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Mutual Aid

September 17, 2018

Mutual Aid
By Mark Ray, Director of Pubic Works/City Engineer, City of Crystal (Mark is also a member of the APWA Emergency Management Committee)
One of the things I really appreciate about the Minnesota Chapter of APWA is that I know we can count on each other for help. But more than that, we (and our respective staffs) also work together on a regular basis to do what we love, serve our communities. Whether it be sharing equipment, working together on joint projects, or responding to each other in a time of need, we come together to get the job done and make normal happen. 
But while doing the work can be fun, the administrative/legal side is not always as much fun. Earlier this year, a group of public works professionals came together to draft up a mutual aid agreement that was not only for emergencies, but also for the day to day things. The intent was simple, get the legal framework in place to cover the stuff most of us are already doing, plus put us all in a better position should an emergency situation occur. 
I get that there may be some resistance because it is a standard agreement so it is take it or leave it, an organization may already be a member of a mutual aid network, or it’s something new. But our communities expect us to rally together to meet the need, and having a mutual aid agreement is technically an essential part of that. 
Included with this article is a quick facts list about this mutual aid agreement. If I were to hit on the top selling points it would be this:
  1. You likely work with your neighboring public works departments on a regular basis already and there is a good chance that it is kind of a handshake deal. While that has worked in the past and has gotten the job done, there is a better, legal way to do it. This mutual aid agreement does that, even for the seemingly small day to day stuff. It takes care of the legal stuff so you can focus on the work.
  2. Your respective community does not have to declare an emergency to use the agreement. 
  3. You can either call other members for help directly or reach out to your local county emergency management agency to help get you the resources you need. Hennepin County,
Ramsey County, Washington County, Carver County, and Dakota County emergency management staff have all seen this and are in support, but we are still in the early phases and this will continue to be shared statewide. 
A number of cities have already approved this agreement and many more are taking it to their councils yet this fall. A copy of the agreement is found here. If you have any questions, please contact me at or 763.531.1160.

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