Mutual aid (emergency services)
In emergency services, mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

al boundaries
Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states and other subnational entities. Some borders—such as a state's internal administrative borders, or inter-state borders within the Schengen Area—are open and...

. This may occur due to an emergency
An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment. Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative...

 response that exceeds local resources, such as a disaster
A disaster is a natural or man-made hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment...

 or a multiple-alarm fire
Multiple-alarm fire
One-alarm, two-alarm, three-alarm fires, or higher, are categories of fires indicating the level of response by local authorities, with an elevated number of alarms indicating increased commitment of resources. The term multiple-alarm is a quick way of indicating that a fire was severe and...

. Mutual aid may be ad hoc
Ad hoc
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes. Compare A priori....

, requested only when such an emergency occurs. It may also be a formal standing agreement
MOU, MoU, Mou or mou may refer to:* Memorandum of understanding* Minutes of Use, in telecommunication operations* Ministry of Unification, a branch of the South Korean government.* The Museum of Osaka University...

 for cooperative
Cooperation or co-operation is the process of working or acting together. In its simplest form it involves things working in harmony, side by side, while in its more complicated forms, it can involve something as complex as the inner workings of a human being or even the social patterns of a...

 emergency management
Emergency management
Emergency management is the generic name of an interdisciplinary field dealing with the strategic organizational management processes used to protect critical assets of an organization from hazard risks that can cause events like disasters or catastrophes and to ensure the continuance of the...

 on a continuing basis, such as ensuring that resources are dispatched
Dispatch (logistics)
Dispatch is a procedure for assigning employees or vehicles to customers. Industries that dispatch include taxicabs, couriers, emergency services, as well as home and commercial services such as maid services, plumbing, HVAC, pest control and electricians.With vehicle dispatching, clients are...

 from the nearest fire station
Fire station
A fire station is a structure or other area set aside for storage of firefighting apparatus , personal protective equipment, fire hose, fire extinguishers, and other fire extinguishing equipment...

, regardless of which side of the jurisdictional boundary the incident is on. Agreements that send closest resources are regularly referred to as "automatic aid agreements".

Mutual aid may also extend beyond local response. Several states have statewide mutual aid systems. Examples include Washington and Oregon statewide mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

 programs. MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) is a regional mutual aid system, headquartered in Illinois, with 1500 member fire departments in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri.

Utility companies usually also have mutual aid agreements.


Large municipalities typically have enough fire and emergency medical services
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services are a type of emergency service dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency...

 resources to handle large local incidents. However, in the case of multiple alarm fires, mass casualty incidents (MCIs) or large-scale hazardous material - HazMat
Hazmat, HazMat and similar terms can refer to:* Hazardous materials and items—see Dangerous goods** Hazchem—a system of hazardous chemical classification and firefighting modes** A hazmat suit is a type of protective clothing...

 - incidents, that municipality may call in resources from surrounding towns to either respond directly to the incident scene or take up quarters in their fire and EMS stations and respond to other incidents in that city or town when local crews are handling a protracted incident.

Other agreements are common in small towns that have either no resources or limited resources. In these cases, local crews are capable of handling small incidents themselves, but in the case of larger incidents, surrounding municipalities will be called in along with the local resources upon initial dispatch. For instance, local fire and EMS departments will typically handle fire alarm activations and automobile crashes while reports of structure fires will cause the automatic dispatch (automatic aid) of surrounding towns.

Where a town has no resources of its own, it will contract with a surrounding town or towns to provide all coverage.

Such calls for mutual aid are the results of incident escalations as determined by the incident commander. The responses required from other towns is predefined, so all the dispatcher has to do is call the appropriate resources as determined by the "run card" for such an incident.

International mutual aid is also common on border communities in places such as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and others.

Industrial mutual-aid organizations

  • Calvert City Industrial Mutual Aid Program (CIMAP)
  • Channel Industries Mutual Aid (CIMA)
  • Chocolate Bayou Mutual Aid (CBMA)
  • Louisiana Emergency Resources Supply Network (Hired Gun Gang)
  • South Baltimore Industrial Mutual Aid Plan (SBIMAP)
  • Southeast Texas Mutual Aid Group (SETMAG)
  • Texas City Industrial Mutual Aid System (IMAS)
  • Toledo Mutual Aid Association (TMAA)
  • Twin State Mutual Aid Fire Association
    Twin State Mutual Aid Fire Association
    The Twin State Mutual Aid Fire Association is the dispatch center and coordinating agency for fire and Emergency Medical Services operations in 23 towns in Grafton County, New Hampshire and Orange County and Caledonia County in Vermont...

See also

  • Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) – An interstate mutual-aid compact in the United States
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