For many volunteer fire departments, low manpower is a major issue. Therefore, mutual aid is a necessary piece of equipment in the proverbial “tool box” in order to do the job effectively. However, to maximize the effectiveness of this tool, just like any other one, we must train with it on a regular basis. The benefits of cooperative training with neighboring departments are endless.
Fostering a personal relationship in a non-emergency environment with the members of your neighboring departments builds a level of trust, respect and understanding that is tantamount to effective team operation on a fire scene. Getting to know the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of each member ensures that the scene can be mitigated in themost effective manner possible. Having a pre-existing relationship with them puts cohesiveness in place before you even get on scene.
Knowing the availability and readiness of their resources is another important part of this tool. Being familiar with the equipment your mutual aid departments has available can save time and ensure that the right resources are being requested for the job. Knowing their equipment and procedures ensures the job is done with enough people, without having to figure out who can and who cannot operate the equipment. Even knowing the small things can make a huge difference in scene mitigation effectiveness. Knowing the coupling or thread type for their hydrants can save precious minutes in establishing a water supply.
An emergency scene is not the place to “work out the bugs”. The best place to do this is in regular training sessions with each other. However, just like any other tool, be it metaphorical or physical, it must be practiced regularly. Remember, we don’t train until we get it right; we train until we can’t get it wrong.