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Working with mutual aid partners

Effective mutual aid agreements are built on professional relationships, shared goals, and trust

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in the fire service. Today I’m talking about mutual aid.

In a time of shrinking budgets and fewer available personnel, many fire departments are forced to rely on their neighbors for help. That means fire chiefs and administrators must plan for requesting and receiving help from other agencies, even if calls have traditionally been handled “in-house.”

Effective mutual aid agreements are built on professional relationships, shared goals, and trust. And that means working together well in advance of the emergency.

About a decade ago, the pop star Carly Rae Jepsen released the song “Call Me Maybe.” A line from the song goes like this: “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s my number, so call me, maybe.” While Ms. Jepsen clearly is not singing about fire departments helping each other, that line is worth keeping in mind when planning for mutual aid responses.

Fire service personnel should not be in the “Hey, I just met you” stage when meeting mutual aid partners on the scene. We shouldn’t just write an agreement and then wait for a call.

Signing a mutual aid agreement and expecting everything to go great when there has been no effort to coordinate personnel before an emergency is truly “crazy.”

Instead, mutual aid partners should train together. Field personnel should be familiar with each other’s equipment, command staff, and tactical capabilities. Holding joint drills and even social events where the members can get to know one another in non-emergency scenarios will pay dividends when they are required to work together on the emergency scene.

Work together. Introduce your personnel and equipment. Don’t just ink an agreement and leave it at “call me, maybe.”

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.