So, how have you devised your mutual-aid plans? Are they informal or formal written agreements? Do you participate in a local, regional, or statewide plan? Do you know what is expected of your department, and do your mutual-aid partners know what is expected of them when they answer the call for help or where to go or how to run Rural Water Supply Operations as an example?

One thing is certain: Today’s volunteer fire service relies heavily on a robust system of mutual-aid agreements, from shared preplans, to automatic response on certain call types, to working fires and large-scale incidents to automatic alarms. In terms of availability, today’s volunteer fire service staffing and ultimately, the availability of your mutual-aid partners can change on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and even hourly basis. Unless you run a system with a definite number of staff standing by in house, your staffing availability changes during the day.  You really do not know who your complete complement of personnel is going to be for your own department and your mutual aid departments until the alarm sounds.

Do your neighboring departments know your area?  Do they know the types of buildings and “target hazard” buildings in your district to which they may have to respond? Are they familiar with the water supply issue your department may have? How can you share this information? Is there a way you can share Preplans with your Mutual Aid Departments? The answer is yes, Web-based Preplans are one solution that with a push of a button you can share preplans with all mutual aid agencies. It’s not just limited to Fire Departments, but Police and EMS can also have access. Web-based Preplans are easy to use and update and share, even when changes are made. Preplans can make the job of Command, Operations and Firefighters safer and more efficient.

If you need expert safety training, presentations or help with pre-incident planning, contact Blazemark at 800-965-0041 or email [email protected]. The creators of Blazemark pre-planning software,, has extensive experience in preparing pre-incident plans for government and business.  This experience also includes incorporating plans into tabletop exercises and full-scale drills where all stakeholders can learn and practice skills in preparation for natural disasters and man made incidents.  Get more information at

Tim Brewer is a safety professional in the pharmaceutical industry and has served his local volunteer fire service department since 1980, with 25+ years as Chief of Operations.  He is an adjunct professor for the Bucks County Community College Public Safety Training Center and serves as a Pennsylvania State Fire and Rescue Instructor.  Tim has been a Project Manager for Fire Planning Associates since 2007.