Today the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on the important contribution mutual aid makes toward improving national preparedness and response while also controlling costs associated with such responsibilities.
Chief Bill Metcalf, IAFC second vice president, delivered the testimony to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as part of their ongoing series of hearings on streamlining emergency management.
“Response to a disaster is primarily a local responsibility. However, it can quickly escalate to a state or national response, depending on the magnitude of the incident,” said Metcalf in his oral remarks to the subcommittee. “Effective and well-resourced state and local mutual-aid systems will reduce the dependency on federal resources and reduce the overall cost of disaster response and recovery.”
Metcalf highlighted five key components required for an effective mutual-aid plan, including scalability, the timely reimbursement of resources, improvements in interoperable communication, a nationwide credentialing system and the importance of federal grant funding. These five topics, selected from the ten included in Metcalf’s complete written testimony (.pdf), focus on areas where IAFC members have built demonstrable proof of mutual aid’s success and where immediate action by the government is most needed.
Metcalf pointed to the success of IAFC’s Intrastate Mutual Aid System (IMAS) program to demonstrate the value and viability of mutual aid. “Using the examples of California, Ohio, Illinois and Florida, the IAFC has worked with 30 states to develop statewide mutual-aid systems that are capable of mobilizing resources without [outside] assistance,” said Metcalf. “Another eight states have completed exercises and are in the process of being able to attain this goal.”
In his statement, Metcalf drew the connection between the issue at hand and a number of areas in which immediate congressional action was needed, including passing legislation in support of allocating the D Block to public safety and the creation of a public-safety broadband network, as well as saving critical federal funding like the FIRE and SAFER Act Grants from the chopping block.
“The DHS/FEMA grant programs build [response] capability, while not supplanting local funds. In addition, the grants provide incentives for localities and regions to plan, train and exercise together to better respond to future disasters, both natural and human-made.”
Metcalf applauded the federal government’s support of mutual aid and its efforts in recent years to improve coordination between jurisdictions. He welcomed the federal government’s continued work with states and local responders to build more effective and efficient systems. Specific recommendations included creating faster and more transparent reimbursement systems and finding less expensive and more user-friendly methods of compliance with much-needed credentialing systems.
For complete information on the hearing visit the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management website.