Magazine article Public Management

Emergency Expertise Shared in North Texas. (FYI)

Magazine article Public Management

Emergency Expertise Shared in North Texas. (FYI)

Article excerpt

What began as an organization with no officers, no rules, and no dues has grown into a cooperative emergency assistance effort spanning 450 square miles, and embracing 900,000 citizens and 13 North Texas cities. "Who knew our struggle to get fire trucks through area highway traffic would lead to such a well-developed plan?" quips Carrollton Fire Chief Bruce Varner.

Providing emergency assistance along heavily traveled Interstate Highway 35 served as the impetus in the 1980s for coordination between the fire chiefs of two neighboring cities in the Dallas metroplex: Farmers Branch and Carrollton. Nearby cities of Coppell and Lewisville, also situated on the IH35 corridor, eventually joined the efforts.

By the late 1980s, the town of Addison had come on board because of its need for automatic assistance in the event of an emergency at its local airport. And, by the early 1990s, as population in the area continued to flourish, computer-assisted dispatch links allowed for speedy responses among multiple cities, so that the cooperative endeavor expanded to include fire departments from the surrounding cities of Allen, Coppell, Flower Mound, Frisco, Grapevine, McKinney, Plano, Richardson, and The Colony.

Seamless Assistance

"Increasing our operational capabilities by working with these cities was the most obvious benefit," Varner adds, "but the real kick has been knowing there are trained experts ready to come to our aid during nonroutine emergencies." Over the years, four areas of coordination have been identified as crucial: networking, planning, training, and operations. Networking, accomplished through regular meetings, entails shared representation in more than 25 professional organizations and with such state and federal agencies as DENCO 911, FEMA, OSHA, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Joint planning efforts are evident when a department provides automatic assistance to neighboring cities and even staffs another city's fire stations during a major emergency. …

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