How it Works

How the Mutual Aid System Works

Participation in North Carolina's Mutual Aid System is voluntary. Signing the agreement means enables your city or town to receive or provide assistance to another community. However, meeting the needs of your municipal residents remains your first priority. Each municipality may decline to provide assistance when resources are needed for their residents.

When a disaster strikes, a city or town may request help if it determines its own resources are inadequate. Requests can be made directly to another city or town (a provider) or through your county emergency management coordinator.

Requesting Help

Three Ways to Request Help

  1. Direct mutual aid – Local communities may call another city or county directly to request additional equipment or personnel. All coordination is done by the participating agencies and logistics and reimbursements are specified in the mutual aid agreement. This is the most common form of mutual aid.
  2. State-coordinated mutual aid – Communities overwhelmed by a catastrophe may ask the N.C. Division of Emergency Management (NCEM) to coordinate its aid and record keeping. Logistics and reimbursement are then coordinated between NCEM and county emergency managers. Local resources that are deployed in this instance will be considered state resources for purposes of coordinating aid delivery. The NCEM Mutual Aid coordinator will work with division staff and the local government providing aid to coordinate resource delivery. Local governments who provide aid should be informed of the nature of their deployments.
  3. Interstate mutual aid – Requests for out-of-state resources are coordinated through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Resources deployed through this system are considered state resources and are coordinated through NCEM. Local governments providing aid will be reimbursed by the requesting state.

Communities Requesting Help Should Provide:

  • Description of conditions – if disaster has happened, damages and that request is made pursuant to this agreement
  • Type of assistance needed– including amounts and type of personnel, equipment, materials and supplies
  • Estimated length of time assistance is needed
  • Need for relief centers, staging areas and storage outside the requesting city
  • Time and place to meet staff from providing city

Communities Requesting Help Must:

  • Provide basic needs of employees from the provider city, unless otherwise specified (including paying for food, housing, transportation and reasonable out-of-pocket costs)
  • Coordinate requests for state or federal assistance through local emergency management agency
  • Assign work via provider city's supervisor
  • Reimburse provider for all documented costs and expenses, including personnel,  equipment and materials (using pre-established rates)
  • Provide directions and assistance in record keeping to provider

Providing Help

Communities Receiving Request Should Provide:

  • Agree or decline to provide assistance;
  • Description of available personnel, equipment and other resources
  • Length of time assistance is available
  • Date and time assistance will arrive
  • Supervisor's name of the personnel being sent

Communities Providing Help Must:

  • Direct supervision of all personnel and equipment
  • Provide adequate communications equipment among own personnel
  • Maintain daily records for staff time, materials and equipment hours
  • Report regularly on work progress
  • Pay its own employees as usual but maintain records and submit invoices for reimbursement to requesting city

It is worth noting, that all activities performed under the mutual aid agreement are declared government functions. Each party also agrees to hold the other harmless from liability. The typical timeframe for assistance is seven days, but this can be modified when both parties agree. Also, employees are covered at all times under their own employer's workers' comp policy.

As the coordinating agency, the Division of Emergency Management will:

  • Keep executed agreements
  • Maintain a list and contact information of current participants and provide the list to all participants annually
  • Coordinate requests for assistance 
  • Keep records of aid requests and responses  
  • Report when appropriate on status of mutual aid provision
  • If asked, coordinate requests for reimbursement from FEMA
  • This agreement, once executed, lasts for at least one year, and for subsequent years, unless terminated by a 60-day notice.

Note: Changing authorized representatives for your community does not require a new signed agreement.  The agreement remains in effect unless a county or municipality requests to be removed from the program.