Within the last 10 years or so, we’ve seen fire departments in the area adopt mutual aid preplans. The first type of preplan that’s been around for a long time is for when a department reactivates for a working fire. The newest type of mutual aid plan that’s been popping up around the island are automatic mutual aids. You also have mutual aid assignments for EMS as well. Each is equally important and makes for a better strategy when dealing with large scale emergencies. Let’s take a closer look.
Preplanned Mutual Aid:
This one is the most well known and widely used around the island. Depending on the size and scope of the alarm, you’ll get additional units. A RIT or FAST team, additional engine to the scene, additional ladder to the scene, and a standby engine at HQ. Some departments may roll out these mutual aids based on the incident commander’s orders. Other departments have these organized by “zone”. A zone is a particular area within the district that has close proximity to a neighboring firehouse. What’s good about having a mutual aid plan already laid out is that the dispatcher can assign those units to the IL without bothering the OIC. Each call is different and may require additional units, or maybe even less than what the plan calls for. All in all, the OIC will make the proper decision.
Automatic Mutual Aid:
The automatic mutual aid plan is one of the newer implementations of area FD’s. Typically we see this used upon activation of a structure fire. The host department will be toned out for the initial alarm and the nearest neighboring departments will be activated as well. The reason we’ve seen a rise in this type of plan is for 2 reasons. First is manpower. A call for a structure fire during the day might be an issue due to the availability of members. When you get the neighboring firehouse started out right away, it’ll give you enough manpower and apparatus to get the job done if there’s actual fire. Second is proximity. Depending on the location of the fire, it may actually be closer to a neighboring firehouse than it is to the host department. Getting a faster response is key to saving lives and property.
Not having any mutual aid plans is fine if that’s how your department operates, but if there are problems with response, it might be time to consider one. It also makes things a lot easier for the first person on scene. Every Chief you talk to will tell you about what it feels like to be first on scene to a fire and how they feel while waiting for the first rig to arrive. Knowing that your mutual aid companies have already been dispatched will make things feel a little better. As firefighters, we know that it may be tough to swallow your pride and that you want your department to be the ones putting out the fire. However, one thing is for certain. The person who called for help doesn’t care who puts the fire out, they just want somebody to put it out immediately. So remember to put politics aside and swallow your pride when you’re the one making decisions.
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