Stronger Mutual Aid Organization Required

Stronger Mutual Aid Organization Required

The Editor’s Opinion Page

May I'm dopey, Francis, but if the firehouse has to match the neighborhood, why not an apparatus that matches the firehouse

Mutual aid began with the bucket brigade. Neighbor helped neighbor when fire struck. When formal fire fighting was established, fire companies helped other fire companies at the big ones—first dragging their hand pumpers to the scene; later dashing in with horse-drawn steamers.

Unfortunately, this type of mutual aid often came too little, and too late. Communications were poor. The call for aid generally came from a breathless messenger on foot or horseback. At times the only notification was a glow in the sky.

The efficiency of mutual aid response improved with the introduction of telegraph and later the telephone. It then took a giant step forward when motorized apparatus appeared. However, it was not until fire departments universally adopted two-way radio that the potentials of a mutual aid organization were realized.

It was then that a communications center, to which all departments were linked, was dreamed up. But a communications center required a more sophisticated organization than previously existed. The informal you-call-me-I’ll-call-you type of aid was not enough.

Legal aspects of mutual aid were explored and formal constitutions or charters established. A more businesslike atmosphere prevailed.

Since the cost of a communications center could be shared, the thought naturally followed that other costs could be shared. In the more highly organized aid plans we find a fuel truck available to all. Some have a mask depot where cylinders can be recharged. Several acquired ambulances and rescue units. And a few have equipment such as tankers or aerials.

The aim of any mutual aid plan should be to provide a big-city response to fires that one small department could not possibly handle alone. A good organization is the first requirement for this response. A good communications center is the second. The last quality for excellence of a plan requires good apparatus—and varied apparatus.

Movement of population, industry and commerce to suburbia and beyond brought problems to small-town fire departments that they were never confronted with before. Fires in high-rise apartments, supermarkets and factories called for apparatus that they did not possess, and could not because of limited financial resources.

Only by pooling these resources, through a strong mutual aid organization, can such small departments hope to acquire the aerials, heavy pumpers, tankers, sufficient masks and all the other paraphernalia of fire fighting that they now require.

In the following pages we tell how this can be accomplished.

No posts to display