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23 BASIS FOR MUTUAL AID AGREEMENT/PLAN Mutual aid agreements are designed to improve emergency response and to enhance the protection of life and property. The primary basis for a mutual aid agreement is the drive to fill a specific need through voluntary cooperative action and sharing of resources. Ideally, mutual aid agreements evolve from the airportâs risk analysis and from an objective assess- ment of the airportâs emergency response capabilities, as well as the capabilities of potential partners. Such an assessment examines the full spectrum of personnel, equipment, skills, and training. MUTUAL AID PARTNERS The most common partners in airportsâ mutual aid agree- ments are the fire and police departments in surrounding or nearby jurisdictions. Each airportâs partners largely reflect their specific operational, geographic, and political context. The full range of mutual aid partners found in this study include: Air National Guard Airlines American Red Cross Army National Guard Cargo companies and freight forwarders Community emergency response team Coronerâs office/medical examiner County department of emergency management County dispatch/911 Countywide mutual aid system Electric utility company Emergency medical services FAA air traffic control tower Federal Bureau of Investigation Fire/rescue department Hazardous materials agency Health department Highway patrol Hospital Law enforcement Military base Municipal emergency management department or agency Municipal public works Neighboring cities Oil refinery (security and fire suppression) Police department Public transportation agencies Salvation Army School district Sheriffâs department State department of transportation State emergency management agency State homeland security agency State forestry department State police Transportation Security Administration Urban search and rescue team U.S. Customs and Border Protection U.S. Coast Guard U.S. National Park Service U.S. Secret Service. The choice of partners is a function of matching the air- portâs and partnerâs capabilities with their risk analyses. NUMBER OF AGREEMENTS Based on the survey data in this study, a typical airport has slightly more than four mutual aid agreements. Written agree- ments are more prevalent than verbal ones. Larger airports tend to have more written agreements, but airport size has no effect on the number of verbal agreements. WRITTEN VERSUS VERBAL AGREEMENTS In Advisory Circular 150/5200-31C, the FAA implicitly encourages written mutual aid agreements, and in general, most of the respondents in this survey indicated greater satis- faction with written agreements than with verbal or unwritten ones. Because of the overwhelming importance of clarity in mutual aid, written agreements would appear to be strongly indicated. However, some airports intentionally avoid enter- ing into written agreements. Case examples 1 and 2 explain the concerns over liability and reimbursement that cause the responding airports in Alaska and Minnesota to avoid written mutual aid agreements. Case example 2 discusses an approach that avoids both written and verbal agreements by using a chapter six CONCLUSIONS
24 contractual agreement with a town to receive benefit indirectly from the townâs mutual aid agreements with other partners. Because each emergency is unique, flexibility is essential, so written agreements must be carefully developed to protect sufficient flexibility while ensuring predictability of action. State laws, local ordinances, or the advice of counsel may require agreements to be written or verbal, and agreements may also need to conform to the specific governance struc- ture of the airport. AMBIGUITIES OF INTEREST OR CONCERN The most interesting ambiguity discovered in this study is the clear split among airports in their attitudes towards the legal and liability issues associated with mutual aid. Some airports, on the advice of their lawyers, avoid all mutual aid agreements or avoid written agreements. On the other hand, some airports embrace written mutual agreements as a way to define and control liability issues. Many states have legislation enabling mutual aid agreements, and such legislation typically has lan- guage controlling liability during mutual aid activities. A second issue of interest deals with reimbursement. To ensure clarity, if an agreement involves reimbursement, it will usually take the form of a contract as opposed to a mutual aid agreement. The final issue of interest is the extent to which mutual aid agreements may involve the airport sending assistance off-site. FAA Advisory Circular 150/5200-31C changed the game by urging airports to make aid agreements more mutual and less one-sided: that is, the agreements should become more reciprocal rather than simply seeking outside aid for the airport. This issue can be resolved by including clauses about maintaining the airportâs index or a phrase such as âas allowed by the airportâs operational situation.â EVALUATING EFFECTIVENESS OF MUTUAL AID AGREEMENTS Measuring the overall effectiveness of written or unwritten agreements could prove difficult. Agreements are not time- less, and overall effectiveness may relate to the response and recovery from a specific event whose variables could not be accounted for during the utilization of the mutual aid. There- fore, it would be difficult to measure efficacy during normal operating periods, and the evaluation of the agreement dur- ing a crisis would be especially difficult. Agreements need to be reviewed periodically for clarity and to reflect changes in response and recovery efforts based on recent drills, regulatory changes, and discovery of effective management practices. FURTHER RESEARCH Six areas for further research are suggested: 1. Legal research into liability. Although most airports in the study have resolved this to their satisfaction, it still remains an issue for some. 2. Enabling legislation for mutual aid agreements or state- wide regional emergency management pacts, and the procedures for airports becoming involved in them. 3. Methods and metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of mutual aid agreements and the actions taken under them. 4. Exploration of how mutual aid agreements might be extended into the mitigation and recovery phases of emergency management. 5. Relationship-building and communications to sustain vibrant mutual aid agreements over time. This includes succession planning within an airport so that mutual aid programs do not suffer when a âchampionâ leaves the airport. 6. Continuity of operations and airport resiliency as they relate to mutual aid.