North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven announced the recent signing of Senate Bill 2151 for intrastate mutual aid.
“Emergency personnel and first responders in North Dakota do an outstanding job,” Hoeven said. “Where jurisdictions don’t have mutual aid agreements in place, this law provides a standard framework allowing them to answer the question of who pays for what and clear up any liability issues.”
This law, sponsored by State Senator Bill Bowman and State Representative Todd Porter, does not supersede existing mutual aid agreements, but does provide a safety net when situations arise where there are no formal compacts. Prior to this law, a number of formal mutual aid agreements were in existence statewide; however, there are many areas that remained uncovered by any such agreements.
If an emergency requires additional resources, often times those resources are available from neighboring jurisdictions. Usually, mutual aid agreements exist among neighbors. In some cases, like the Grand Forks flood of 1997, assistance came from more distant areas, including those responders with whom they may not have had mutual aid agreements.
“In North Dakota, when an emergency occurs and someone asks for help, they know it will come. That’s the nature of our state’s residents,” said Doug Friez, director, N.D. Division of Emergency Management (NDDEM) and the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor. “When the public’s safety is involved, whether due to technological or natural circumstances – an act of terrorism, a hazardous materials accident or a tornado – the slightest hesitation can have deadly results.”
Agreements forged under this law will assign the responsibility for equipment costs and personnel to the jurisdiction providing the help. If emergency grant funds or other reimbursement does become available, the legislation provides for disbursement of these funds in an equitable manner, whether the assisting agency is a volunteer or paid service.
Seeing the potential need for an umbrella agreement allowing for emergency response mutual aid across the state, NDDEM brought together representatives of 24 organizations to assess the need for an intrastate mutual aid agreement. League of Cities attorney Jerry Hjelmstad led development of a bill draft that reflected contributions and ideas from these organizations.
Agencies and associations participating in preparation of this legislation included: Governor’s Office, N.D. League of Cities, N.D. Association of Counties, N.D. Police Chiefs Association, N.D. Emergency Medical Services Association, N.D. Fire Chiefs Association, N.D. Firefighters Association, the Adjutant General’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, N.D. Sheriffs’ Association, N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund, N.D. Workforce Safety & Insurance, N.D. Risk Management Division, N.D. Insurance Department, N.D. Emergency Management Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.D. Fire Council, N.D. Highway Patrol, N.D. Bureau of Criminal Investigation, N.D. Fire Marshal, N.D. Forest Service, N.D. Indian Affairs Commission, N.D. Department of Health and NDDEM.
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