FOLEY – A statewide assistance program should bring aid to local communities sooner after hurricanes or other disasters.

The Foley City Council voted Monday, April 3, to allow the Foley Fire Department to join the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Consortium Agreement. Chief Joey Darby said the new agreement allows departments across the state to prestage equipment if an emergency is expected and to share material and services needed after disasters.

“What we would do is list our resources and our ability to potentially respond to other parts of the state,” Darby said. “In turn, it puts us in the system so that if we were to need help, and obviously we’re in the area of the state that’s more prone to need pre-staged help, that we could be an active participant in the consortium.”

Darby said Hurricane Sally in 2020 showed the need for a way to get emergency help in a faster manner. He said more than 80 calls for help continued to come in while the storm was raging at a time when firefighters were not able to respond.

“We knew we were far overwhelmed at that point,” Darby said. “But once the wind quit blowing, our help was days away, not hours away. I think there would be a great sense of relief for our troops with this so that we know should a storm come in, we have the help that’s gonna get here pretty quickly. Not only does it help us to provide for our community, and the ability to respond, but it’s gonna keep our folks safer. as well.”

Darby said local fire officials, such as Orange Beach Fire Chief Mike Kimmerling, have been working with state responders to develop the system. 

“I’ve had a number of conversations with him,” Darby said. “He’s been very instrumental in putting this system together. We looked at other states that have a similar system that works and that we know works and this system is modeled after some of those so we didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here. But this is starting to come together across the state and I see it as a major benefit.”

Darby said the system does not replace programs developed by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance during disasters. The state, however, does not have a program to allow local equipment to be prestaged or shared during emergencies.

“When you read through the rules and procedures, it involves them from the very beginning,” Darby said. “But what it does allow for the prestaging of equipment. The state does not have a mechanism really to do that, with the exception of the governor’s control over the National Guard, the Alabama guard units, but on our side, this will allow us to predesignate prestage assets.”

Foley Public Safety Director David Wilson said the new program will be a benefit to communities around the state.

“When you read this, it not only parallels, but I think it strengthens the state EMA system. It’s pretty impressive. The work has been done in the time and stages and responses they list in the plan. It’s pretty impressive for the fire departments to do this statewide.”