ABOUT MONTANA MUTUAL AID
In 1995 the Montana Legislature at the request of some very insightful people enacted legislation allowing fire departments to request or receive mutual aid without having a formal/written agreement in place.
The concept of statewide mutual aid was to allow fire department that did not have existing written mutual aid agreements to assist each other without worrying about liability issues. Through statewide mutual aid crossing jurisdictional boundaries to help each other has become a non-issue.
In November of 1997 the first statewide mutual aid meeting was held at the Eastgate Fire Station. A relatively small group of fire chief’s sat down and discussed how they thought a request for mutual aid should or could be handled. One thing that all present agreed on, was that after this meeting all were comfortable that they would be willing to respond to a request for mutual aid, and would receive assistance if they requested it.
A simple mission statement was adopted: “We are dedicated to a measured and timely response to a request for assistance.”
The risk management plan is: “We will risk a lot to save a savable Life, we will risk a little to save a little and we will risk nothing to save nothing.”
All agreed that when mutual aid was requested the requesting agency would operate using an incident management system.
It was decided that mutual aid was not about money, and that the hosting department could reimburse the assisting agency(s) if they were able but that no one would expect or demand payment, unless a responsible third party was identified or there was a disaster declaration and store or federal disaster monies became available.
The common denominator of the group was each is a local entity providing service 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year (7-24-365) and had responsibility for most if not all-major incidents in their jurisdiction.
As stated by Jim Green, Administration of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, “the first 24-48 and possibly 72 hours or longer belongs to the locals, it will take that long for the state and/or federal government to activate a significant response”.
Montana Mutual Aid Partners feel that neighbors helping neighbors is the best solution to the problems faced, especially at the front-end of an incident. The communications network already exists in the 911 systems used in the state and the Montana Mutual Aid frequency system is already in place. The purpose of meeting twice a year (the 1st weekends in March and November) is to continue to refine the process and to bring more departments into the mutual aid network.
On July 23rd 2000 Lewis and Clark County made a request through Montana Mutual Aid for the Bucksnort Fire. By all accounts from the involved departments, “the operation was a major success”.