The City Council approved a new interlocal agreement (ILA) last week that promotes seamless emergency response among fire departments throughout King County.
The ILA’s intent is that the closest available emergency response units will respond to 911 calls, regardless of fire department jurisdiction. It significantly enhances the Mercer Island Fire Department’s current “mutual aid agreement” that mainly brings help from the City of Bellevue.
A primary benefit for Mercer Island will be the ability to call on help from the City of Seattle, which previously required its firefighters to obtain permission to travel outside city limits.
For smaller communities like Mercer Island, having seamless service with Seattle and other nearby fire departments is particularly valuable because it enhances the city’s ability to respond quickly to larger events. House fires, or multiple casualty incidents (MCI) such as an active-shooter situation, typically require more firefighters than the city has on duty.
Mercer Island provides “minimum staffing” which is seven firefighters on duty at any given time, other than special events; an ordinary house fire on the Island requires 35 to 42 firefighters and a typical MCI requires 12 or more firefighters to respond.
“Our number one goal is always the safety of Mercer Island residents,” fire chief Steve Heitman said. “We expect having this new seamless response system countywide will lead to improved coordination and faster response times, which in turn saves lives.”