What it means to be a CO Communications - Mutual Aid

Plymouth County Control Fire/EMS Mutual-Aid System

Under Chapter 48, Section 59A of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - a fire department from one community is allowed to work within the jurisdiction of another for rendering aid. Under executive order from the Governor in the Acts of 1950 - Chapter 639 individual fire districts were created. Within each fire district is a "Control Point" that coordinates the mutual-aid activity for it's district. Plymouth County Control is the mutual-aid control point for Fire District 2, coordinating mutual-aid responses from one community to another; which includes 29 individual fire departments, as well as private ambulance companies. The primary mission for the mutual-aid center is as follows:

  • Provide coordination for all fire and EMS incidents within the County.
  • Facilitate the interoperable radio communications network with base station, mobile and portable radio communications, as well as the Sheriff's Department's Mobile Communications Unit that responds automatically to all three-alarm fires.
  • Assist local departments with outside resources such as state and federal agencies.
  • Coordination of specialty services, such as the Technical Rescue Team, Plymouth County Dive Team, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (C.I.S.D.) and Juvenile Fire setters Program.
  • Maintain daily contact with surrounding mutual-aid centers, such as Barnstable County Control and Norfolk County Control, as well as the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham (MEMA).
  • Remain updated on Policies and procedures for the Southeastern Massachusetts Emergency Medical Services/Region 5, and the Department of Fire Services for Haz/Mat incidents and Statewide Mobilization Plan.

Each fire department in the district submits a plan or "run card" (see link), and each run card is specifically designed by each town to meet their needs for fire, EMS and specialty incidents. Some run cards submitted divide the community into districts for specific response from the closest city or town. The coordination of outside departments through the Plymouth County Control is mostly effective as it enables the local fire dispatcher to remain available to handle additional local incidents and not become tied up looking for assistance. the concept of mutual-aid is common among fire services nationwide, and helps deal with simple single EMS incidents to large scale incidents requiring the response of multiple departments referred to as strike teams and task forces. No individual organization, regardless of size can effectively and sufficiently handle all the challenges it may face.

With events such as Sept. 11 and several local major incidents requiring the assistance of several departments, the role and demand on the individual mutual-aid centers has never been greater. The Sheriff's Department works closely with the Plymouth County Fire Chiefs Association for all issues regarding operation of the system. And through this relationship, the department was able to receive Homeland Security Funding to upgrade the fire mutual-aid radio network and purchase a new state of the art mobile communications vehicle that will assist local law enforcement and fire agencies.