Is the plan politically feasible? Politicians such as the mayor, council members and mandataries must be trained and informed to ensure that the agreement does not cause political conflicts between municipalities. Be prepared to research and engage your local politicians from the beginning. We should also refer to NFPA 1201: Standard for Providing Emergency Services to the Public, which contains requirements for the structure and operation of emergency service organizations (ESOs). Section 4.6, Inter-Municipal Organisation (Mutual Assistance), states that « if conditions and conditions so require, ESO shall enter into written assistance and automatic agreements with other jurisdictions or providers of special operations or specific services ». In section 4.6.2, the standard states that mutual assistance agreements should address the following issues: the Osceola County Council of Commissions approved in 1998 an « Automatic Aid Agreement » between Polk, Lake, Orange and Osceola counties; Subsequently, another agreement was reached with the City of St. Cloud to supply fire/EMS to the unincorporated areas surrounded or adjacent to St. Cloud.1 Recently, FireGeezer.com2 reported a new agreement between Columbia, Mo., and its neighbor Boone County. The article says, « Columbia is protected by a paid service of eight fire stations and Boone County has a purely voluntary FD that operates 14 stations. They revised their older pact mainly because of the great growth of the city in the suburbs. Under the new layout, all peripheral areas of the `nearest station` format will be served. The agreement contains plans for the creation of terminology, common standards, training and certifications for city and county firefighters. But where does a department start to establish a mutual or automatic aid agreement? The Fire Safety Manual defines two important aspects of a good plan: 1) the plan itself, which must be practical and have clear objectives, and 2) the process of developing the plan, which must ensure that all objectives are taken into account, that stakeholders are involved and that consensus is reached3.
Here are three that illustrate just some of the potential benefits and pitfalls. Osceola County Fire Chief Richard Collins notes that the agreements have been critical to removing borders and increasing the level of service to the community and safety for firefighters: « So far, the program has been successful, with positive feedback from both the municipality and firefighters. The crews work well together and train regularly together. The agreement helped to reduce reaction time and increase availability, in the first place. Even though we are very much appreciated by the public, we must continue to provide more « bang for money ». Consider this question in the Boston Globe`s « Twenty Questions to Your Fire Chief » series: « If the nearest fire station is in my home in the nearest community, which firefighters will be sent first? Is the response from another « self-help » section (slower) or « automatic help » (faster)? 5 Deployment Locations: Identify situations that impact response times….