department's capabilities are exceeded then it is time to call in mutual aid.

    Why kill your guys because instead of calling for help you think they should be getting more people prior to the call? That is something to work on continually, but not a reason to not call for help.
    Last edited by Adze39; 02-01-2003 at 12:27 AM.
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    While I think Automatic Aid is a good solution for some circumstances, inadequate staffing is not one of them.
    I disagree. I think it's a perfectly legitimate reason to arrange AA.

    We currently don't utilize AA agreements, although I'd like to see something gel together in the next few years. All of the departments around us are rural/small town, all volunteer, and are 10-20 minutes (travel time) away.

    We don't have any employers in our district, so daytimes leave us really low. I have personnaly requested mutual aid prior to leaving the station on a structure fire because I realistically expected me and the three others guys that showed up at the same time to be the people we had.

    I expect the same from our neighboring districts. None of the departments in my area have the membership or call volume to justify staffing the station with volunteers or assigning call. While low membership or low daytime turnout is the result of other underlying problems (such as low population, poor recruitment, etc) that may be addressed, it's a long term problem that has a long-term solution.

    As for emptying the barn for a AA or MA call, that your perogitive. We really try not to unless it's pretty bad, but we've done it before. One of our MA companies won't run a truck out of the city limits unless they have four people: two to cover the city and two to take the out-of-city call. I don't fault them--they gotta protect their own.

    You can always turn help around. Better to have and not need than need and not have.
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  14. #14
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Talking Choice?? What Choice??....

    When it comes to the matter at hand here, we have no choice. None. Nada. Nyet. In the mid-Atlantic area (not just my county or state) The system used by the vast majority of jurisdictions is: Closest company is "First-Due" 2nd Closest is "2nd Due" and so on. No political boundary lines get in the way. City, County, State lines Don't count, nor do zip codes, any form of "district" is out. Closest is it. Period. For a reported fire in a single family home in my area you get the closest 3 engine companies, closest ladder, closest heavy rescue, We do this using a "single unit required" style of dispatching, so that one station is not required to show up with everything needed for the assignment. This translates to 5 stations being alerted for the call. It's certainly not as complicated as it sounds, but it does mean that every station is much busier than they would be if they only ran their own calls, and MA when requested. I can't emphasize enough that this is the ego-proof system. No matter how much you love those guys with the purple trucks 8 stations down the road, They ain't coming until they are dispatched IN THE PROPER SEQUENCE. Nobody but NOBODY runs a call if they are not the closest available unit that is required for that assignment. No matter how much of a politician a Chief might think he is, he doesn't get to choose his help, he takes the closest and thats it. Period. Those of us who use this system (except for a few whiners) love it. No Politics, No Guesswork. Just help as fast as possible. To borrow from a TV commercial "Try it. You'll like it". Stay Safe....
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    MembersZone Subscriber AFD368's Avatar
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    Default Automatic Mutual Aid

    It would be a sorry day if someone had a fire... and nobody came!

    I'm sure it has happened in small rural towns, and could happen again.
    We have a whole battalion who does automatic mutual aid for each other because of daytime volunteer availability.
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  16. #16
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Default

    My department has recently started an automatic aid agreement with one of our neighboring deprtments. Automatic aid will be sent on structure fires (we get their truck, they get our engine), MVA's with entrapment (1 ambulance), building collapses, aircraft accidents, etc........

    I think this is going to work out very well for both departments. We are not "draining all of our resources", but this way there is additional help on the way. If they are not needed, they get cancelled. This is something relatively new to our area and hope it works out well. There is also talk of the agreement expanding out with other departments surrounding the city.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I have heard some info filter down from some sources that the powers that be (FEMA, homeland security, somebody on that level) is going to make our area form a REGIONAL M/A agreement.

    Try State of Connecticut.

    They are fumbling right now trying to dust off and revamp their statewide emergency plans, but slowly but surely they're getting their ducks in a row. They have only 60 or so departments that have signed the current statewide fire mutual aid memorandum of understaning so far, but as they get their act together it should fall into place.

    Much of the structure to organize counties and the state was laid out in the 1950s and 1960s. We have statewide radio frequencies. We have countywide organizations. Just in most of the state, they simply sat unused and/or simply collected dust.

    Also, the Northeast Interstate Forest Fire Compact is becoming the the International Emergency Compact or something like that name. Right now all of New England plus Quebec, New Foundland, and Nova Scotia have a forestry mutual aid pact in place. Those States & Provinces are now working to adopt an all purpose emergency assistance pact.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Problem is it shouldn't be pie in the sky, drk!

    Some of it we never used them, so people lost interest in what would happen in the "big one"

    Some of it is people lost interested, and the County Coordinators became whoever was an already too busy Chief come President of the County Association come whatever else who also took the CC title when no one else stepped forward. It's a good job for a recently retired Chief who still wants to stay a bit active!

    And some of it is we just keep buying more stuff, and our "mutual aid shed" keeps shrinking of who we help regularly and who we go to. More and bigger tankers, more ladders, more Hurst tools, more everything but manpower it seems, all meant less frequent long mutual aid runs.

  19. #19
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    My department has an Automatic M/A agreement set up with a neighboring department. SOP for both departments is to leave one engine in town when responding out of your distric. Any other apparatus responding would Squad, Rescue, or Utility. Those would be used for man power. That way if there was another incident it could be handled by the people left in town, and they always have the opition of calling for M/A.

    I've worked a fire where we had 5 M/A departments on scene. Granted this was a large fire, but it never hurts to have other firefighters that are fresh on stand-by.

  20. #20
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    Default I need to do what?

    While Bones and SilverCity have pretty much hit the nail on the head, I am a little troubled by the thinking that we should be more concerned with the 'what if's' than what we know is at hand. When I started on my department at age 14, I was the radio operator. Our old chief insisted on keeping a pumper in the shed in case of a second fire. The funny thing was, we were such a small department that all the available guys were at the fire...except me. So there I would sit, manning the fire phone, 14 years old, and a 1960 Ford pumper sitting there at my disposal. Today (20 years later) we roll whatever we need and whomever we need, call for help before we realize we need it, and if we get a second call, try to free up a piece of apparatus to go to the 2nd call, or call in another department. Delayed response? Yep....but the chances of it happening are so slim, I'm not willing to risk a life over the what if's. And besides, this way the equipment is where the men are. It would be silly to have to leave a scene, drive by the location of the 2nd call as we head back to the station to get the second truck and then come back. Just as it would be silly to tell someone who's house is burning that "we have another truck in the station that would help put your house out, but we had two fires at once back in 1955 and ever since then, we keep one back there." That doesn't work for me. We don't have shifts, paid on call, etc. We have 20 guys that fight fires about 50 times and 50 medical calls per year. It's called being realistic and using common sense. You deal with the known, not the unknown. When we clear the shed, we have the closest department (that's not coming to the scene) on standby at either their station or ours...but we roll our resources...that's what we're there to do. As far as automatic aid, we don't do it because of crying wolf too many times...then when you need it the neighboring department doesn't have a full crew responding because "we've done this three time only to be cancelled en route". We make the call based on the time of day, and information being relayed by dispatch. There's a difference between a fire alarm going off and smoke showing, and we make the judgment calls one call at a time.

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