Coming together in times of need—that’s how communities across the country work. While it’s common for a city to loan or rent equipment for everyday work, the value—and meaning—of shared resources rises exponentially during emergencies.

Long before someone coined the term “sharing economy” and long before couchsurfing and internet-aided sharing of resources, municipalities picked up the phone and asked for help or an equipment loan in times of need. They drew up mutual aid agreements. And today, with the help of technology and more advanced options, it’s that same sentiment of sharing that helps a community survive a disaster.

In rural counties, small volunteer fire departments often rely on each other to get the job done; in Ohio, Springfield Township’s Fire Chief reports that in 50% of its emergencies, they call for mutual aid.

Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes city workers get tangled in hoops. In the aftermath of a tornado, when an emergency manager needs 30 dump trucks immediately, phoning a list of public works directors to query the number and size of their dump truck fleet takes up valuable time. If the fleets aren’t properly categorized (by FEMA resource type), that creates another snag.

Making sharing easier

Sharing is getting more sophisticated and efficient--part of that is technology and part of it is just planning. Whether it’s a mutual aid agreement with nearby towns, knowing who to contact for a loaner truck, or updating your inventories, a little foresight goes a long ways.  Recently, Ohio launched to facilitate sharing amongst local governments. New legislation in Missouri was created to authorize law enforcement agencies to create mutual aid agreements across state lines in the Kansas City area, allowing them respond to emergencies more quickly. (The Kansas City Star)

September is Emergency Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA

Tips for being prepared to respond and collaborate

1. Equipment inventory. Keeping track of your equipment and resources means it’s easy to file claims in an emergency, but it’s also easy for others to find you in their time of need. Have an accurate fleet management information system (FMIS). Make sure your public works fleet is categorized with FEMA Resource Types. (If you’re using MuniRent, be sure your equipment list is complete and up to date; the system will automatically add the FEMA Resource Type to each item on your list.)  

After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, it was the fleet management information system (FMIS) and all the details contained within it that saved the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as they dealt with recovery efforts. (Source: Government Fleet)

2. Mutual aid agreements. Review and evaluate your mutual aid agreements.

3. Your go-to list. Have a contact list of alternate resources, and try to include after-hours contact info.

4. Fuel. Make sure your emergency fuel sources are adequate.

5. Family plans. Be sure your employees have family plans in place in the case of an emergency. You’re counting on them to share their time with you.

6. Back it up. You’ll need to have easy access to names, numbers and lists, after hours, in emergency conditions (whatever that may bring).  Use an online database when possible.

7. Think outside the boundary lines. Look for more efficient ways to borrow, rent, and loan your resources. If there are regulations, roadblocks, or lack of information, look for ways around and know where you can find equipment ahead of time.

Learn more about emergency preparedness at

Twitter info for national preparedness month: #NatlPrep #PrepareAthon @Readygov @Prepareathon